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. Dave

    This is rediculous. So the liberals can go nuts on Rush for a comment like this but a liberal in TN can go off on a black woman calling her uncle Tom and refusing to shake her hand because he doesn't want the white to rub off on him and that is ok? Holder can lie about everything and bring a Muslim on staff to run Gitmo and that is all ok but this is too harsh. Wake the F up and enough of this already. How do you know the girl isn't what he called her?

    March 5, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  2. IDallas123

    Limbaugh diverced 3times, married 4times, I guess it's one of the conservative basic values on Marriage !!!

    March 5, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  3. Zeke

    The Church's policies and, especially, the recent political grandstanding of the bishops on this issue are what really opened the door to the current round of anti-women nastiness. Rush was just playing out what they imply more 'politely' with their medieval misogyny. They can pretend to be above all this but without open pushback against the right wing politics of their church leaders, they own it.

    March 5, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  4. adams63

    It is time for fatty to go

    March 5, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  5. Publius Novus

    Never prouder to be a GULC grad. Thank you Ms. Fluke and Father DiGioia. Well said on all fronts.

    March 5, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  6. Bob

    The argument goes like this:
    IF you are my employee
    And I think your medical prescription is against my beliefs
    I don't have to pay for it
    THEREFOR Why NOT find fault with EVERY treatment or prescription and I won't have to pay for ANYTHING.

    March 5, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • Publius Novus

      Of course that would have been the precise result of Blunt-Rubio.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • Sam

      Your ears must be burning...those were my thoughts exactly!

      March 5, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • MG

      If you want to attract the best candidates as an employer, you will offer reasonable and attractive helath coverage. I'd rather have cancer or heart treatment medication and pay for my own birth control pills and condoms. In Canada (where there is governement run health care), Rx birth control is not paid for by the government. In fact, most Rx meds aren't covered.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • tomato

      hey bob you know that's because nobody waits till they have a horrible disease before they go to the doctor there. that is why there preventative approach doesn't include Rx. people need em less there. and if your dumb enough to wait to get treatment fine but then they have to pay for their own medicine because preventative health care would of prevented it. please think before you speak:)

      March 5, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • Lorraine

      I can see the Insurance companies coming now to every CEO telling them how much they can save if THEY STATE THEY HAVE A MORAL PROBELE WITH Treatments for Cancer, HIV, Diabites ,,,, etc... To save money companies will not pay for anythingl...

      March 5, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Doozer

      Bingo !
      We have a winner.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  7. Just Me

    This pig should have been fired long ago....FOX doesn't have the cajones to do it though...Just boycott anything this slime is involved with...and stop listening to his BS show......Anyone who listens to and supoorts this idiot must not have a brain

    March 5, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  8. Marlon

    I remember the group, "Students for Contraceptive Equity" when I was a law student at Georgetown. Let's just say, Rush was dead on in his description.

    March 5, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • momoya

      Generalize much?

      March 5, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  9. Meohmy

    The only reason Rush apologized at all is because his advertisers are pulling out, which means he's going to lose a lot of money. Without money and getting people to pay for his blathering, he is nothing. His lame, insincere apology was about 3 days too late.

    March 5, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  10. Pete Scobby

    We simply want to have a civil discussion about political issues. Calling names simply degrades your points or position. The only reason to use harmful words is that you don't have anything of value or importance to add to the discussion.

    Where Rush has failed is that his job to to provide a means for his sponsors to sell their products. He went over the top and now is sponsors have decided that his listeners won't buy their products.

    Rush failed as an entertainer and marketing representative for his bosses.

    March 5, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  11. mike

    Open mouth , Insert Foot.. Repeat

    March 5, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
  12. Grahame Rhodes

    When Imus did this he was canned also. Hope Limburger has a really rough time of it. It really is time he was taken off the air If there was any justice in idiot he would resign. Betcha he won't and I bet also that the American Military will continue to support this unspeakable purveyor of filth. This you Republicans is the face you present to the world

    March 5, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
  13. Bagheera

    What a bunch of hypocrites! Liberal Democrats say the most awful, evil, mean-spirited lies and no one says a word about it. Rush says something in jest, and all you people feign moral outrage. You are no different from Newt Gingrich critcizing Bill Clinton for his unfaithfulness with Monica Lewinsky. It's a little late to get moral on us now.

    March 5, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • IDallas123

      Bagheera is S***

      March 5, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • glennrobert

      As a Democrat, give us one of our mean spirited lies. You talk the conservative line of filth. What you said had nothing to do with what Rush said!

      March 5, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • glennrobert

      As a Democrat, give us one of our mean spirited lies. You talk the conservative line of filth. What you said had nothing to do with what Rush said! No duplicate.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • tomato

      what have libs said?? name it and quote it and tell me where to find it or shut up. Rush is a lonely man who has no self esteem so he picks on other people. this is what dems do? this is not about which side is more hateful. this is about Rush who said words that can be understood as slander. Slander is illegal. Mabey rush should just go to jail for the rest of his life and leave everyone alone. he is not subtle. everyone knows he is a racist and a drug abuser.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • Bagheera

      @IDallas123, Funny 🙂

      @glennrobert, You're kidding me, right? Just in case you're serious, allow me to direct you to a search engine, such as google (in case you don't know what one is), and do a search on "Liberal Hate Speech." You'll have plenty of reading material to increase your enlightenment.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • Bagheera

      @tomato, You should look up "Straw man." Come back when you've learned how to think and spell.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Doozer

      *** What a bunch of hypocrites! Liberal Democrats say the most awful, evil, mean-spirited lies and no one says a word about it.

