[Update: Rush apologizes below!] Cigar pin-up model and oxycontin aficionado Rush Limbaugh set off a firestorm this week when he called Georgetown Law School student and activist Sandra Fluke "a slut" for arguing that contraception should be covered by health insurance. After widespread criticism for his remarks, he doubled down on his blathering rhetoric—and as a result, he's lost multiple sponsors and inspired the rage of the internet. Now, Fluke is considering suing Limbaugh, and Republicans are sick of his nonsense. Will Rush ever learn to shut up?
Historically, Limbaugh's trolling has brought him bigger ratings and attention, but things haven't been going so well this time: following his incendiary remarks, mattress retailer Sleep Train said it will no longer advertise on the show, and ProFlowers said it would "re-evaluate" its marketing plan. Cleveland Cavaliers owner and Quicken Loans head Dan Gilbert announced on Twitter that the company will no longer advertise on Rush Limbaugh's show. Legal Zoom, Citrix Success, Heart and Body Extract, AutoZone, Sleep Number and Oreck also said they had yanked ads from Limbaugh's show.
According to Huffington Post, that leaves Limbaugh with six remaining sponsors. And Twitter, Reddit and Facebook users are trying to put pressure on those companies to stop. Boycott Rush is leading the fight, giving details about all the sponsors who have yet to bow out, including Carbonite—their CEO told Boycott Rush that this is the "worst" outcry they've ever had over a controversial show, and "he has scheduled an in-person meeting with Limbaugh to impress upon him how offensive the comments were."
Republicans are starting to feel the negative effects of Limbaugh's careless statements as well: House Speaker John Boehner and GOP presidential hopefuls Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney have all put out statements condemning what Limbaugh said. Santorum very vocally called him absurd: "He's being absurd, but that's you know, an entertainer can be absurd," he told Wolf Blitzer on Friday. "He's in a very different business than I am." Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts has called on Limbaugh to apologize for calling Fluke “a slut,” “a prostitute,” and “a feminazi.”
One senior GOP party strategist told the Washington Post that Republicans are tired of listening to Limbaugh bloviate: "Rush’s attempt to increase his ratings and get noticed again do hurt Republicans. Beating up on a college student is not good optics, and refocusing on her argument that this is about contraception instead of getting the focused squarely on the Obama Administration’s disdain for religious liberty and the First Amendment....is simply not very helpful to the cause.”
And Fluke, who has handled herself admirably amongst a heated political landscape, told The Daily Beast she was deciding whether to sue Limbaugh: “I’ve certainly been told I might have a case, but it’s not something I’ve made any decisions about at this point,” she said. Legal experts told them that Fluke’s case could be strengthened by the fact that she would likely be considered a private citizen, not a public figure: “I think it’s really important, anytime you speak publicly about something you care about, to project your most reasonable self,” Fluke said in an interview. “I do get angry about things, but I’m fairly levelheaded.” That's a lesson that our favorite shock jock clown would be wise to learn.
Update: It seems Limbaugh has listened to his critics finally. He released a statement late today on his website apologizing to Fluke for his previous statements:
For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week. In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.
I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress. I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities. What happened to personal responsibility and accountability? Where do we draw the line? If this is accepted as the norm, what will follow? Will we be debating if taxpayers should pay for new sneakers for all students that are interested in running to keep fit?In my monologue, I posited that it is not our business whatsoever to know what is going on in anyone's bedroom nor do I think it is a topic that should reach a Presidential level.
My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.