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. Tiger Woody

    It is the 21st century, move over belles it is the era of the sluts these days.

    Being a slut is the new hot. When in doubt consult the feminists 🙂

    March 5, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      What are you babbling about?

      March 5, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • E. Spitzer

      Who doesn't like their women a little dirty?

      March 5, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  2. pastafaria

    Ironic that it is the same free market economy (in the form of decreased ad revenue) that Rush advocates on his show every day, and decries any attempt to interfere with as communism/socialism, that could lead to his imminent downfall.

    March 5, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  3. Charlie from the North

    Rush Limbaugh is awful. Not just as an entertainer but as a human being, he offers no respect and deserves none. Calling the excrement he spews "entertainment "is like calling the KKK a social club.. However he has a first amendment right to be a big an (expletive) as he wants. it is a free country. That is what makes the public's reaction to his latest tirade a perfect one. This America after all and we are free not buy anything we choose and if we happen to choose not to buy products advertised in this monster's program an his sponsors decide it he is not worth losing business then we all win. Conservatives win by a public illustration of why Capitalism is better than Communism and the rest of us win by Limbaugh losing audience and support. Bravo America.

    March 5, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Vernon

      I find YOU more offensive than Rush....

      March 5, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  4. HawaiiGuest


    Blood pressure pills and prozac are specialty medicines made for specific people at specific doses on a case to case basis. There is a huge difference between prozac and BP medications and BC pills.

    March 5, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  5. RB

    What am I missing here? George Carlin was found by the supreme court to offend the publis on his radio show (the famous 7 words, almost all of which you can now hear on TV any day of the week). Iman and Stern lost their jobs because they offended common sense and censors. The only reason Rush is still on the air is because he makes his sponsors money. Maybe if he bets on a baseball game we can keep him out of the hall of fame. Come on folks, there is no single standard folks because we all, intentionally or not, pay the money to hear him, see them, or use them rather that take a stand a accept that we may be a little uncomfortable if we do the right thing.

    You want to make a difference? Don't buy their products, don't listen to their stations, and don't buy anything they sponsor, whether it is applauded by Rush or not. As long as you put of the cash, you really aren't doing anything to change the behavior. Let Rush move his show to where it belongs – pay radio.

    March 5, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  6. Carl

    Rush will survive this as he should

    March 5, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Xenon heavier than Argon

      If Rush gave up every time the liberals howled with rage, he would have gone home a long time ago...

      March 5, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  7. Beth Kosoff

    I'm not a lawyer, but Rush's very personal verbal attacks on Ms. Fluke amount to slander in my mind. Maybe she could sue him for slander and defamation – that might shut him up for good.

    March 5, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Bret

      It ain't slander if it's true.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest


      And you know it's true how?

      March 5, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • Michael

      Fluke expressed her opinion. It was absurd. Equally absurd was Rush. Two sides of the same coin.

      March 5, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  8. sam

    He called it as he saw it! What's wrong with you people?

    March 5, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Marlon

      Absolutely right. These women want Jesuit priests to pay for their birth control....what could be more sleazy than that?

      March 5, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • CEW

      Well, funny as the Jesuit university DOES pay for birth control pills, for it's EMPLOYEES, just not it's students. Interesting, as the employees are in a better position to be able to pay for it themselves.

      March 5, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • ajbuff

      NO ONE PAYS FOR THE CONTRACEPTION RIDER! The insurance companies are willing to offer it for free because IT SAVES THEM MONEY. It is CHEAPER For an employer to buy a policy with a rider than without one. So Rush, the idiot, should have said that THE TAXPAYERS WOULD HAVE TO PAY IF SHE DIDN't HAVE ACCESS TO THE RIDER. Maybe he wants the Jesuit employees to make the tapes instead? And maybe he'd like to call them some offensive names? He is offensive and dumber than a rock. Great combo!

      March 5, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  9. Jane

    So Rush being Rush doesn't admint any wrong doing and then once again puts words in other peoples mouths and is putting the blame on someone else: He added, "That's a business decision and it's theirs alone to make. They've decided they don't want you or your business anymore." The advertisers never said they didn't want anyone's busienss, they are chosing not to support Rush. Isn't taking responsibility for ones actions one of Rush's mantras? He doesn't walk the talk!!

    March 5, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • avacon

      He's one of the biggest hyopcrites on the planet. He plays his audience for fools, which they must be to listen to such hateful, disingenuous rhetoric. Scary times in America. Feels like Germany in the early 30's.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  10. Frank T

    Well said Bob. like I said before at least 99% of the comments I have read today on this subject have the same sentiment as you. I hope this country is leaning forward. we do not want to go back to the Middle ages.

