Rush Limbaugh took on more than just every young woman in the country last week when he called one of them a "slut" and a "prostitute".
He also took on the parents of all young women.
And that is turning out to be a group you don't want to mess with.
You know the basics by now -- third-year-law student Sandra Fluke has been advocating that her school, Georgetown University, cover birth control as part of the standard health insurance plan, and Limbaugh decided that this somehow made her the above terms (I really don't want to repeat them any more than absolutely necessary...)
The response was swift and furious, and, in a rare moment in a career of making people angry, Limbaugh was moved to apologize. It turned out to be one of those kinds of apologies that really isn't, but, that aside, it was a sign that even he realized he'd crossed some sort of a line.
Most striking to me in this ongoing firestorm was not anger of the pundits (Maureen Dowd's column yesterday, titled "Have You No Shame, Rush?" says it best) nor the tap-dancing of politicians who need his support (Santorum brushed off Limbaugh's remarks as those of "an entertainer") nor the delicious gotcha of journalists (Mother Jones pointed out that Limbaugh seemed to be confusing birth control pills -- which one takes daily -- with Viagra -- which one only takes per, umm, encounter -- because he accused Fluke of having so much sex that she couldn't afford her pill supply.)
No, what resonated most was the statement of David Friend, the president of Carbonite, which is one of eight sponsors who have abandoned Limbaugh so far (among those is AOL, the parent company of The Huffington Post.) In announcing yesterday that his company would withdraw its sponsorship Limbaugh's radio show, Friend made it clear this had gotten personal :
No one with daughters the age of Sandra Fluke, and I have two, could possibly abide the insult and abuse heaped upon this courageous and well-intentioned young lady. Mr. Limbaugh, with his highly personal attacks on Miss Fluke, overstepped any reasonable bounds of decency. Even though Mr. Limbaugh has now issued an apology, we have nonetheless decided to withdraw our advertising from his show. We hope that our action, along with the other advertisers who have already withdrawn their ads, will ultimately contribute to a more civilized public discourse.
Friend was not the only one for whom this was the final straw, an attack on a young woman who could have been their own. It certainly was for Jessica Scott, a career military commander -- and mother of two daughters -- who launched the hashtag #iamnotaslut on Friday, and watched it go viral. Later, on her website, she explained, that, like Friend, her motivation to act came from her girls:
You may call me many things but that does not negate the things I call myself.
You could call me a Mom, because I have two beautiful daughters who I want to grow up knowing their full potential is between their ears, not their legs. You could call me Soldier, because I love wearing my nation's uniform and it is an honor to serve. You could call me Author, because I managed to write a book that people read. You could call me a Wife, because I've been with the same man for fifteen years. You could call me a Friend because I'm there, for laughs or for tears. Any of those things define me so much better than the singular hatred of calling me a slut because I use birth control.
But go ahead. Call me a slut. It doesn't make me one.
At about the time that Scott was posting, Fluke was in the green room waiting to be interviewed on MSNBC when she received a phone call from President Obama. "As the father of two daughters," his aides later explained, he had been moved to contact Fluke. What did he tell her? Here's how she described the call a few minutes after she hung up:
He encouraged me and supported me and thanked me for speaking out about the concerns of American women What was really personal for me was that he said to tell my parents that they should be proud. And that meant a lot because Rush Limbaugh questioned whether or not my family would be proud of me. So I just appreciated that very much.
Fluke assured Andrea Mitchell that yes, her parents had in fact already told her they were proud of her.
This parent is too, Sandra. Very proud.