March 6th, 2012
01:05 PM ET
My Take: Rush Limbaugh's 'apology' fails test for public confession
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
Dear Rush, which part of “I’m sorry” don’t you understand?
The ritual of public confession is so formulaic in American culture that it’s hard to imagine that someone as media savvy as Rush Limbaugh doesn’t know how to do it. But his so-called apology for calling Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” shows he doesn’t know the first thing about this rite, so here is how it goes.
First, admit that you have done wrong. Say this straight. Do not hedge. Do not confuse things by saying that others have wronged you. Do not say that others have committed similar sins.
Here the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church is a good model:
Second, show that you are truly sorry. Saying “I’m sorry” (which Limbaugh did not do) is a good start, but it isn’t enough. You have to make yourself believable. Here tears are not necessary, but they help. Others need to believe that you are confessing for the sake of your soul, and not merely for the sake of your career. Hint: the best way to make that happen is to actually be sorry.
Third, humble yourself. Admit that you are a human being like the rest of us. This can be difficult for people with a high opinion of themselves. So what. Suck it up.
Fourth, repent, turn around, promise that you will go and sin no more.
Look familiar? It should, if you’ve ever gone to Catholic Mass or observed Yom Kippur. But Limbaugh flubbed it big time.
First, he didn’t really apologize for turning a public policy question into a vicious personal attack. In fact, he said, “I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.”
Second, he tried to justify his unjustifiable behavior by claiming that he was trying to be “absurd” and “humorous.” He wasn’t trying to libel or slander Fluke, or to shut her up or humiliate her. He was just trying to have a little fun.
Third, Limbaugh stopped apologizing almost as soon as his apology had begun. Instead of detailing his many and manifold sins, he launched into a reprise of his argument against birth control coverage in U.S. health plans, and criticized President Obama along the way for coming to Fluke’s defense. In other words, he changed the subject, so the bulk of his ”apology” wasn’t an apology at all.
Finally, when he got to something approaching apologizing, Limbaugh did not apologize for what he really did. He did not apologize for launching a multi-day ad hominem attack against a private citizen. He did not apologize for dragging the American public through the muck and mire of his misogynistic fantasies. He did not apologize for inspiring a series of copycats in the right wing blogosphere.
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Instead he apologized for “insulting word choices.” In other words, he apologized for using the word “slut” instead of some less insulting synonym.
Given this abysmal performance, we should not be surprised that Fluke did not find his remarks particularly apologetic, or that she and many others believe he issued it not out of genuine remorse but in an effort to stanch the hemmoraging of advertisers from his show. “I don’t think that a statement like this issued, saying that his choice of words was not the best, changes anything, and especially when that statement is issued when he’s under significant pressure from sponsors who have begun to pull their support,” said Fluke, a Georgetown Law student.
Neither should we find it surprising that advertisers, including AOL, are fleeing the show en masse, and that some radio stations are now refusing to air it.
Limbaugh could have stanched the bleeding by practicing what historian Susan Wise Bauer has described as “the art of the public grovel.” Instead he gave us the art of the public equivocation.
Why? So why couldn’t he say, "I'm sorry"?
In a word: ego.
Republicans and Democrats will doubtless disagree about vices and virtues of the man who would be a GOP kingmaker. But there is no doubting that Limbaugh admires himself. And he is not about to sacrifice that form of worship at the altar of Sandra Fluke or anyone else.
That is why he is now blaming not himself but the companies who have stopped advertising on his show for their decision to separate themselves from his hate speech. “They’ve decided they don’t want you or your business any more,” he told his radio audience on Monday.
This in my view is a foolish course. Americans are a forgiving people. Many of the public figures profiled in Bauer’s “The Art of the Public Grovel” have come back into the public eye, not least President Bill Clinton. But the American public will not forgive you unless and until you confess and repent. And so far at least Limbaugh has refused to do either.
At this point, what is dragging Limbaugh down is not so much his incendiary attack on Fluke but his refusal to admit that, like the rest of us, he is a sinner, too. Until he does that, he will continue to float around in a celebrity limbo of his own making, praised by his true believers but damned - and rightly so - by most of the rest of us.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.
