The XX Factor

Limbaugh’s Apology Stank. What Did We Expect?

Rush Limbaugh is a known quantity who operates in an alternate reality we can only observe.

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Why are we so surprised at the evasive, self-important assholery of Rush Limbaugh’s apology to Sandra Fluke? (Fluke’s the Georgetown law student whom Limbaugh called a “slut” and “prostitute” for testifying in support of insurance-subsidized birth control.) The media are getting lots of mileage out of acting shocked—shocked—that the conservative radio host 1) didn’t really back down from his essential point that women who seek affordable contraception are parasitic hussies, 2) deflected blame for his remarks onto liberals who’ve lowered the level of political discourse, and 3) threw in some self-promotion, including a nod to his ability to “cause a national stir.”  

But what did we expect? Limbaugh is a straw man made flesh. Sure, it’s funny to dissect all the ways in which his apology falls short, but it’s also a waste of breath. There’s the usual argument that by getting outraged, we prove ourselves the perfect audience for Rush’s brand of incendiary bile. I’m hesitant to go there, because the initial anger at the host’s misogynistic comments was so productive: it caused the wave of advertising desertions that prompted the apology in the first place. But now that the damage is done, why does Limbaugh continue to make news? Isn’t our shock a little disingenuous? Can’t we just allow his predictably crass and unrepentant star to flicker out?

Expecting Rush Limbaugh to change his mind, especially in response to censure from the mainstream, makes no sense.