International Women’s Day is a good time to reflect on the Rush Limbaugh-Sandra Fluke saga.
On his Fox News program earlier this week, Bill O’Reilly asked me if President Obama was using the ongoing Limbaugh story as a way to paint the Republicans as waging a “war on women.” Well, of course. What a gift! The most popular conservative radio host in America calls a law school student
, a slut and a prostitute for lobbying for contraception to be included in a health care plan? Any politician would run with that. And Limbaugh didn’t just stop while he was behind: He insulted Fluke more than 50 times over three days. He suggested that women who support her make videos of their sexual relations so that people could see them. In an interview with me, Fluke said Limbaugh, “said I was having so much sex that he was surprised I was able to walk to Capitol Hill.”
Limbaugh apologized once, then again after he realized he was still losing advertisers (estimates say more than 40 as of Wednesday). His apologies were laughable. Fluke said she had no interest in talking to him personally, even if he tried to call her. “He issued them under severe pressure from his advertisers,” she said. “His apology was riddled with justifications and excuses.” Asking for sex tapes, she said, was something “he could have asked the same of women all over the country. He insulted all women.” She also said she was not asking anything of anyone. But she did say that if these are the values of Limbaugh and his listeners, “these attacks are unacceptable and should never happen again.”
Ah, but everyone does not agree with Fluke (whose name rhymes with cook — not duck!). In my segment on the O’Reilly Factor, I suggested that saying the president was accusing the right of waging a “war on women” was no different than Republican candidates accusing Obama of waging a “war on religion.”
This apparently did not sit well with some viewers, a number of whom called and emailed me after the show. One of the first emails was from a man whose comments were laced with so many vulgarities that I cannot repeat them here. Another vile attack went on to say, “what Rush Limbaugh called Fluke is mild compared to what you should be called. I hope you burn to death in a car fire. I have really come to hate bastards like you.”
I said on the show that there certainly is a perception that conservatives are conducting a “war on women.” After these messages and calls, I am convinced.
What does this kind of hate talk tell us? For one thing, there are a lot of people who believe this language is acceptable. Why do you think Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich gave tepid responses to Limbaugh’s tirade? Santorum actually said that Limbaugh was “an entertainer.” Watching Santorum Tuesday night surrounded by his wife and his adult daughters, I couldn’t help wondering how entertained he would be if Limbaugh had called any of them sluts and prostitutes for espousing their beliefs as Americans.
Santorum did well at the polls on Super Tuesday, winning Oklahoma and Tennessee and nearly beating Romney in Ohio. Two-thirds of Tennessee voters said religion was a major deciding factor. And Santorum got the majority of evangelical votes in the other two states. These voters came after he called Obama a “snob” for saying kids should go to college, after he said JFK’s speech advocating the separation of church and state made him want “to throw up,” after he questioned the right to use contraception, after he espoused the idea of women staying at home to raise their children. Santorum was their guy. Romney, on the other hand, doesn’t make anti-feminist comments and doesn’t have a chance with that crowd. (Being a Mormon doesn’t help either, of course). Instead, he will be left picking up the pieces when the nomination battle is over.
But the Limbaughs of the world are speaking for a lot of people when they use such hateful rhetoric toward women. Too many people are scared, ignorant and frustrated and are looking for scapegoats. It’s not far from the same mentality of calling women sluts and prostitutes for speaking out about their own health concerns than it is from stoning a woman to death for adultery or even for being raped.
Sandra Fluke is the perfect young woman to represent women in this fight. She is articulate, knowledgeable and attractive. She has been so overwhelmed with publicity that one of her friends approached the firm SKDK to ask for help and guidance, which they are providing pro-bono. (The head of the firm is presidential advisor Anita Dunn, who says she is not involved in Fluke’s case.)
A “war on women” argument may offset the belief among the same people who vote for Santorum and listen to Limbaugh that Obama is not a Christian and is waging a “war on religion.”One person who called this week, left me a message about Obama, saying that he’s “anti-Catholic. He’s against the Catholic Church. He’s hurt us so much.”
Another wrote, very politely: “Miss Quinn, Just a note to clear up a misconception regarding Mr. Obama’s so called Christianity. No way would any true, “Christian,” follower of Jesus Christ ever subject themselves to kneel and pray inside any Islamic mosque, as Mr. Obama has been known to do on occasion. That would be a form of rejecting our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and is the only way you can lose your salvation. You see the term politically correct does not exist in the Bible. Thank you and God Bless you.”
It’s all part of the same piece. Most religions treat women as second class citizens, at the same time professing to revere them. Obama must convince voters that he is a true Christian while at the same time standing up on all fronts for the rights of women.
Sally Quinn | Mar 8, 2012 3:54 PM