The last two news cycles have been filled with reports of Rush Limbaugh's so-called "apology" to Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke. No doubt, you've all heard by now that Limbaugh's faulty understanding of how the birth control pill works (Rush, it's not like Viagra, which we know you know a lot about), led him to personally attack the woman who was denied the ability to testify at Rep. Darrel Issa's "religion" hearing on birth control.
Fluke has advocated for some time that Georgetown, a Catholic university, include birth control in the health care coverage provided through the college, which, contrary to what those on the political right want you to believe, all Georgetown students must have and must pay for themselves. As a result of wanting to have access to reproductive health care, which Limbaugh wrongly claimed would have to be paid for by all of us, he called Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute."
Rush has since "apologized" for those remarks, and now we're supposed to move on. Nice try, Rush. Both of Limbaugh's statements were non-apology apologies. He "apologized" for the words he chose and for creating a stink. He never apologized to Fluke personally or for his not-so-subtle inference that any woman who wants birth control to be covered by health insurance is the same. But what do we expect from the man who is apparently so obsessed and afraid of women that he's called Hillary Clinton the "Sex-cretary of State," he's mocked women in politics as "lard-asses," and has claimed that women were to blame for the downfall of former Congressman Anthony Weiner, as opposed to Weiner himself.
The larger issue is one that most news outlets are missing. By calling Fluke a slut and prostitute, Limbaugh called every woman in America who gets prescription birth control through her health insurance those same things. While my daughter isn't old enough (yet) to think about her reproductive years, my two stepdaughters are. And my nieces are. And loads of my friends still are. And that's where Limbaugh crossed the line.
No woman, regardless of political party, is going to stand for anyone calling her daughters or her friends sluts. And we sure don't like politicians who won't stand up to bullies who try to smear the good names of the girls and women in our lives. I'm talking to you Republican presidential contenders who refuse to take on the Limbaugh power machine and who kowtow to his kind of hateful misogyny. You're forgetting that we're the majority of voters and at the end of the day, we have a lot more power over your political future than Limbaugh.
Any candidate who isn't man enough (and, sadly, it's just men in this race) to stand up to a mean-spirited talk show host who claims to be the standard bearer of their political party is too much of a coward to make it to the White House. If a candidate doesn't have the cajones to do that, what could make any voter believe he could take on Vladimir Putin, Bashar al-Assad or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?
While Limbaugh will ultimately get a pass for all this, the GOP presidential contenders who've been too afraid to call Limbaugh out should be the ones to hold accountable. Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul should remember one thing -- women won't forget. We won't forget that you gave Limbaugh a pass on calling women a bunch of sluts and prostitutes, and on Election Day, we won't forget that none of you had the intestinal fortitude to stand up for half of all Americans.
Joanne Bamberger is the author of the Amazon.com bestseller, Mothers of intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America (Bright Sky Press, 2011). Joanne, a Washington, D.C.-based writer and political/media analyst, is the founder of the political blog, PunditMom, and is the 2012 Election Editor/Contributor for iVillage.
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