My Take: Georgetown backs Fluke vs. Limbaugh for civility's sake
Rush Limbaugh apologized on Saturday for his "insulting word choices" targeting Georgetown University student Sandra Fluke.
March 4th, 2012
07:40 AM ET

My Take: Georgetown backs Fluke vs. Limbaugh for civility's sake

Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Civility is hard to find in American politics nowadays, but one Roman Catholic university is doing what it can to dial things back a bit.

On Wednesday, Rush Limbaugh blasted Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student who testified before Congress in favor of contraceptive coverage in health plans, as a “slut” and a “prostitute.”

Friday, President John J. DeGioia of Georgetown University, in a public message called "On Civility and Public Discourse," praised Fluke for providing “a model of civil discourse.”

DeGioia took no position on the question that started this latest skirmish in our ongoing culture wars: contraceptive coverage in health care. But he did not mince words when it came to Limbaugh, who doubled down on Thursday by saying, “I will buy all of the women at Georgetown University as much aspirin to put between their knees as they want.”

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DeGioia wrote that Limbaugh’s behavior was “misogynistic, vitriolic, and a misrepresentation of the position of our student.”

Meanwhile, over 100 professors and staff members at Georgetown University Law Center signed a letter supporting Fluke. "As scholars and teachers who aim to train public-spirited lawyers, no matter what their politics, to engage intelligently and meaningfully with the world, we abhor these attacks on Ms. Fluke and applaud her strength and grace in the face of them," the letter says.

In a sign that U.S. politics really has turned sharply from economic debates to cultural warfare, President Obama called Fluke to offer his support just before she was to talk on NBC with Andrea Mitchell.

Carly Fiorina, National Republican Senatorial Committee vice-chairwoman, appearing on CBS, called Limbaugh’s language “insulting,” “incendiary,” and “a distraction from what are very real and important issues.” A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner was more measured, saying, “The speaker obviously believes the use of those words was inappropriate, as is trying to raise money off the situation.” Meanwhile, Rick Santorum told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that Limbaugh’s comments were “absurd.”

Limbaugh apologized to Fluke on Saturday, saying a statement on his website, “I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.”

Both Fluke and DeGioia, however, focused on this battle as a moment in the rapid degradation of our common life.

Fluke told MSNBC's "The Ed Show" that Limbaugh's remarks were "outside the bounds of civil discourse."

Similarly, DeGioia’s overall message was a call to return to a tradition of tolerance that some conservatives, at least, have forgotten to conserve.

This tradition runs deep in the American grain, from Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address (“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies”) to John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address (“Civility is not a sign of weakness”).

But DeGioia ended with St. Augustine: “Let us, on both sides, lay aside all arrogance. Let us not, on either side, claim that we have already discovered the truth. Let us seek it together as something which is known to neither of us.”

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

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Filed under: Catholic Church • Church and state • Culture wars • Health care • Opinion • Politics • Sex • Sexuality • United States

soundoff (730 Responses)
  1. Rich

    The author misses the point. Limbaugh is a commercial enterprise. His sole objective is to get listeners. He does this by spewing that which attracts the most listeners. He couches this goal in the guise of political discourse, but the goal remains the same. This isn't the first controversial statement he's made, and certainly will not be his last. He has achieved his goal in this instance – getting the nation to talk about him...and listen to him.

    March 5, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  2. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 5, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • Keith A. Sillsbury

      yeah ...prayer changes things. It makes people stupid. just ask the family of five who were killed by a tornado because they believed in god and prayer instead of safety from nature.Proven fact, prayer changes nothing and your god will kill you.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  3. RapidOne

    Rush is a cancer upon this country.

    March 5, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  4. Alinsky's best bud

    so let's get this straight, Bill Maher calls Sarah Palin the C-word, and not ONE WORD from any of you support the women people....but Limbaugh calls out a 30 year old political hack and Rome is now burning. What a bunch of hypocrites you people are. this is why CNN is losing ratings and the country, which is mostly center-right is DISGUSTED by the disingenuousness of the Liberal lie. The age of the internet has now opened the back door for people to no longer have their news and views controlled by the Liberal media. Academia will be next. The libs have ruined our schools and colleges to spread their propoganda while China, Russia and India and kiling us...thanks much libs...great job there. Is there ONE single issue that liberals are right about? High unsustainable spending? High taxes? Abortion? Splitting up Families? Overly powerful Central govt? Never in my life have I seen such intelligent people with such juvenile logic streams.

    March 5, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • wial

      Dude, you realize those countries you named are all socialist, right? You might do well to get a so-called liberal education yourself!