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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.
Alright, let's figure this out...
Birth control is a prescription.
I pay for prescription drug coverage through my employer. Almost as much as I do for rent every month. I seldom go to the doctor for anything, even if I am sick.
My insurance pays for my birth control. They pay less for that than I pay them every month.
Therefore, I pay for my prescribed birth control, through my health insurance provider, as it should be.
Now yes, I do take birth control because I am a married woman, and I already have a child, and I would not be able to afford another one. I would lose my job, lose my insurance, and have to rely heavily on public funds. THEN the tax payer is paying my way, instead of the health insurance company that I would be paying to make my payments. Sure, I could just deny my husband any action again for risk of pregnancy, and it's my choice that I do not. So the question is then, should insurance companies have to cover prescription birth control, because they are making a choice to live a lifestyle that would put them at risk for pregnancy? (barring the medical conditions it is also prescribed for).
Here's another question, and we can specify this one right down to the example of religious insteetutions. If they wouldn't cover birth control, why then would they cover Vlagra? That's just for s#chs (I hate CNN's filter). They say it's because god favors procreation, but they completely ignore the fact that god made these men have ED, and that's why they won't be procreating. More supposed 'men of faith' who completely ignore their deity to focus on the words of long dead men. ED seems like it would easily be attributed to god saying 'you won't be needing this any more'. But they're alright with playing god in that department, because they are old men after all (possibly with ED), and it's not supposed to turn around on them like that. What vile people.
Here's another question – should an insurance insteetution be allowed to deny coverage for diabetes, heart conditions, strokes, replacement jolnts, amputations, certain types of cancers, and other types of weight or age related issues? I mean, I'm not large, so why should I have to pay for some 0beese person's poor lifestyle choices? My birth control costs me about $500 every TEN YEARS. They need insulin all the time. They're walking heart attacks waiting to happen. And even in some hypothetical situation where they were able to deny coverage to 'pfhat' people outright, there would inevitably be people who got on the coverage before they got fhat, and have something sudden happen to them. So then, the thousands of dollars they've paid to these insurance companies... means absolutely nothing. Few slopes are so slippery.
Seems like no one knows how insurance works. They think they get that huge chunk taken out of their paycheck so... the government can pay for their healthcare? As if! It's really quite simple (where I am at least)- every month, you pay a big chunk of your paychecks into insurance. A few hundred each paycheck, or all on one paycheck. THOUSANDS of other people are doing the same thing. Every month. These people have health insurance now, does not mean they need it every month. So they pay into it just in case. The money they give to the insurance company is not set into some personal account just for you, it is thrown into a huge pool, of EVERYONE's money. Why? Because healthcare is very expensive. As much as I pay for insurance in a year, if I saved that, it still wouldn't cover a single ER visit, much less regular healthcare for my family. So they pool it, for when someone does need it, for emergencies or continuing care or preventative care (like BC).
Ever hear the phrase, 'An 0unze of prevention is worth a pouunnd of cure'? It's true, especially when you're talking about birth control. I already outlined why in a paragraph above (yes, I'm getting wordy. Sue me.). You can either pony up and stop whiining about having to pay for birth control with your pooled funds, or you can fund unwanted children and poor families with another large pool – your tax dollars. Can't have it both ways.
(again, sorry for the spelling and filter dodging)
Ugh, it was 'inst!tution' flagging the filter all along. Seriously CNN? You're that afraid of the word TlT? TlT TlT TlT TlT!!! Look what you've turned me into!
Now that's better writing than the CNN article!! Kudos!
t3ch: Sounds like a far better articulated view of my sentiments than my own attempts. Second 'momoya's' kudos.
The only thing that stood out was your rant about TIT.
LOL Almost brought down by tits...
Fantastic comment. Thank you for writing so well.
I would like to point out that some women use BC pills for medical reasons in addition to BC. So if BC pills are only covered if they are used to treat a medical condition, does she have to "justify" the prescription to her insurance company? If she is using the pill for medical plus BC reasons, does the insurance company get to prorate the reimbursement based on the number of times she had intercourse that month? How exactly will they determine whether a woman is using the pill for medical reasons only if she denies using it for contraception?