      You just did.
      And thousands upon thousands before you.
      The other side is always soooooooo much meaner.
      I know it aint right, but you get what you give.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  14. fedupwu

    Rush was so wrong with what he said about this young lady.

    March 5, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  15. Truth

    Rush's words though "hurtful" and ill concieved is right. Why should I pay for any of these people's "recreational activities?" Should we also subsidize sneakers for those who run for recreation? Why not the gas for those who drive for recreation? Or buy bikes for those who ride? This is a personal choice to participate in any of these activities and thus a personal "cost." If you wish to play then you should pay from your own wallet! What ever happened to self control?

    March 5, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • fedupwu

      Maybe you need to go back and reread the original story ten times and you would understand this was not about recreational purposes, it was for young women who have medical issues who need contraception. With people like you and Rush I am glad you too don't make laws we have enough male and frigid teapubs who do.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • JohnRJ08

      Like Rush Limbaugh, you have misrepresented the entire issue and the reason why Fluke testified. Today, there is a disturbingly large percentage of the population that is grotesquely misinformed. This explains why people like Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have as many supporters as they do. Educate yourself and stop depending on Rush Limbaugh and FOX News for all of your information.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • Truth

      Once again. Self control is the issue. I don't care if the think it is for "health" reasons. She has the choice NOT to participate in the behavior that leads to her "NEED."

      March 5, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Real Truth

      Because birth control pills are often used for things other than contraception. Many women need them for truly medical reasons. Also, Viagra is covered and it is 100% recreational.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Truth

      Viagra should NOT be covered either. PERIOD!

      March 5, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • Doctor

      You don't get it, Truth, some women need contraception for non-recreational reasons. Ovarian cysts are one example.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • glennrobert

      What happened to self control? You obviously don't have any!

      March 5, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • glennrobert

      What happened to self control? You obviously don't have any! No duplicate

      March 5, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • Bagheera


      You know as well as everyone else that this whole speech is about forcing insurance companies and employers to include contraception in all forms, including abortifacients, in health insurance coverage. You are being dishonest when you attempt to portray this event as limited to contraception for women with medical issues. The overarching goal that this talk reinforces is total contraceptive coverage.

      This is why Liberals cannot be trusted. Liberals are intellectually dishonest about their goals. I could at least respect you if you were simply honest about what you want, which is to take from those who produce to use for your own "enlightened" ends.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest


      Birth control pills are NOT a purely recreational medication! What do you not understand?! Ever hear of ectopic pregnancies? BC pills can either eliminate or severely reduce the risk of this (always fatal for the fetus and often fatal for the women if not caught soon enough). Hormone imbalances, pelvic inflamatory disease, reduction of severe and debilitating menstrual cramps (which is more common than you think), protection against bone thinning, endometrial and ovarian cancers, iron deficiency and anemia, serious infections of the ovaries, tubes and uterus, and cysts in the breasts and ovaries.
      So tell me how again this is a recreational medication?

      March 5, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • SurelyUjest

      The pill is used by many to reduce the length and severity of a womans period. Birth control in general is a public health issue. This is not a self control issue in any sense of the word. When the self righteous can finally admit that we humans are hard wired to procreate they will understand that even the strongest willed christian, muslim, jewish, Hindu, Buddhist etc.....can become pregnant. The laying of blame for what GOD created us to do (meaning procreate) as a weakness only shows how ignorant and backwards some of these comments are. We are in this together America, I don't have to agree with the the fact that other people may want to excersise a lesser degree of self control than myself to clearly see that a legal and safe solution is needed for our society.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • Doctor

      So, Bagheera, are you saying that women with genuine non-recreational medical needs should be denied coverage for their medicine? Oh, and by the way, the same medicines that cause abortions are also used when women have natural miscariages. I guess we should deny some women needed medicine because others may want it for reasons you don't approve of. Sorry, it is the Republicans that are trying to use this for political gain.

      Because of instances of true medical need, contraception has been covered by virtually every health insurance plan for years, the Republicans are just now trying to capitalize on it by misleading the public. How about Santorum and the others be honest about ALL the uses of contraception and let the public decide if it should be covered. Of course they won't do that. They will hide the complete issue.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Nothing else to say Truth? Still waiting for you to tell us all how this medication is only recreational.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Doozer

      Reading is your friend.
      Try it once in your life.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  16. mitusa

    Did not

    March 5, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  17. mitusa

    She did go before congress, but if you twist the truth in one story you might as well do it in all stories.

    March 5, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  18. Renait

    If women really care about this issue, they would stop having relations with Republicans.

    March 5, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • Mikolol

      Sadly, most women allow themselves to be treated like garbage because they believe they ARE garbage.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  19. yakman2

    Rush!! You are a lucky man....If that was my daughter you said that about, you would need bodygaurds for the rest of your life!!!!!

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

      yak: If the unlikely does happen, give me a call – I'd like to contribute.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • fedupwu

      I would not like for it to be your daughter, but if it happens call me in time for me to get popcorn, candy and a soda, I would soooo love to see this.

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

      Yak, i will sell tickets, then we can celebrate.
      Cheers !

      March 5, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  20. SDN

    "“I will buy all of the women at Georgetown University as much aspirin to put between their knees as they want.” If this man isn't totally out of control ethically, our country is.

    March 5, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
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