      March 5, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • J.W

      Most of what you said isn't even true. How have liberals ruined colleges? How have they split up families? If you really looked at some of the Republican candidates economic plans they will probably run up the deficit even more.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • Doozer

      Just ignore him and vote for Obama.
      This one is too far gone to talk to.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  5. Unknown

    It is one thing to disagree with a person, it is another to become so low and immature to call them degrading names.

    March 5, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • BRC

      A very true and fair point, though it feels a bit ironic given the tone so many arguments take on on these boards.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • wial

      The thing with Limbaugh is this is hardly the first time. He's been degrading the national discourse for decades. This is just an opportunity. He's stepped outside his safe house for a minute.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  6. NoTags

    From a previous CNN article; "In his apology Saturday, Limbaugh admitted his "choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir."

    Only this pea brain would consider the words he spoke to be humerous.

    March 5, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • manyote

      Unfortunately NoTags, from reading some posts related to this, there's quite a few dumbos that are in complete agreement with Mush Limbat the spastic ranting drug abuser.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • musician

      Perhaps he has a very angry, dark, and unfunny sense of humor.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • r2r2us

      Well that's the genius of Limbaugh – he doesn't take himself seriously – he sees himself as an entertainer – it's the dumma*ses that follow him that think everything he says is gospel.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Eli Ojemuyiwa

      He was trying to be humorous eh? He apologized for his word choices., but he needs to apologize to the lady for the deragatory statements. This man has been divorced 3 or 4 times, and has no kids. Now you know why. He is abusive to women.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  7. musician

    Fat, angry and stupid is no way to go through life. But if you`re making fifty million dollars a year jacking up the nitwits out there, there is very little chance that you will alter course. Money talks and Limbaugh the entertainer has one of the loudest and most vile voices out there. The more vile and angry the better. That is the key to his success, and he knows it!

    March 5, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • TiredODaCrap

      You just described every liberal I know – although you left out the part about living on hand-outs. The left, as it always, always does, lives by the "Do as We say, not as We do" motto! Way to keep that up with calling the conservative angry – in your hostile post!

      March 5, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • icunme

      Sad but true - the darling of the radical right!

      March 5, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • wial

      If we can get him to settle a class action lawsuit for offending all 300 million of it, we could win a dollar each!

      March 5, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • wial

      If we can get him to settle a class action lawsuit for offending all 300 million of us, we could win a dollar each!

      March 5, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  8. Marc in Florida

    I guess old Rush open his mouth once too often. I am glad to see sponsors due the right thing and drop their support of "toilet mouth" How he survived on talk radio this long, boggles the imagination. I hope Ms. Fluke sues him, his network, and sponsors for slander. This may be her first case. It is very important to take on people like Limbaiugh, they play to ignorance and are dangerous. There is nothing entertaining about them.

    March 5, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • icunme

      BRAVO, Mark!

      March 5, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • Cornerkid

      Remember Imus? People were sure he was finished with the "nappy headed ***s" comments. Advertisers pulled out, came back and now he is just as popular as ever on FoxBusiness if not moreso.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  9. Jimbo

    Even though I don't care if the government pays for contracption or not, I could care less, I still find Rush Limbaugh pretty funny and entertaining. I'm not really a republican or democrat and I'm sure not religious, I have my own beliefs, but I still find his show fun to listen too. I'm sorry if you are so incompetent to take what he says seriously and people base their votes on his input, that is their problem, there are really stupid people on both sides of the isle. No need to take him off the air, people get their panties into a bundle of the smallest things these days. If you can think for yourself and you are smart enough to see the forest from the trees you shouldn't care what anyone else is saying and your not going to get rid of the ignorant populations by silencing a talk show host. People just found a opportunity to pounce on someone the hated and they jumped all over it.

    March 5, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • musician

      Limbaugh is as responsible as anyone on the planet for nurturing the hyper-partisan, irrational, dysfunctional mess we find ourselves in, as a country. Because we are so fiercely divided, we could, and are, being conquered. This isn`t fun and games.... it`s the demise of a great nation. Limbaugh is a dangerously misguided man hell bent on misinforming 20 million people every day about what is going on, and he gets paid 50 million dollars a year to do it. Sick.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • Eli Ojemuyiwa


      March 5, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  10. Pope on a Rope

    I thought it was odd and out of character when I heard Rush apologized. (After initially refusing to do so.) Then I read the article that dozens of advertisers were dumping his show. And it made perfect sense. All that fat fück cares about is himself and his money. Nice to see he's getting hit where it hurts.

    As a side note, it's pretty ironic he would open his fat mouth about prescription meds. It wasn't that long ago he was busted for prescription drug fraud.