T3chsupport - VERY well put. It boggles my mind that people can't understand how cost effective oral contraceptives are. It seems like a lot of people want EVERY act of intercourse to result in pregnancy. And that would drive up health care costs a HELL of a lot more than a pack of birth control every month.
maybe there's a woman hating radio station in afghanistan Rush can get a new job at..he should look into that.
Can you imagine Rush in one of those robes? He'd look like a circus tent on stilts.
TomTom, I like the cut of your jib.
Well, thanks, char. You seem....familiar somehow. 🙂
Now there are a couple of damn fine lines. Watch out though, the genital police are watching, and have some rather rancid offerings just waiting.
Amen, momoya. Limbaugh, Maher, and the left-wing and right-wing media, for the most part, rely on advertising dollars to sustain their existence. They know the price they must bear for uttering whatever they want to utter. Mr. Prothero must always remember: we CAN say anything we want to say in this country, and WE, THE PEOPLE, must always fight for that right to say and speak our minds, come what may, whether money rides on it or not. Mr. Prothero, you mention nothing of the First Amendment. Does this not apply to Mr. Limbaugh as much as it applies to a pitiful law student groveling in PUBLIC in a Congressional hearing? (And by the way, don't we as a country have more pressing issues anyway? Good God.)
Yes, we have free speech. But there is no "right" to be protected from the public consequences of what we say. For instance, if
rush gets his bloated hiney sued off for this egregious, repeated libel, that's no abridgment of his free speech. He can keep libeling anyone he wants, as long as his money holds out.
the polls are influenced by the bias media. the more fluke is out there the more radical she will be
Could you put that in English, please?
I wouldn’t let this walking syphilis Fluke 100 yards of my front yard.
Lucky for you she hasn't shown much interest in such an activity.
Didn't know she was interested in visiting trailer parks.
Why a yawn? This article is absolutely correct in every respect.
There is no cussing in my comment, CNN!
While I don't agree with what Limbaugh said, I think it's sad that AOL passes as a bellweather of top advertising. Did I just wake up in 1995?
Fluke is a liability for dems
Rush is a disaster for repubs.
yes: You must have missed the latest (independent) polls.
Do tell. What evidence do you have?
why all these repubs listen to an obese oxycodone addict who sends out his maid to buy his drugs–i dont know... just another white imperialist male trying to control womens bodies with his regurgitated ancient religious views...women should be free to make thier own choices and men should shut up and let them regulate their health issues...
chizz: "just another white imperialist male trying to control womens bodies with his regurgitated ancient religious views...women should be free to make thier own choices and men should shut up and let them regulate their health issues..."
Yeah! Women have a right to contraceptives! And therefore they have a right to demand that everyone else pay for those contraceptives, whether those other people want to or not!
Your argument is both ironic and self defeating.
My insurance pays for Viagara.....why should I have that part of my insurance plan and basically have to pay for under achiever men trying to be virile. Threatened Men...ususally white can live without them.
I agree. I just wonder why, taking away Viagra on health insurance hasn't come up. Hit them where it hurts.
Nah, There is a difference in healthcare and insurance company reform and a serive being laid for tax dollars. This is a healthcare issue. A lot of women take female contraceptives for many different medical reasons and not just as birth control (why this is hard to understand is beyond me, it's pretty basic knowledge). Furthermore, most insurance companies cover Viagra but not female contraceptives, this is an issue.....let's make sure all you guys have access to your Viagra, but when it comes to female contraceptives which are widely used for medical reasons, let's not cover that. Geez, even Rush wants his Viagra and smuggles it from the Dominican and Medicare has paid millions covering it. As someone in health care, it is much cheaper and cost effective to provide female contraceptives than pay for all these people to pop out babies (who my premiums then go up to compensate how costly children's healthcare is). A lotmof these will be lower income women who will then have children on medicaid, food stamps, WIC, public education and so on. All these kids growing up in impoverished areas usually then turn to crime, thus increasing crime rates. When one looks at the big picture instead of being small minded, this is a much more cost effective method and healthier for the country overall.
