Political Animal


March 04, 2012 10:07 AM ***Rush Limbaugh’s Non-Apology Apology

By Adele Stan

The headlines have it all wrong: “Rush Limbaugh Apologizes to Georgetown Student,” reads Politico, while the Washington Post puts this headline on an Associated Press story: “Limbaugh Apologizes to Student, Says He Did Not ‘Intend a Personal Attack’”.

But if you look at Limbaugh’s statement about his three-day festival of hate speech, on his daily nationally syndicated radio program, against Georgetown Law School student Sandra Fluke, he doesn’t apologize for much:

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.
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.

You’ll recall that Limbaugh’s jihad against Fluke, as we blogged here yesterday, focused on her testimony before a congressional committee in favor of the Obama administration’s mandate that employer-provided health insurance plans include no-co-pay coverage for prescription contraception.

This prompted Limbaugh to label Fluke “a slut” and “a prostitute,” and those are presumably the “word choices” for which he is issuing this highly-qualified apology, which was likely prompted by the exodus of sponsors that followed, under pressure from women’s rights advocates, progressive activists and Democrats. Six advertisers, as of Saturday, had dumped “The Rush Limbaugh Show,” and even Republican politicians — generally a pretty ditto-head lot — felt the need to distance themselves, most of them, gingerly, from Limbaugh’s smears.

But Limbaugh’s use of the words “slut” and “prostitute” to describe Fluke isn’t the worst of what he did. What different words would he chose, one wonders, to suggest that Fluke should post videos of herself having sex on the internet in exchange for contraception, as he did last week?

Upon reflection, what words would he select to less insultingly conjure images of Fluke having sex? Additionally, is there a better way for him to ask where she obtained condoms when she was “in junior high,” as he did on one of his programs? You know, a way that would not constitute a “personal attack”?

Limbaugh not only owes an honest apology to Fluke for the truly reprehensible attack he made on her, which was essentially a verbal rape, but to his listeners and the American people, not least of all for the lie he perpetuated all week that the contraception mandate requires “taxpayers” to foot the bill for the no-co-pay birth control. In reality, that responsibility falls to the insurers, most of which are only too happy to do so, because contraceptives are much cheaper than covering a pregnancy.

Instead, in his non-apologetic statement, Limbaugh doubles down on the lie:

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. [Emphasis added]

What we may be witnessing here is the self-destruction of a once-powerful media figure. Fake apologies tend not to play well, according to Tom Jacobs, writing at the Miller McCune site in January. Jacobs also lays out four different categories of non-apologies, citing a 2008 article by Zohar Kampf in the Journal of Pragmatics:

One type of pseudo-apology downplays the transgressor’s degree of responsibility. Kampf identifies five variations on this theme, noting that a wrongdoer can: 1) apologize while undermining the claim that he offended someone; 2) apologize for the outcome but not for the act; 3) apologize for the style but not for the essence; 4) apologize for a specific component of the offense but not for the entire occurrence; and 5) apologize while using syntactic and lexical means to downgrade his responsibility.” The latter category includes referring to an offensive action as a “mistake,” which effectively minimizes guilt.

Limbaugh’s brief statement manages to fall into at least four of the five categories. That’s quite a feat!

Meanwhile, via Hunter at the Daily Kos, we learn that a new Harris poll reveals Limbaugh to be the least liked “news personality” — even among Republicans! — on a list of 26.

Interestingly, one person is in the least liked top three for all three political parties. For Republicans, the three least liked current affairs personalities are Nancy Grace (25%), Rush Limbaugh (24%) and Chris Matthews (18%). For Democrats, the three news personalities that are the least favorite are Rush Limbaugh (66%), Bill O’Reilly (45%), and Sean Hannity (23%) while for Independents it is Rush Limbaugh (49%), Bill O’Reilly (31%) and Nancy Grace (25%).

But wait — there’s more! Limbaugh’s claim of 20 million listeners? Maybe not so much. On The Young Turks on Friday, Current TV host Cenk Uygur suggested that there are no empirical data available to back such a claim of media dominance.


  • stormskies on March 04, 2012 11:20 AM:

    The fact remains that he has totally made up what Ms Fluke was testifying about: the need for the birth control pill for many other reasons. Thus, she testified to what happened to her friend who had a cyst on one of her ovaries. And because she could not afford the cost of the pill it finally blew up to the point where she had to have one of her ovaries removed.

    The corporate media, for the most part, simply is allowing Pig Limbaughs lies to stand as is, and then pretending that he apologized. To me this makes most of the corporate media complicit to the sadistic psychological abuse that Pig Limbaugh has inflicted on Ms. Fluke.

    Shame of them and Pig Limbaugh.

