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. Glenn

    Great article as usual from Stephen. But the real quote of the article: “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.” It shouldn't be "I will if you will".

    March 5, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Ryan L.

      I couldn't agree more. Well said.

      March 5, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  2. keith a dewey

    The Catholic Church has compromised on most everything to keep the Organization large and strong. Letting them eat meat on Friday and letting them get their ticket punched on Saturday instead of Sunday are a few of the compromises. Accepting birth control will have fewer little Catholics growing up paying into the coffers and that diminishes the organization.

    March 5, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  3. clark

    The Oxycontin Staypuft Marshmellow Man strikes out!!

    March 5, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  4. CJ

    Rush is a joke for a human being. I sometimes wonder if he really believes all the crap he says or if part of it is to be a shock jock just to improve his ratings. Some believe that even bad publicity is publicity just the same.

    March 5, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • buccakenji

      And Fluke is the wh ore she testified to in Congress. So what's your point ? ?

      March 5, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Ryan L.

      Calling him a joke of a human being just fuels the fire and levels the field. If we really want to have the moral upper hand, we have to find ways of responding to his hateful and unprofessional comments in a way that's better than him.

      March 5, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  5. Frank T

    Does anyone have a list of Companies that still sponsor his show, I would like to avoid them like the plague.

    March 5, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Obeserver

      Still? I can only think of JoS. A. Bank

      March 5, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • walter

      Same here, Frank T...Rush no apology apology, his "sense of humor" is that of a 12 year old...no more business for any of his sposors.

      March 5, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Claire

      American Credit Card Solutions 800-541-5656
      Matrix Direct 800-605-3967
      American General Life
      Right Size Smoothie 800-655-3306
      Sensa Weight Loss 800-964-4256

      March 5, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  6. Julie

    Give him enough rope....

    March 5, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  7. Sam

    The best course of action is for Sandra Fluke to file a lawsuit against Rush.

    March 5, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      I don't know about that. I could turn some of the public support against her. I think she should merely peti.tion for Rush to be taken off the air. If as a result of his attacks she is then harassed in school or her community, then she could sue for defamation of character and other things as well. In those situations I think it would be warranted.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  8. Jimmy C

    This just in: Rush Limbaugh is insane. Shocking that he would behave like a 13 year old boy.

    March 5, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • wallyman

      Insane would be to expect everyone else to pay for your gyn insurance coverage. The gov't (taxpayers) already pays for abortions, now you want them to mandate hormonal contraceptive? Of course the gov't provides contraception globally, so it may be about time to mandate it here at home.

      March 5, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  9. parent of daughters

    I would love to see his show go OFF the air. He has been asking for this for a very long time.
    I will keep track of who sponsors him and it will be a factor for us from now on.

    March 5, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  10. TJ

    I wonder if this fat coward would repeat that language in a working man's bar? He should have the s**t kicked out of him after removing his coclear implant so he can't hear himself cry.

    March 5, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  11. edwina

    Its amazing this clown is still on the airwaves.

    March 5, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Jim M

      He is only still on the air because he continues to make money for the radio stations he is on. Once that stops he will be gone. You can tell when his ratings are starting to slip, he gets outrageous and the ratings go back up. He is an entertainer pure and simple and his only concern in life is his pocketbook. He is transparent as they come. I still wonder how he got away with calling everybody in the White House crooks a few years ago. If that isn't slander don't know what is.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • mike

      not really, have you ever really noticed how low the IQ levels of the people who listen to this show are? we're talkin below the 40's here...

      March 5, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  12. Frank T

    This conservative Moron, is a Bully. And should be thrown off the air, good to hear the advertisers are jupping ship like rats. And from all the comments I have read its reasurres me that there is alot of good decent people across the country, who agree that this MORON should go. One last Note " Guns are legal in this Country , Right" just sayin!!

    March 5, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  13. Art M.

    "“Let us, on both sides, lay aside all arrogance." That would only be possible if Republicans could refrain from being arrogant, which is as physically impossible for them as it would be for them to not be hypocritical.

    March 5, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Ben

      Art M. :
      It would only be possible if both conservatives and liberals could stop being ignorant hypocrites (much like the quote says). We are so quick to call our ideological opposites names and then ignore the fact we are being just like them. Please dont make a fantastic quote out to be more ideological warfare...take it for what it is, a call for all of us to be more civil in our discorse.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • Dance This Mess Around

      I have tried to have an honest discussion with Republicans about our President.
      Even when i have given facts, i have been called libtard, the facts are ignored,
      and they just find another subject to bash the president.

      They dont want to talk, they just want to find someone to confirm the hate.
      Thats what the Republican party has done.
      They have gone so far right, they have fallen off the edge.

      After they lose the election, maybe some of them will sober up.
      But i doubt it.

      March 5, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Ryan L.