    March 5, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
  11. palintwit

    Q: How many teabaggers does it take to shingle a roof?
    A: It depends how thin you slice them.

    March 5, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • ThatGuy

      Because this is civil discourse?

      March 5, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  12. Mrs b

    We wonder why we have such problems with bullying in our schools, in sports arenas, and in the workplace. I think we have lost sight of what is civil discourse. There were many ways to diasagree with Ms. Fluke without the harsh rhetoric. We must stop supporting the likes of Rush Limbaugh. I stopped listening to him after his hypocritical remarks about treating addiction, but I will go a step furthur now and actively seek to persuade advertisers to ababdon his show. We can not support such dialogue and expect to have a cival sociaety. What we say matters. His show is not news, nor is it entertainment – it is just offensive, imflammatory noise.

    March 5, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
  13. Jose Amorim

    I just do not understand how in this country people still turn the radio to listen politic talk show.

    March 5, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • toml0864@yahoo.com

      Most on both sides are excellent.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
  14. wes

    We have met the enemy and he, is us!

    March 5, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  15. Franco

    Unquestionably overblown in the media, Rush hit right on. The give-me, give-me mandates need to stop. And as far as the spineless “R” If taking a stand for commonsense is wrong, it’s not Rush Limbaugh comments that will hurt the GOP in the election but their lack of morals.

    March 5, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • Observer

      The only other person I've known who called himself "Rush" was a solvent and amyl-nitrite head. Is your Rush similarly afflicted?

      March 5, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      Observer wrote: The only other person I've known who called himself "Rush" was a solvent and amyl-nitrite head. Is your Rush similarly afflicted?

      No, only a self-admitted Oxycodin addict. That's it! It must be the drugs that have affected his reasoning process.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  16. Dan Bednarik

    Limbaugh is a non-intellectual media pimp. Anyone who "bumps knuckles" with this guy is of equally insignificant character.

    March 5, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  17. John

    You have to hand it to the left – they needed something to energized their base and they found it. Too bad that none of them are intelligent enough to understand his point which is why should the American taxpayer have to subsidize this woman (any any man or womans) extra curricular activities. If you want to do that and use birth control – go right ahead – but don't ask me as a txpayer or as someone paying into an insurance program to pay for it.

    March 5, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • wotisit

      Yes, there are so many of us not intelligent enough.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • Richard

      John, you must be living under a rock for the last few months. Do you really think rushie boy is the catalyst. No, the catalyst is the rethuglican who runs against President Obama. You will see in October and November how the Libs will be energized. Keep plugging for your guys, they are going to need all the 100 IQers they can manipulate!

      March 5, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • comeon

      Taxpayers weren't paying for anything of hers. Did you not even listen to her or read the article? People like Rush and you don't even bother doing any research into it. Her & her friends health care was paid for by them, but they were denied birth control by the university's insurance company. So, she had to shell out another 3k for birth control on top of what she was already paying.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • Hm ok

      Then I will no longer want to pay for your heart problems in the future they can be tied to your overeating or smoking, I also don't want to pay for your knee or back surgery you don't have to play sports afterall they are extraciricular activies. I also don't want to pay for any of your sonograms, or health care involved in you having kids because hey it's not medically necessary for you to have kids either right why should I pay for it? See what I did there? The people putting this rule into place are not regulating behavior exactly the opposite, YOU however are.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • Pope on a Rope

      To begin with, Democrats have a higher average IQ than Republicans. And a majority of college educated people are Democrats. The Republican base by and large is ígnorant and not particularly bright. Which is why they consistently vote against their own best interests.

      Putting that aside for the moment, your post is nonsensícal. I could just as easily argue that the six Big Macks you eat every day caused your diabetes. And I shouldn't have to pay for your meds to support your obese lifestyle. And I could also point out that doctors prescribe birth control to women who are not séxually active to prevent certain types of cancer. But that would go beyond your high school education. Or your ability to form an intelligent argument. So there's really no point telling you that.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      John, I am not going to debate morality with you. The problem lies in our inability as a nation to deal with the problem of the rising cost of health care. Not all of us can afford to have a concierge service doctor at our beck and call. On the same note, you have people like my wife who has to be on a specific birth-control medication to control frequent migraine attacks. During her first year on this med, she was enrolled in a program that actually provided a reduction in her co-pay to just $30 for a 30 day supply. That program expired and now it costs $50 for that same supply. That is $20 that could have gone into something else our family could use.
      I am not saying we need a single-payer system as some call for. I have seen the effects of such a system in my travels in England and Canada. Although IF properly managed, it could work. What I am saying is we need to reevaluate the system that allows Big Pharma to keep reapplying for patent extensions for dubious claims on additional properties of their products, resulting in higher costs. This is what they do as opposed to actually researching for better performing medications for people like you and me.
      All the same, as long as health insurers allow guys to get prescriptions for Viagara and Ciallis, we should not restrict women from receiving contraceptives.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • Doozer

