A ‘Rush’ of ignorance

By Luke Wilusz

Conservative political commentator and radio personality Rush Limbaugh made headlines last week after making some blatantly sexist comments on his show. He referred to Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University law student who testified before Congress in favor of policies that would require health insurance providers to cover prescription birth control, as a “slut” and a “prostitute.” He insinuated that Fluke, and by extension all other “Feminazis,” wanted American taxpayers to pay them to have sex and suggested that these women should post sex tapes online so taxpayers could see where their money was going.

There are so many things wrong with those statements, I’m not even sure where to begin. It’s pretty clear that Limbaugh is a sexist and a bigot. He often says terrible, offensive things on air under the guise of being a “straight talker” or “telling it like it is.” But this wasn’t so much “straight talk” as it was Limbaugh publicly sexually harassing an entire gender. He made broad, far-reaching assumptions about every woman who has ever taken birth control for any reason and decided that they deserved public humiliation and objectification simply because they do things that he doesn’t agree with. So, essentially, he’s just a closed-minded pig with an inflated sense of entitlement and self-importance.

Limbaugh isn’t particularly well-known for his careful consideration of facts in a story, but it should be noted that prescription birth control has a wide variety of medical uses that have nothing whatsoever to do with contraception, and that alone should be grounds for health insurance companies to cover it. The pill can be used to treat painful disorders such as endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome. It’s hardly reasonable to demonize and dehumanize women for wanting the chance to live their daily lives without excruciating pain.

But there is a silver lining to all this: sponsors are abandoning Limbaugh’s show like rats fleeing from a hateful, cigar-smoking sinking ship. As of press time, he’s lost 46 advertisers, according to MediaMatters.org. His broadcast on his flagship station, WABC, aired with only nine paid advertisements on March 8 and reportedly ended its first hour with 1:03 of dead air. The commercial break leading into his show contained 2:38 of dead air. Most of the remaining ad space was filled with free public service announcements.

Even though I know in my cynical heart that this advertising exodus has more to do with saving face and corporate public relations damage control than with genuine moral outrage, I’m still glad to see it happening. While Limbaugh’s media empire will likely survive this hit to its ad revenue, it’s good to see him face some actual consequences for his bigotry.