      To Art M.: From the sounds of it, I likely have very similar political views, but I still don't think it helps to go around implying that all Republicans are incorrigibly hypocritical. Call me overly idealistic, but I would much rather use Limbaugh's comments as a chance to show contrast between the conservative talk show host's vitriol and a progressive, tolerant, civil, informed discourse.

      March 5, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  14. Cosmo

    Let her and her boyfriends pay for their own rubbers.

    March 5, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • Cosmo's Mom

      Cosmo, you can do the job with saran-wrap and a rubberband. Some people want quality.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      This is about Birth Control Pills.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Corneliusone

      This article is about civility. Can you read between the lines?

      March 5, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Independent

      This is not about who pays, this is about civilized discussion.

      I agree, to some extent that people should pay for birth control but only for those who could not afford them. LESS unwanted children, LESS people on welfare, LESS distorted lives.... ISNT this what conservatives want.... ????

      March 5, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • Dance This Mess Around

      Cosmo, come here.
      I have a pair of scissors.
      You should not be allowed to breed.

      March 5, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Ryan L.

      @Dance This Mess Around:

      That is *way* over the top. How different is what you said from the type of things Limbaugh said?

      March 5, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • RonC

      Man, you are really informed!! It has nothing to do with "rubbers". It has to do with birth control pills and cancer and what that does to the woman.

      March 5, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • TKS

      I wish your dad would have used some the night you slipped through.

      March 5, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  15. Tmd5231741

    It is so obvious that this woman is a plant. Why would she go to a Catholic University where she knows they dont supply birthcontrol, and how is she paying so much, when Planned parenthood supplies birth control at low costs. This is to coinside with this lates Mandate of the mess we know as Obama Care. She should pay for her own extra cirricular activites and stop trying to play a victim.

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

      it is obvious that you are a plant among reasonable, sane people

      March 5, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Birth Control pills can only be accessed through a perscription, and the cost is based on the ability of the patient to pay at PP. There could also not be a PP near her area, I could be wrong about that last one since I don't know where their area are. But then again you think a catholic college would allow PP to put up a clinic anywhere near them?

      March 5, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Fearless Freep

      TMD i know what you mean.
      I refused to go to Boston College because they didnt have
      twinkees in the vending machines.
      Heck with the education.

      March 5, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  16. U.S.Army-OverLord

    "I hope he fails" well that goes for you to Rush, You are everything that is wrong with politics today. Since you are willing to say anything about people who don't share your narrow minded view, I hope you fail, or get hit by a Mack Truck. 😉

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

      well said

      March 5, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • Ryan L.

      While I share your sentiment, and am personally insulted and dismayed by so many of the things Mr. Limbaugh says that I don't care to count, I think that the lesson in civility is really more important here. It doesn't help us to call him a 'moron' as some people have here in these comments, or to say that he should be run over by a truck. Rather, what made De Gioia's response so admirable was that he pulled no punches, but wrote honest, civil protest against an unprofessional rant.

      March 5, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • Fearless Freep

      I would feel bad for the truck.

      March 5, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  17. palintwit

    While at Barnes and Noble the other day I picked up a copy of Sarah Palin's book out of curiosity. Lo and behold !! Someone had penciled in a mustache on Sarah Palin's photo. Why would anybody do that ? Bwawahahahahahahahah !!!

    March 5, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  18. Tom

    If ever there was a time for a lawsuit, this is it! I doubt nothing short of this will stop these kind of guys!

    March 5, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  19. Tmd5231741

    Yakman2 If your daughter got up infront of a committee of any kind and said with a straight face that she pays $1000.00+ for contraceptives, she would deserve the same thing and instead of violence toward Rush, or anyone else for that matter, you should be embarrassed that the product of your raising turned out with such a lack of intelegence.

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


      Insulting the intelligence of someone...while spelling 'intelligence' incorrectly.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • ReasonableXX

      I love when someone attackes intelligence in a post and goes on to misspell basic words and/or uses horrendous grammar. It's OK to make mistakes occasionally but not so much when you are in the process of insulting someone else's mental capacity.

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

      Go get yourself an education, sire. Sandra is a Georgetown law student – I don't think any one would consider her unintelligent.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • idiocracee

      This post is gold. Only here could you find someone damning another's *intelligence by misspelling the word in question. Love it.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Raggamuffin

      Her testimonony was specifically about the how birth control pills are used by women medicinally, not as contraception. That is why health insurance plans should cover them. But alas, this distinction is lost on people who assume that everyone shares their motivations. Hes parents should be proud, that she has the courage to stand up for her peers.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • Tmd5231741

      And yet, without knowing what i am talking about,
      i still feel the need to make stupid comments.

      March 5, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  20. Bill

    For years Howard Stern was hounded for his content until he went to cable radio where his listeners have to subscribe to hear him. Rush should be forced to do the same. Lets see how many of his working class republican supporters are willing to pay to hear him.

    March 5, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.