    March 5, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  11. Julnor

    Georgetown is a Jesuit school. It does not provide free birth control. Ms. Fluke knew that, yet chose to go there. Then she complains about it. Seems a bit odd. She should have complained to Georgetown and not to Congress.

    March 5, 2012 at 3:32 pm |

    • And what a slut she was for testifying.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Drop Rush

      Drop Rush

      March 5, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Amused

      Thank You! Finally, someone else points out the obvious: If women don't like the rules of the school, don't go there!

      I sure hope the next time Bill Maher makes one of his insulting, snarkiy, sleazy comments the media and the Left (that's sort of redundant) go as ballistic.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Jessieandjake

      Georgetown was already covering contraception in its insurance policys before all this came about. As were many other faith based employers.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Cynthia

      Do you NOT get it?? Ms. Fluke was advocating for the MEDICAL reasons birth control pills contribute to and her case IN POINT was a young woman with Ovarian Cysts threatening her future health. Estrogen Therapy covers a mirade of reproductive health issues for women NOT JUST BIRTH CONTROL. But just stay stupid.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Peter

      I don't think she chose Georgetown for her healthcare needs or that she is complaining about Georgetown.

      March 5, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • skytag

      It is not for you to say to whom she should and shouldn't express her opinion.

      March 5, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • ajbuff

      Wrong – the rider is free because it is cheaper for the insurance companies to offer than pay for pregnancy and other health related issues. So she is NOT asking anyone to pay for it. The idea is that employers should not be able to PAY MORE to avoid having it and giving access to employees who would get it for free. It is insane. And remember, what is aimed just at contraceptive coverage this time can be anything else next time. It's a slippery slope.

      March 5, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  12. Carl

    I don't listen to Rush. But it is obvious that this girl is being used by the left. What happens when she is no longer useful ?

    March 5, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • Jessieandjake

      Reminds me of how the right used joe the unlicensed plumber.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Da Professor

      Used by the "left"?
      Good ole Rushy finds no end of people to use and did again this time. Anything to boost his dwindling ratings.

      March 5, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  13. Bookenz

    Limbaugh has been married four times and has no children. So NONE of his wives used birth control?

    March 5, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • Observer

      He made them all pay for it.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Julnor

      OK, let's try this again. The issue is not about birth control, it's about who should pay for the birth control. So let me ask, who should pay for YOUR birth control. Best answer: YOU. Second best answer: YOUR partner(s). Incorrect answer: Everybody else. Remember, there are many forms of birth control, some are free and many require no prescription, all are optional.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • palintwit

      Limbaugh lost his penis when he fell into a combine down on the farm.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Bookenz

      It's cheaper to pay for birth control than an unwanted pregnancy if you can't afford to take care of the child. And who pays for the child care and medical expenses if the parent's cant? You and me, that's who.

      March 5, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • J.W

      Why is it only about who pays for it if is a Catholic thing? Why can't we all have our own exemptions of what to pay for?

      March 5, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  14. Donald in CA

    Rush has been a racist idiot his whole life who has been a jerk his forever. May he have the same luck that beinhart had.

    March 5, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • Cosmo

      Free Rubbers for everyone..At least the Government is getting something done in this country.

      March 5, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  15. Bob

    America has really lost it. Folks like Limbaugh appeal to the lowest of the low-common-denominator individuals in a society. Uneducated, stupid, racist, small-minded, mean people who fantacize that they could, like Rush, have an audience for their uneducated opinions. The republican party has courted, and climbed into bed, with all sorts of slime and trash to gain power – but perhaps the consequences of their appeal to ignorance, to empowering stupid people to reject education as the trappings of elitism and snobbery, are finally starting to accrue. I doubt whether too many independent voters who have at least finished 9th grade are amused. The most amazing thing is the gutlessness of the neo conservatives – unable to muster the courage to defend civility and decency. Instead, they appeal to fear, war mongering, and sick, false partriotism and religious ideology. America is being destroyed from within while the other developed and developing countries of the world race forward in science, technology, and education. Hopefully, like a child standing up to a school-yard bully or a stranger reigning in some spoiled, poorly acting child in a public venue, Americans can stand up and take their country back. If not – the future looks increasingly bleak. Sadly – I remember a time when it was conservative-minded people who stood up for decency, civility, and rationality. No longer.