Nah: I just don't understand that line of thinking on this. Oral contraceptives - "birth control" - are prescription medications. They are prescribed by a physician. Insurance plans cover prescription medications. It really isn't any more simple than that. They prevent a child from being born - when a child is born and raised, it is EXPENSIVE. Oral contraceptives are INEXPENSIVE. When a woman or a couple - married or unmarried - does not feel ready to have a child - these medications are a great way to prevent that from happening. People are allowed to have intercourse, y'know. Birth control pills are unbelievable cost effective.
On many issues I am way to the right of Attila the Hun. But this is not a right and left issue. Rush has lied for years in order to "entertain" his listeners but this is beyond that. He misrepresented what a private citizen said and used it to promote his agenda. He slandered that woman and then suggested she post videos of her private life. Rush is a disgusting pig and those that listen to him religiously are pathetic unthinking people. God help this country is his audience is what represents the Repubblican party now.
Rush is to conservatism as fishing with dynamite in a pond is to fly fishing on a mountain stream.
It's interesting that so many replies are, "Well, b-b-b-but Bi-Bi-Bill Maher said offensive stuff t-t-t-too!"
If it's wrong for Maher, then it's wrong for Rush!!. The issue is Rush unless two wrongs make a right.. Are you people really claiming that?!? Fvck me!
Its freakin amazing isnt it.....i see where the candidates get all that childishness from now.
Republicans are such sore losers !! In fact they are sore winners too. If they could knock the middle class back to the middle ages and make us all peasants again they would do it in a New York minute. So all of you middle class Republicans are being played and you can't even see it.
Bill Maher is on pay TV, Rush is on radio for everyone to hear, duh!!!
Is AOL the only sponsor we know about? Have they stopped sponsoring the show? Is there a list of sponsors who have stopped sponsoring the show for whom we can demonstrate our support with our patronage, and those who continue to sponsor the show whom we can boycott? This would be most valuable information. http://www.boycottrushsponsors.com
He said he was sorry. What else do you want? What about Bill Maher and his sordid comments?
Bill Maher is on HBO once every month or so,not AM radio all day long,and he isnt the self annointed leader of all the democrats....but his comments are way out of line as well. If so inclined you should boycott him too. Rush needs to go......
Yeah, he "said he was sorry." And then he immediately negated the statement by making weaseling excuses and denials too preposterous for belief... e.g. "It wasn't a personal attack."
He did NOT say he was sorry. He said he made a poor choice when he used "those to words." In other words, he was NOT sorry for the rest of his hate spew which went on and on and on...Boycott his sponsors, people. He's a hate mongering pig who needs to be OFF THE AIR.
mary: "He's a hate mongering pig who needs to be OFF THE AIR."
My. How open minded and tolerant of you.
Just as open-minded and tolerant as saying you'd disown your own daughter.
Really, hypocritical much?
tom: "Just as open-minded and tolerant as saying you'd disown your own daughter."
You're very good at not answering the question and ignoring the issue.
Unsurprising that you're a liberal, eh?
About as surprising as your being a liar.
He never said he was sorry. He tried to justify the original statement and only admitted "a poor word choice", leaving the sentiment intact. Did you even read the article?
Apologizing has nothing to do with religion, it's just part of being a normal, decent human being. And I found it very interesting that on the talk shows on Monday they were saying that those same health plans that he does not want to cover birth control, actually covered his Viagra as well as his rehab. What a hypocrite! I still don't understand why this issue is a political decision and why it is always men that are making these decisions. The coverage should be offered to everyone and it is up to that individual and their beliefs on whether they want to use it. It's really that simple. Nobody else should be able to decide whether that coverage should be offered. You americans spend way too much time arguing and debating issues that are really none of your business, it's an individual choice.
I really don't get his take. Why should insurance cover rehab and not birth control?
