The XX Factor

Rush Limbaugh Apologizes, But Still Doesn’t Understand His Mistake

Rush Limbaugh.

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Yesterday, I wrote about the backlash to Rush Limbaugh’s recent misogynistic statements against Georgetown Law School student Sandra Fluke, who testified back in Feburary in front of a Democrat-lead panel on President Obama’s birth control mandate. I summarize the whole story in that post, but the long and short of it is that Limbaugh called Fluke a “slut” and crassly demanded to see tapes of all the sex she was having with the benefit of the pill. Though Limbaugh’s provocations aren’t normally newsworthy, the mesmerizing caddishness of this particular statement seems to have been a step too far. Some sponsors of Limbaugh’s show have already withdrawn their ads, and my social media feeds are filled with calls for further boycotts.

Apparently the threat of losing cigar money got Limbaugh’s attention; on Saturday, he quietly released an apology on his website, reproduced in full below:

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.

Fascinating stuff, this document. For one, I’m not sure that directly calling someone a slut constitutes an “analogy,” but we’ll leave Limbaugh’s literary acumen alone.

What’s more interesting is his complete refusal to recognize that the uproar around his statements isn’t just about name-calling, but rather his offensive misunderstanding of the importance and uses of birth control. As I wrote on Friday, Fluke’s own testimony was not about her sex life, but rather the painful experience of watching a friend who was forced to have an ovary removed because she couldn’t afford the pill, which, of course, has many medical uses aside from contraception. Many women depend on birth control, not for “social activities,” but for their basic health. And it is in light of his abject ignorance of female biology that Limbaugh’s willingness to demean a woman becomes truly outrageous. This apology only brings that ignorance into sharper relief.