  • gregor on March 04, 2012 11:20 AM:

    A nice thought, but all the prior transgressions of civility, decorum and the most elemental human decency with which he gotten away suggest that he will come away unscathed from this as well.

    Republicans have neither heart nor brain.

  • Anonymous on March 04, 2012 11:21 AM:

    Jackass. He knows (or should know) that Ms. Fluke's testimony was not about "sexual recreational activities" but rather her friend who needs that medication for a serious medical problem.

    And who exactly *is* talking about sex? Right, that would be Limbaugh and his right wing croonies. They can't seem to get enough of it (pun intended).

  • martin on March 04, 2012 11:23 AM:

    What we may be witnessing here is the self-destruction of a once-powerful media figure.

    Don't count on it.

    This is the same guy who, on national television, called a then 12-year-old (?) Chelsea Clinton the White House Dog. If he ever apologized for that he certainly never learned anything from it, and it certainly did nothing to slow down his career.

    He's made a living calling women ugly, stupid and other names, he's not stopping now.

    He released his statement on a Saturday, the day news goes to die. He did not, and probably won't, use his radio show to apologize, unless it is to further agrandize himself.

    The man has made his living wallowing is slime, and that's what his listeners tune in for.

  • beejeez on March 04, 2012 11:23 AM:

    Easy mistake for Rush to make. Usually calling college students sluts and prostitutes is comedy gold.

  • Mudge on March 04, 2012 11:27 AM:

    The non-apology seems to be in the Republican handbook, and parsing one appears to be absent from the pundit handbook. All that seems to be required is that Rush say he apologized. The fact that everything he said was a very personal attack on Sandra Fluke in any contextual evaluation is washed away for them by his saying he did not mean a personal attack. This is no 4 year old, this is Rush Limbaugh. He knows what he is doing.

    I would add to Kampf's list, however, the " I meant it as humor/a joke" in which what he said is not rescinded; everyone is just too humorless to understand his mighty intellect. Gingrich uses this method a lot.

  • Bo on March 04, 2012 11:29 AM:

    Limpballs "apologized"? What? Did he really mean to just call Fluke a fluzzy but slut came out of his mouth? Oh, yeah, that would have been so much better and more acceptable [sarcasm off].

    Nothing focuses this misogynist pig's attention like losing six advertisers. That's the real story here. He's not apologizing to anyone; he's merely equivocating in a hopefully vain attempt to woo back ad revenues.

    I truly hope that his former advertisers don't take the bait and return to his rant-fest. This fool needs to have what's left of his crumbling empire crash down around his ears. If his latest trophy wife knows what's good for her, she is packing up and getting ready to move on as well. It's time for her to sew up a huge hush money settlement just like her predecessors while the gasbag still has some money.

  • Danp on March 04, 2012 11:32 AM:

    Apologies are vastly overrated. The radio stations he made these comments on should interrupt his show to correct his comments and explain what Fluke's testimony was about. They should also take disciplinary action such as suspending or firing Limbaugh. Meanwhile Fluke should sue both Limbaugh and the radio stations for defamation. It would be hard for a radio station to argue they couldn't have foreseen comments like these.

  • schtick on March 04, 2012 11:34 AM:

    Ah yes. The words he used he's sorry for. He wanted to call her an f-ing ho, but slipped and used slut instead. He hasn't apologized to her for insulting her, but in his choice of words to insult her. Nice try, Lameass.
    Schultz was suspended for a week when he did that to Laura, what has been done to Lameass? Nothing. The silence of the tealiban because they are afraid of him says it all.
    I think the tealiban are starting to realize they picked the wrong fight when they started picking a fight on women. It's not going to go away and guys, you do know there are more women than men, right? You do know they vote, right?

  • DRF on March 04, 2012 11:40 AM:

    No, it wasn't a satisfactory apology, but this is what passes for an apology these days by public figures. The ad hominem attack on Fluke was absolutely despicable, not least because of the vast disparity in public power.

    I'm guessing that he was told by Clear Channel that he risked losing more advertisers and that they might have no choice but to terminate his deal unless he issued an apology and that his statement was minimally acceptable.

  • Kathryn on March 04, 2012 11:45 AM:

    Last night I watched Ms. Fluke's statement at the hearing called by Rep. Pelosi. There is, of course, nothing in that statement about sexual recreational activities, those discussions are in Rush Limbaugh's diseased mind. What remains maddening in this situation is the lack of content in news reports regarding the actual testimony, which is ignored. Rush Limbaugh's scam "apology" will probably save his bacon once again and be accepted by our shallow news media. His version of the hearing will become a fact to ditto heads and many others because no other version has been presented. This foul excuse for a human being, four times married, childless by choice presumably, a recovering drug addict, Viagra needing slob walks away unscathed. Small comfort that he was forced to offer a non apology, apology . IMO the chink in his armor is too small to matter.