    March 5, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Mark of Tennessee

      ***** APPLAUSE*****

      March 5, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • Ace

      This is one of the best posts I've ever seen on CNN; you sir are EXACTLY right!

      March 5, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Joseph

      Excellent summary, Bob. For any others that might be a student of history or watch the History or Military Channel on occasion ... Do the Republicans seem to be "channeling" the National Socialists of the 1930s and 1940s of Germany? Just a thought ... Fleeing the continent seems like an option once again 🙁 🙁

      March 5, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • ImperiousLeader

      Very well said, sir. We are turning into a "lowest common denominator" nation. Public discourse is too often reduced to the barking of dogs (no disrespect meant to the dogs, mind you).

      March 5, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • skytag

      Rush Limbaugh has done more to destroy and dumb down political discourse in this country than any other person in its history.

      March 5, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
  16. Mark of Tennessee

    Freedom of speech yes.... will always support protecting it.. But same freedom can't be used to spout garbage at you place of employment. He should be fired, advertisers should leave. Try this mess at your job and see how long you will be employed!!!!

    End of Story!

    March 5, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • RB

      He spouted trash for three days on the air. He apologized on the web. He has as much substance as belly button fuzz.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • Drop Rush


      March 5, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  17. Frank T

    Thanks, Paul in Ohio, I will make a complaint to the FCC, like you said if they get enough of them maybe will be rid of this vermin. Freedom of speech is extremly important, but you also need to excersise resposibility and decency with it.

    March 5, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  18. mike58

    I'm all for Rush I think it's funny how all you people over react.
    Besides she is a professional FAM activist she's 30 years years old hardly the average college student
    she a cougar looking for a handout maybe just a hand.
    She was hired by the DEMs to do this and take the attention off Obama's mandate for churches to give free pills and rubbers
    Grow up people look at this for what it is a political stunt

    March 5, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • Dana

      Overreact? How about if I say whoever buys and uses Viagra is a rapist? People like you and your awesome Rush do not belong in civilized society of 21C. Leave to some country in 3rd world where they'll welcome you with open arms.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Not All Docs Play Golf

      Mike....you sound really backward.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • Mark of Tennessee

      Your sir Mike58 are a joke

      March 5, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • Jessieandjake

      This "political stunt" would not have had nearly as much attention if it weren't for Rush and his inability to understand birth control. Maybe the dems hired Rush as well. Brilliant!!!!!

      March 5, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • KPLady000

      Mike, until you learn proper grammar and punctuation, even in a comment posting, I cannot take you seriously. It is no wonder you are a fan of Rush Limbaugh. He appeals to people like you because he makes it easier for you to sound educated in your backwards, narrow, misogynistic, pig-headed opinions. I have a feeling you've never had a daughter because if you had, you would understand that no matter what your political affiliations are, a parent would never take kindly to someone calling his or her daughter horrible names without ever having met her. Like my mother taught me, try this on for size: if you can't say anything nice about someone, don't say anything at all. Have some decency.

      March 5, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  19. GodsPeople

    While I don't like Limbaugh and am firmly convinced he represents only the really stupid right, not the religious right, he still does have freedom of speech like anyone else does. You atheists utilize said freedom to call people who see truth delusional or psycho or pretty much anything negative you can think of. Basically, you think you have freedom of speech, if anyone who doesn't think like you utilizes it you believe they have to be sanctioned.

    March 5, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • Observer

      Fortunately Rush does not represent anyone. As he says, he is an entertainer and an absurdist (or did he just mean to say that he's absurd?). We can turn him off, pull the plug on his sponsors and ignore him.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • Sue Tervonen

      Freedom of speech is not abridged when people tell sponsors of a vitriloc radio personality that they will not buy their products if they continue to support said host. Freedom of speech is not abridged when the sponsors withdraw their support of said host. The government did not attempt to abridge his speech. The free market did. That is capitalism.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest


      He smeared the name of a person. He made false accusations and gave misinformation on why she was speaking in the first place. He infringed on her rights, and defamed her character. He should get flack for this and I am glad he is. He deserves much more than just sponsors leaving his show.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:25 pm |

      He certainly has the right of free speech.
      And I also have the right not to buy the products that sponsors pay him to spew his disgusting free speech on national airwaves. And those sponsors know that I am not alone, so if they prize their customers' feelings and good public relations, they will drop him like a hot potato and consign him to the trash heap of history.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • GodsPeople

      While I do agree he smeared the name of a person, let's face it, we all do it. Not on TV/Radio, but we all do it. We all go through the day and call at least one person an idiot, a moron, delusional, etc. Hell, I call my wife crazy more than once a day. So unless you plan on punishing everyone who's ever lived for the same crime, you have to just let it go. Personally, I neither know nor care who sponsors Limbaugh's show, I buy what I want regardless of what they sponsor.

