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. Dilip Samuels

    The GOP Presidential candidates do not deserve any votes from women from the shameful response to Rush Limbaugh. It show Americans what the GOP protoype members are

    Romney condones ( wink wink), Santorum is Limbaugh lite and Gingrich is Limbaugh heavy

    Americans should be disgusted with the GOP and it's views. Outdated ...

    March 5, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  2. JC in Western U.S.

    I suppose that it's newsworthy when corporations pull their advertising from Rush Limbaugh's show. But I would personally rather know which advertisers have NOT?

    I can't force myself to listen to one of his shows. Thirty seconds of listening sends my blood pressure into the stratosphere. Could somebody please post of a list of the companies that are still advertising on his program? They're the advertisers I want to know about because I won't support a company who supports Rush Limbaugh or who wants to target the kind of people who would listen to and support him for saying the things he says.

    March 5, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • J.W

      Actually I would like this too. We should all boycott these companies.

      March 5, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • J.W

      I just hope Pepsi does not advertise on there.

      March 5, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • fred

      What is your real beef JC? His point was correct in that why should I pay for someone else to have $ex? Why is it that the liberals constantly push "free $ex" "safe $ex" when it is neither.........typical democrat nonsense to pass out candy to our children then box republicans in a corner when they refust to pay for the cost of dental exams.
      You have let the libs pull the wool over your eyes because the want you to stumble in the darkness they create then cry for the state to pick you up giving them full power over you.

      March 5, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • fred

      Pepsi promotes rap artists that call women worse, Please stop drinking Pepsi now.

      March 5, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
  3. cigarman

    Rush is just a bag of wind. I have never listened to his radio show, but I will start listening now, just to see who his sponsors are so that I can contact these sponsors and let them know that as long as they sponsor Rush, I will not purchase or use there product. I hear that Rush is the Republican leader, that explains a lot about the Republican Party.

    March 5, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • Damon

      Not a fan of him either but these sponsors are on both teams blindly.

      March 5, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  4. RickBangkok

    Please let me know of any issue based on the facts on which Rush Limbaugh has added anything of value to the betterment of the USA for its free citizens. Yes we spend too much money. Yes we have huge problems with the economy, jobs, housing. Yes we struggle to ensure jobs, healthcare, and freedom of religion for all. Yes we must deal with terrorism, war, and nuclear threats. Yes the USA and its citizens make governmental, community and personal mistakes. But, when any one of us wants to fix our problems or be of service to our family, neighbors, or countrymen, we do not take the low road. We learn in life in the USA that we can do so much more here because we are free. We also learn that freedom is not without responsibility or consequences when it is abused.

    March 5, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • DDanny1

      I'll have you know Rush WAS a strong advocate of tougher laws for drug addicts. The reason you probably didn't know that is in March of 2006 drug addicted liberal hackers got access to his website and stole everything in the archives of him advocating locking up drug addicts. It literally disappeared overnight. I mean, you knows what the street value of that stuff was.

      March 5, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  5. Kathy B.

    Oh, get over yourselves, everybody. No need for name calling. It's up to the sponsors and the listeners now.

    March 5, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  6. Limbaugh missed the mark

    She is not the only Slut around 😉

    March 5, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • Chuchan Boils

      and people feign anger over this? ain't this the sad truth in society today 🙁

      March 5, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  7. JC in Western U.S.

    I say it doesn't matter which "side" has more negativity. What matters is that we have started to see each other AND OURSELVES as belonging to a "side". As long as we find ourselves unable to wrap our brains around the idea that a person can be a fine individual while simultaneously holding a different political philosophy than our own, we will never move forward again. We'll just destroy ourselves trying to destroy each other. Saying "conservatives are..." or "liberals are..." is bigotry. It's not racial bigotry, or religious bigotry, it's political bigotry. In that sense, we're are risk of becoming a nation of bigots. Nobody's born a bigot. Bigots are created. We all need to think about who we have allowed to make us into bigots.

    March 5, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  8. Cynthia

    I cannot believe the amount of people on here that are commenting on this young woman's testimony. Don't you think you should at least hear what she ACTUALLY SAID as to what Rush lied that she had?? I'll guarantee you will never care. Only, don't expect the rest of us to defend an imbecile radio commentator who didn't take the time to hear the truth either.

    March 5, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Chris

      Cynthia, these people are lost.

      March 5, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  9. Tim

    Tolerance! What a laugh. Liberals are not interested in tolerance. Liberals are seeking to destroy their enemies: Republicans. We often see Republicans disagree with liberals, but we never really see them call for the eradication of liberals. Liberals on the other hand call for exactly that. When Republicans talk about ss reform, liberals try to scare old folks and say they are trying to end the program and hope you die. When Republicans talk about reforming medicaid/medicare, liberals will tell you that they are trying to throw grandma off a cliff. When Republicans don't want universal healthcare, liberals go on the Congressional floor and, with the use of a white board, tell the world that Republicans just want you to die.

    Now, with the help of the media, they are turning this issue into "Republicans want to take away your contraceptives." What a laughing joke the liberal media and the democrats have become. How can we have a "civil" discussion with such gross intellectual dishonesty and propaganda machines?

    March 5, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • DDanny1

      A man named Rush Limbaugh ROUTINELY calls for the defeat and eradication of Liberals. Have you even listened to him?

      March 5, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • jersvette

      I am sure you believe the BS your spewing however reality is far different.

      March 5, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • Dave

      Tim, you're using the age old conservative tactic, on page #1 of the Republican playbook, of accusing your opponent of doing exactly what YOU'RE doing.....of saying your opponent behaves exactly the way YOU behave......and for claiming your opponent is exactly what YOU are. Nice try.