  • Joe Friday on March 04, 2012 11:55 AM:

    "Limbaugh's claim of 20 million listeners? Maybe not so much."

    Actually, his original claim was that he had 20 million listeners A WEEK, which would be a mere 4 million per daily program, and there is no evidence to substantiate even that.

  • Josef K on March 04, 2012 12:01 PM:

    How I wish we could just say Limbaugh doesn't belong to the sapien subspecies, or even within the same biological taxonomy tree as the rest of us homo sapiens sapiens.

    More to the point, I wish I knew why men such as him think doing violence, rhetoricl and/or physical, to a woman is their right. Is it that they're so afraid, or so weak, or so arrogant, or simply so stupid they believe it so?

    I guess in the final analysis all any of us can do is make him a cautionary tale to our children, so they don't make the same behavior normal or accepted. Limbaugh's only lasting contribution to history is to be a living example of what we could be, something we should be so disgusted to the bottom of our soles by that everything he speaks and does will never be repeated.

    One can dream, right?

  • SYSPROG on March 04, 2012 12:11 PM:

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. I spent last night trolling the 'hate' blogs and they were all focusing on the 'social activities'. Sandra Fluke's testimony was NEVER about that. EVER. On the Sunday Show's this morning they are talking about the 'apology' and saying 'the Democrats better not OVERREACH on this'...JHC. You are the ONLY one that I have seen that actually points out that Limbaugh LIED AGAIN in his non-apology' to show HE was in fact, 'the victim'. And then there's Newt...oh lord.

  • Miki on March 04, 2012 12:19 PM:

    Adele, I agree with just about everything you said, but I take issue with the term "verbal rape." Limbaugh's attack on Fluke was truly reprehensible, but I don't think it was the equivalent of sexual assault.

  • majun on March 04, 2012 12:20 PM:

    The real problem with Limbaugh's tirades and his pseudo-apology is that he has been lying to the American public about the content and nature of Sandra Fluke's testimony and even in his apology he continues to lie:

    "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."

    Anyone who has taken the five minutes it takes to read Fluke's testimony knows there is nothing in there even remotely connected to "personal sexual recreational activities". Her testimony was that of the past president of an advocacy organization dealing with dealing with equal treatment for women's reproductive health and most of testimony dealt with the serious health consequences some women face who cannot afford the contraception because their health insurance program won't cover it, and if they do cover it for non-contraceptive uses, they fight to avoid having to pay for it.

    Big difference Mr. Limbaugh.

  • TCinLA on March 04, 2012 12:26 PM:

    Don't expect The Great White Whale to change. This is the guy who invented "feminazi" 20 years ago. He's been on this misogynist thing forever. The reason he's been married 4 times is the women finally can't take his bullshit and leave him (not to mention guys that obese are usually a big negative in the sex appeal department unless they're paying for it).

  • Geoff G on March 04, 2012 12:31 PM:

    A pyromaniac might apologize for burning down an orphanage. If he gives up pyromania, we might believe his apology is sincere. If he says he's sorry for burning down the orphanage, but will continue to burn down buildings for pleasure, his apology, whether sincere or not, is meaningless. Rush can't stop burning down buildings - it's what he does and who he is.

  • essman on March 04, 2012 12:32 PM:

    "I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke." This very statement tells me he has his fingers crossed behind his back the entire time he is "apologizing."

  • DAY on March 04, 2012 12:35 PM:

    his loyal listeners are mainly (but NOT "manly"!) men who have missed their chance at the brass ring- passed over by younger, brighter citizens. Some even- oh, the horror!- black, brown, or female.

  • R on March 04, 2012 1:21 PM:

    Not a "personal attack"? Personal attacks are all the guy knows how to do, and the more vicious the better. If he has to bend the facts or just plain lie to support his personal attacks, he doesn't care. He's a pathetic person, really. Makes me wonder if there's such a thing as redemption.

    "egynot respecting" from Captcha. Hmmm.

  • Matt on March 04, 2012 1:47 PM:

    Let's start with an uncomfortable truth: Limbaugh is not utterly stupid. And even if you wouldn't like his chances on the Monday NYT crossword puzzle, we can at least acknowledge that he's got a decent working knowledge of the media cycle.

    So with that in mind, can someone tell me what, from his perspective, he's done that he's likely to regret?

    It's not the advertising revenue loss. First of all, there won't be that much of it. Secondly, that financial pain is spread among a bunch of entities, of which Limbaugh himself is only one. And even if he had to pay every last dime of that lost revenue out of pocket, his net worth is in the high hundreds of millions. If he wanted to, he could buy the Cleveland Cavaliers and have them do all their advertising exclusively on his show.