      John, you are another ignorant Republican.
      You dont even have a clue about the subject matter,
      but couldnt wait to jump in and support your side.
      A mind is a terrible thing to waste.
      Too bad about yours.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • wial

      It's more a problem of having trouble explaining the real issues to people like you, John, because you don't play by the same rules as educated people. By the way, check your grammar.

      Birth control not only liberates women from oppression, it reduces social costs.

      Let me try again: good woman very smart do good work help lots. have unwanted baby fall into little hole no more good just hungry. then bad men like you heap spears wave wave wave poke poke poke.

      And nowadays, since those spears are toxic air to ground missiles, all the bloodshed doesn't even fertilize the soil.

      All I can say is white men have made an unbelievable mess of the world. Women deserve a chance to set things right. Birth control helps with that.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Rationalintn

      I'm so tired of people using the "don't ask me to pay for it" argument, especially when it comes to contraception. First of all, I believe the underlying problem is just getting it covered by insurance for people who work for Catholic hospitals, universities, and charities. Women have to pay premiums for insurance, which will more than cover the costs. Second, those who whine about using taxpayer dollars to cover the cost of contraception, are some of the same people who whine about welfare, unemployment benefits, foodstamps, the 47% who don't "pay taxes", Planned Parenthood, educating illegals, that all liberals live off govt handouts, blah blah blah blah blah. Common sense would dictate that if the people of a large society wanted to pay less to house criminals, wanted fewer abortions, and more people working– they would put their resources towards educating their youth on how to not get pregnant, providing contraception to those women who do not want children until they are equipped to raise them, and towards making sure all children obtain the highest possible education they can achieve. If the society produces highly educated, wanted children, wouldn't that reduce the stresses associated with poverty and unwanted pregnancies? I know, too much common sense for some folks to swallow, because then what would they have to whine about?

      March 5, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  18. maypo

    Nothing more than a predictable Democrat circus act. Rufus the Ringleader and his Media Clowns using some bimbo as a tool to push their campaign. While diverting attention from his incompetent performance as President. Sorry....aint buying it.

    March 5, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • palintwit

      Put the computer down and get back under your bed where you belong. And try not to mess your trousers this time.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • Observer

      You're onto us. But we only had to dangle a bimbo in front of your prize fool to get the ploy going. And you almost fell for it. You really need to tighten up over there in GOPland.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • WhereIsPalin

      But, apparently, you will buy the Limbaugh trash. I feel sorry for you.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • musician

      That 'bimbo" represents the 98% of the population of women that use birth control at some point in their lives. You want to demonize her? Good luck with that electoral strategy.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • Doozer

      You got us Maypo,

      We all huddled with "Barrack" for weeks on end
      trying to find a way to get "Rush" to say something bad.

      Guess you are on to us now.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  19. Nomad

    This Limbo Bimbo character is a real sore point that needs to be extracted. Someone should send him to the bottom of the sea.

    March 5, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  20. Delta

    Funny how all these supposed anti-Rush people seem to know so much about him

    March 5, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • JP

      We know so much about him because he's incapable of keeping his mouth shut and blathers to the entire world about himself.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • MrBo

      Have you ever heard the phrase "know your enemy."

      The people who speak against him the most are the ones who should know about him the most...

      March 5, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • Lakeshow

      Know your enemy.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • GrumpyOldLady

      I know darn well as my elderly father listens all the time while on the EDGE of his seat. He gets through his day by energizing himself through the anger and sarcastic humor of Rush. I hear Rush nearly every day and then try to help my father settle down into some form of normalcy later. He's BUYING Rush's products and sending money to charities with only 30% of the money going to the charity. Many of us have heard lots from Rush and shake are heads. What is this country coming to?

      March 5, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • musician

      Rush made my father a raving lunatic for about 10 years. His anger and ranting drove the rest of the family away for awhile. It was sad and disturbing. Eventually he calmed down and became human again. But I don`t wish the Limbaugh curse on anyone.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • DPCFOH

      I know about Rush because I have a friend who is surrounded by listeners of his at home and at work and he calls me regularly to ask if what he was told by friends/family is true, because they heard it on Rush's show. I am amazed at how inaccurate the stuff I hear is.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
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