      As for the rest... meh. Frankly, she deserves some of her own flack. She's the one who's gone public trying to force a Jesuit University that SHE KNEW IN ADVANCE did not provide contraception on it's insurance plan to have to do so. This is not her right by any stretch. The University does not have to follow any government requirements, since they are a privately funded University, not Public. They don't HAVE to provide insurance, but they do. she should be glad she has anything.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Susan

      "While I do agree he smeared the name of a person, let's face it, we all do it. Not on TV/Radio, but we all do it. We all go through the day and call at least one person an idiot, a moron, delusional, etc."

      No we don't all do it, only those that are emotionally immature do it. Emotional maturity is defined as: the ability to express one’s own feelings and convictions balanced with consideration for the thoughts and feelings of others.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • J.W

      But if you said your wife was crazy on national tv or radio and suddenly everyone she know though she had some sort of mental problem then it would no longer be cool.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • GodsPeople

      @Susan: You're a liar if you claim you've never said anything negative about anyone. I guarantee you're a liar on that.

      @JW: Who said it was cool to begin with? It's just part of being human *shrug* we all judge others, even those of us who know better.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Chuckles


      You think just because everyone does it means that it's ok? This is exactly the sort of thing we need to publicly condemn in order for others to realize just how harmful things like this could be. Not to mention, using your considerable influence and reach to defame a person simply because you disagree with them is wrong and way worse than calling someone, your wife for example, "crazy" to a small portion of people and especially when crazy has so many definitions.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • J.W

      You know what I mean. At that point it just goes from being something you just kind of say to your wife to something that is harmful. If you think I am wrong, then why don't you give me your name and what city you live in and I will run a story in the local paper that you are a s3x offender who has been harassing local children, and maybe even run a story on the national news about it.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Susan

      "@Susan: You're a liar if you claim you've never said anything negative about anyone. I guarantee you're a liar on that."

      No, I have not. Christ instructed us to treat others the way we want to be treated, so I would not want to be called names.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • Chuckles


      I believe it's equally as despi.cable for a famous atheist, perhaps dawkins, to publicly slander a person because he doesn't like what they say. The difference is, Dawkins will look at the content and debunk it showing why he disagrees, not throw out names just because a person is a creationist.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • GodsPeople

      @Chuckles: I actually stated that it wasn't right no matter what. I asked JW in my post, "does that make it cool?" By doing so I'm saying it's not.

      @JW: You and I are discussing the difference of scale. Really, a wrong is a wrong, no matter what the scale is. National is no different from face to face, one on one in the end.

      @Susan: yeah right.

      March 5, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
    • GodsPeople

      PS. I'm fairly certain Rush is an atheist. He never discusses any religious beliefs he may have, and I've heard/seen his show off and on for a LOT of years.

      March 5, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
  20. guesswho22

    Republicans always through this into faces of any liberal they deem has gone to far in public discourse: "Freedom of Speech is protected speech, but anything you say will have consequences – sometimes unfavorable consequences." I think the mass exodus of advertisers will have Clearwater Radio reconsidering that $400 million 5 year contract of Limpballs real soon.

    March 5, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • kl

      all the democrats have a double standard. I am a male, if I sat in front of a trumped up congressional hearing like mz. fluke and said i want some one else to pay for my condoms i would be laughed out if the building. the old democrat double standard.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      She was not speaking about condoms. She was speaking about the fact that many women use birth control pills for purely medical purposes.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Julnor

      HawaiiGuest, it is very true that some women use birth control pills for purely medical purposes. So why shouldn't they be treated just like any other medication? Do you get blood pressure pills or prozac for free?

      March 5, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • Marion

      Kl, you are already being "laughed out of this forum". Nothing in your short post makes any logical sense at all. I guess it is ok with you that insurance will pay for viagra and vasectiomies.....but that is too much logic for you.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Julnor

      Marion, I highly doubt any insurance plan provides free viagra (even though it helps with a medical problem). But how would you feel if the govt mandated that every insurance company provide it for free? I assume from your name that ED could never be a problem, yet the govt would force you to pay for it via higher insurance premiums.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • J.W

      Insurance pays for blood pressure pills and prozac.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest


      Also Blood pressure pills and prozac are specialty medicines made for specific people at specific doses on a case to case basis. There is a huge difference between prozac and BP medications and BC pills.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
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