In an interview with The Washington Post, Fluke said Obama was concerned about her in the face of what he called Limbaugh’s “very inappropriate” remarks. “He expressed concern for me personally,” she said. “I assured him I was doing okay despite the personal attacks.”
Fluke said she viewed the Limbaugh remarks, and others like them, as an assault on women’s rights. “I realized very quickly what this was — an attempt to silence me and to silence all women,” she said.
Obama’s phone call roiled a debate that had been raging for weeks and which came to a head Thursday on Capitol Hill when the Senate defeated a bill intended to stymie the administration’s regulatory approach to the issue.
Republicans accused the administration of waging a war on religious freedom for compelling some institutions to make contraception available as part of their health-care coverage.
Although churches and other houses of worship were exempt, the rule sparked an intensive debate, which caused the administration to partially retreat.
Democrats fought back against Republicans’ characterization of the contraceptive rule. The Obama call to Fluke was another effort to turn the tables by appealing to women, many of whom see the fight as one about control over their health and bodies.
Limbaugh had referred to Fluke as a “slut” and prostitute after she testified at a forum hosted by congressional Democrats in support of the rule. Some Republicans quickly distanced themselves from Limbaugh, and at least two commercial sponsors ended their association with his radio show.
Fluke has testified that Georgetown students must pay the full amount for birth control at the Jesuit school; its student health-care plans do not cover it. Since then, Democrats have used Fluke’s cause to energize liberal activists and denounce Republicans in floor speeches in Congress, news conferences and fundraising pitches.
White House press secretary Jay Carney called Limbaugh’s comments “reprehensible” and said the president phoned Fluke because he “wanted to offer his support, express his disappointment, that she was the subject of an inappropriate personal attack.”
Fluke, 30, was a hot media commodity Friday. She took Obama’s call moments before a live interview on MSNBC, and she made the rounds among television networks, quickly becoming the Democrats’ favored face in the debate.
A past president of the Georgetown University’s Law Students for Reproductive Justice organization, Fluke had publicly supported the administration’s health-care rule during a discussion at the National Press Club, after which congressional Democrats invited her to testify at a House committee hearing two weeks ago. But the Republican-led committee denied her bid to speak.