      March 5, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Gordyb

      You must be an avid listener to Rush and have a very distorted view. Liberals do not eat their young as have the current crop of conseratives have demonstrated. Liberals are soft by nature and forgiving. Rush is nothing more than a anti women, racist bully and has been for years. He used to be funny, now he is vitriol.

      March 5, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • cigarman

      I don`t really think that it is a laughing joke. If you listen to the clowns in the Republican Clown car, you have stated exactly what the clowns are talking about doing. The Republican clowns only talk about what they are going to DO TO the citizens, not what they are going to do for the citizens. Vote Obama.

      March 5, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  10. mike edwards

    Overall, not a bad comment from an obese,drug addict who has been married four times.

    March 5, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • Ann

      and uses viagra and has no children. I bet his many wives and girlfriends have all had their birth control covered by health insurance. he and his ditto-heads are beneath contempt.

      March 5, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
  11. Cosmo

    Boy, that sure cost him. The girl is nuts. Thats all he needed to say.

    March 5, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      How is she nuts?

      March 5, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
  12. dezi

    Old Joke – What is the difference between Rush Limbaugh and the Hindenberg?
    Answer: One is a Nazi gas bag and the other is a Zepplin

    March 5, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
  13. I am right and u are Wrong

    Show one unmarried virgin. Virgins are so passe ,sluts are the new norm.

    Gotta concede with rushy here.

    March 5, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  14. Bob Meteer

    Rush is a drug addict and an idiot –

    March 5, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  15. hjs3

    Euripides provides us with a perfect quote that accurately depicts Rush's latest dilemma ...

    Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad.....

    This boy is well on his way....

    March 5, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  16. Reality

    Only for the newbies:

    What Obama, the Senate, the House and Georgetown U should address:

    (Limbaugh should take early retirement as he is showing signs of insanity.)

    The Brutal Effects of Stupidity:

    : The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill ( 8.7% failure rate) and male con-dom (17.4% failure rate) have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or co-ndoms properly and/or use safer methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.- Failure rate statistics provided by the Gut-tmacher Inst-itute.

    Added information before making your next move:

    from the CDC-2006

    "Se-xually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain S-TDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psy-ch-ological consequences of S-TDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs as-sociated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars."

    And from:

    Consumer Reports, January, 2012

    "Yes, or-al se-x is se-x, and it can boost cancer risk-

    Here's a crucial message for teens (and all se-xually active "post-teeners": Or-al se-x carries many of the same risks as va-ginal se-x, including human papilloma virus, or HPV. And HPV may now be overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of or-al cancers in America in people under age 50.

    "Adolescents don’t think or-al se-x is something to worry about," said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. "They view it as a way to have intimacy without having 's-ex.'" (It should be called the Bill Clinton Syndrome !!)

    Obviously, political leaders in both parties, Planned Parenthood, parents, the "stupid part of the USA" and the educational system have failed miserably on many fronts.

    Note: Some words hyphenated to defeat an obvious word filter.

    March 5, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  17. mikeonthebay

    Where was this guy when any numbe of liberals were calling for conservative women to kill themselves or members of the tea party hitlers? thought so.

    March 5, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • J.W

      Well except this was directed toward a specific person, and someone who is not really a public figure.

      March 5, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  18. Bob

    So this poor young lady has been victimized. She has been backed into a corner and she has only two choices:

    1) take out a loan to support her habit
    2) force other people to pay for it

    She's sounds more like a pig to me. Oink, oink!!!!

    March 5, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      What habit are you talking about?

      March 5, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • palintwit

      Put the computer down and get back under your bed, Bobby. And try not to wet your pants this time.

      March 5, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • Chris

      Bob, you're a pathetic windbag. Rush is the fat pig, even in physical resemblence.

      March 5, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • DDanny1

      Bob. You might want to go listen to Flukes testimony from her own lips. If you do you are going to be very upset with Limbaugh for making you embarrass yourself.

      March 5, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Mike in NJ

      Exactly. Because she wants access to birth contrl, she is shagging anyone that waks within 10 feet of her – woebetide them! And since you are given money, with which you could possibly buy... let's say, gasoline, you are obviously... an arsonist. Arrest that man!


      March 5, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Chris

      So CHRIS, should Obama turn down Bill Maher’s money to his PAC because Bill called Sarah Palin the “C” Word??? While I don't like Rush the Left acts if they the Right has a monopoly on HATE.

      March 5, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • Paul in Ohio

      What an immature comment. You embarrass yourself, Bobby.

      March 5, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  19. lynn

    dont worry rush you and don imus can hang together.

    March 5, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  20. me123me

    Rush called it spot on now the libs are all offended for their insane points of view.

    March 5, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • Huh?

      "Rush called it spot on now the libs are all offended for their insane points of view."

      Yeah Rush needs idiot supporters like you.

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

      Good thing Rush has mindless people like you supporting him, in the face of being 100% wrong.

      March 5, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • me123me

      So then what was she talking about if he was wrong?

      March 5, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • Greg s

      The Lib sharks are circling, they smell blood.

      March 5, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • DDanny1

      Translation of me123me comment: "I haven't listened to Flukes testimony either."

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

      She was speaking on the very large amount of women who use the pill for purely medical purposes. Only a complete idiot thinks that the BC pill only deals with contraception.

      March 5, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Mike in NJ

      Right, remember that when your wife, daughter, niece, mother, or girlfriend takes/uses/used birth control. Sl uts one and all.

      March 5, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • DDanny1

      Translation of me123me retort of "So then what was she talking about if he was wrong?": "There is no way I'm going to listen to the testimony myself. Instead I want you to tell me so that unless you repeat what Rush said I can call you a liar".

      March 5, 2012 at 4:30 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.