Grow Up, Rush, by Robert Thomas

During my years of listening to Rush Limbaugh — from the early 1990s, while driving across the middle of rural Indiana — he became the “mouthpiece” and de facto face of conservatives. He has become more and more hated by his critics, and has made more and more outlandish statements over time. He went through his noted drug crisis, a personal medical crisis, extreme weight loss and a faltering stint on Monday Night Football.

It was only a matter of time before his mouth got him into trouble again.

When Georgetown University student Sandra Fluke recently spoke before liberal congressmen in support of the controversial new provisions instituted by the Obama Administration that mandate employer-provided health insurance cover things such as birth control, Limbaugh took to the airwaves and called Fluke a “slut.” He insisted that, because she testified about her college’s health plan and their religious reasons for lacking contraceptive coverage, that she was a slut.

“What does it say about the college coed… who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute,” Limbaugh said on the show. “She wants to be paid to have sex.”

The statement wasn’t a “one-off,” either. The next day, Limbaugh teed up and took another swing at the ball.

“If we’re going to have to pay for this, then we want something in return, Ms. Fluke,” Limbaugh demanded. “And that would be the videos of all this sex posted online so we can see what we’re getting for our money.”

He wasn’t finished. On Friday, with everyone still reeling from his statements, Limbaugh took yet another swing at the ball.

“Amazingly, when there is the slightest bit of opposition to this new welfare entitlement being created, then all of a sudden we hate women. We want ’em barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen,” he said. “And now, at the end of this week, I am the person that the women of America are to fear the most.”

Criticism of Limbaugh came from conservatives and liberals alike. Calls for sponsors of Limbaugh’s show to pull their advertising increased, and at least eight of them did at least suspend their commercials. Even Obama weighed in against him.

By late Saturday, Limbaugh realized he was out of line and issued an apology on his website.

“For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week,” Limbaugh wrote. “In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.”

In my estimation, the words ring hollow.

While I agree with Limbaugh that the new federal insurance requirements step well over the line when it comes to Big Brother telling businesses what to do, Limbaugh violates the prime directive of positive and effective political discourse — it’s possible, and preferable, to disagree without being disagreeable.

There was absolutely no need for him to make the kind of personal insult he did. It was offensive and, as far as I’m concerned, unnecessary. Limbaugh’s message would have found more support and encouragement had he found a way to express his displeasure with her statements without resorting to name-calling.

As with fellow talk radio host and MSNBC personality Ed Schultz — who called host Laura Ingraham a “right-wing slut” on his show — or HBO’s Bill Maher — who called former governor Sarah Palin and Representative Michelle Bachmann “two bimbos” — the name-calling on the right and the left detracts from civil debate on the issues.

If anything, it demonstrates a lack of maturity. I expected better than that. I suppose I expected more than any of these people are apparently capable of providing. But I expected more from Rush.

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Robert Thomas is the pen name for a member of the Project 21 black leadership network. Comments may be sent to [email protected].

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