Aside from the fact that the differential in costs is astronomical, what is the rationale?
rhonda: "Nobody else should be able to decide whether that coverage should be offered. You americans spend way too much time arguing and debating issues that are really none of your business, it's an individual choice."
How ironic. It's an individual's choice to use contraceptives, but it's not an individual's choice whether or not they want to be forced to pay for other's contraceptive use. Okay.
Tell us again how it's purely a private issue?
Hey, Nah, are you the same poster who'd throw his daughter under a bus if she got an STD or caught the pregnant?
Oooh, based on that last post, I'd guess you probably are!
What a mensch.
tom: "Hey, Nah, are you the same poster who'd throw his daughter under a bus if she got an STD or caught the pregnant?"
Brilliant rebuttal. A non-responsive ad hominem that adds nothing to the discussion.
So you ARE one and the same. Thanks for admitting it. You'd allow your child to die of a preventable disease or suffer the consequences of premarital s3x rather than provide him/her with healthcare.
Yeah, you and Rush are just all heart.
tom: "So you ARE one and the same. Thanks for admitting it. You'd allow your child to die of a preventable disease or suffer the consequences of premarital s3x rather than provide him/her with healthcare."
Rush was born with a silver foot in his mouth.
Rush Limbaugh is an ignorant, bigoted slob aka a Republican. End of story.
Rush has his faults. However I would not want my son's to date this women. Her testimony was extremely poor and biased.
I rather doubt "this woman" would want to date your son, if he were as narrow-ninded as you appear to be.
"Biased?" She's a woman testifying on women's health issues, did you notice?
What, exactly, was "poor" about it?
What is poor and biased in her testifying that women need contraceptives not just for birth control but for health issues like endometriosis among others? What the hell is so poor in that testimony? Do you not know that contraceptives can be used for other reasons? I would not want my daughters dating your boys and god help whoever does.
My hunch is that you have a deep understanding of bias.
why doesn't this surprise me that you don't want your sons to date an educated woman who cares about her health.
kent: You literally cracked me up. Very, very succinct. Thanks.
double: "She's a woman testifying on women's health issues, did you notice?"
Brilliant job at sugar coating the issue.
She was a woman testifying, in part, about how everyone else in the country should pay for her unlimited contraceptive use.
Trying to say she was merely testifying about "women's health issues" is dishonest. You may as well vindicate slavery by saying anti-abolitionists were merely talking about "property rights".
A good looking, articulate, assertive, involved, soon to be a Washington attorney? I'd throw my son(s) under the bus and date her myself. Good grief, no one could possibly be that biased. Could they?
Aww, just admit it, honey. You WISH you could be her.
The poster Nah would rather subject his child to cervical cancer risk than allow her to receive a Gardasil vaccination.
Is anyone surprised he/she thinks Rush is God?
tom: "The poster Nah would rather subject his child to cervical cancer risk than allow her to receive a Gardasil vaccination."
Another strawman, eh?
Since you're (evidently) new at trolling, here's a hint: try to be more subtle. And when you don't get the reaction you want, stop trying. Otherwise you end up looking desperate.
So professor, what do you think about that piece of crud Bill Maher and some of his unapologetic remarks about Jesus and Christianity? Or is your "liberal bias" showing through?
I say that Rush and Maher are both subject to public support and opinion.. If Rush's free speech costs him sponsors and dollars, that's the price he pays.. Same for Maher.
Jesus wasn't a real person. Fluke is.
Really. If Jesus is offended, he can file a lawsuit for slander.
I'd love to see that tried in court.
Oh but it's true Mr BoFo. Didn't you know?
Maher and Rush have every right to say whatever they want about Jesus, Fluke, Christianity, Women, your mama, and so on and so forth. Freedom of speech, yes? That said, we as people have a choice to listen or not to listen. Maher doesn't apologize for his remarks about whomever/whatever. For what? Why should he? That applies to Rush as well. He doesn't have to apologize to anyone. The ONLY reason Rush chose to apologize is because he's a puss and is losing his sponsors. Hahaha it was fun watching him try to save them while it lasted. Sucker.
Just shows you who is really holding the puppet's strings. And the purse strings.