    He's also not going to lose listeners. You could probably count on one hand the number of people offended by what he said who were listening to him before this week. That's because he says this sort of thing about women every week--he just doesn't make it quite so nasty.

    And I think you can guess what he cares about your hurt feelings in particular.

    So what's the upside? Attention and influence. That's what Rush wants, and that's what he's gotten. Sure, it's negative attention. Sure, he's "influencing" the GOP to scramble away from the 1,000%-hardline stance he's advocating. But that's totally beside the point! He's not acting irrationally, he's being COMPLETELY rational. He desperately, pathologically needs the attention. He needs to be able to force you to act. He's getting off on making you mad. And this kind of stunt, which he's been pulling every few months since he was a local DJ, is how he satisfies that craving. End of story. Absolutely nothing else matters.

    So this isn't a "non-apology" because he's not really sorry; it's a "non-apology" because he's intelligent and rational enough to know that saying nothing would end the attention sooner. React to Limbaugh's pathology however you want--his audience is self-sustaining, so it's not like ignoring him will work--but recognize it for what it is.

  • Memekiller on March 04, 2012 2:15 PM:

    We're getting to him. He's feeling the heat, which means we are in a position to completely change the Rush Limbaugh/villager dynamic. That is, if decent people don't let him go and finish the job.

    Part of the reason Limbaugh and Breitbart have been such respected members of the national discourse - and blue do Dems reamed for suggesting they're out of line -- is because there has been no consequence for this stuff. It's never going to stop until someone, justifiably, is sued for libel or loses their jobs, or becomes too radioactive for GOP pols to kiss his ring.

    Liberals don't have a taste for blood, but we have a chance to remove him from the national conversation his polluted for a couple of decades past his expiration date.

  • slappy magoo on March 04, 2012 2:18 PM:

    I would not have predicted Limbaugh to apologize for his Sandra Fluke "slut" comment, but if I had, the KIND of apology he made would've been the one I predicted: "I can't believe we don't have more important things to talk about besides me and the ridiculous things I say to get everyone talking about me, but since we don't, FINE, I'm sorry for the offensive words I used."

    Nonetheless, this is kinda seismic. One of Limbaugh's main reasons he holds such sway is that he's always been a "double downer" (and no, I don't mean he eats those disgusting KFC fried fillets in place of bread sammiches 5 times a week, though let's face it, we all assume he does). It's just that whenever he cultivates controversy and the "libtards" and "feminiazis" start getting their nips in a twist demanding boycotts and whining on TV, he just doubles down and dares them to keep up the controversy. But by apologizing (no matter how it's qualified) Rush is no longer the rebel standing up to the man (oh when will rich fat white Christian males get their due, Rush? WHEN?) but someone who can be humbled by, of all people, a girl (ewwwwww). Even if this isn't his "nappy-headed ho" moment, the thing that gets him booted from his radio gig, I wonder if there are a lot of over-privileged neocons out there feeling like Biff Loman walking in on the old man in a situation he can't really explain. Will they feel like they no longer have a hero, a leader? Or like most neocons, they won't give a crap as long as they keep on dumping on the same people they also hate?

  • Memekiller on March 04, 2012 2:23 PM:

    Well said, Slappy.

    All this apology means is that Rush bleeds... and if it bleeds, it can be killed, metaphorically.

  • Ladyhawke on March 04, 2012 2:26 PM:


    a word from tally: THE PILL FOR DUMMIES


    Itís now clear that Rush thinks itís like Viagra, in that you take it when you want to have sex. There is so much to say to this, but itís starting to feel like making fun of someone who is handicapped.

    Now before all of you who KNOW whatís up with the pill hurt yourselves from laughing at the obvious, stop and think about it Ė A LOT of people have no clue.

    Sex Education is mostly NOT taught in the schools any more and the biology of The Pill would most likely be the last thing discussed even if it were. There are plenty of people who have no reason to know the mechanics of The Pill.



  • Trollop on March 04, 2012 3:25 PM:

    Well, the child-fucking, erectile-dysfunctional, whale-Goliath has been brought low. I think I'm going to have a heart attack and die! Nice to see that roundboy here actually had to mince his words for once. What a conservative icon!

  • Robert on March 04, 2012 3:40 PM:

    OK we have have the fat bastard on the ropes, let's finish him off! Too harsh? Too threatening? Oh I'm sorry, I did not mean 'finish him off' as in you know ending his life, just his public life like you know 'termination' or uh you know 'silence'.

  • Phoebe on March 04, 2012 4:01 PM:

    The convenient thing about these Republican extremists (I personally think they're insane) is that they usually hoist themselves by their own petards. One can only hope that this is the beginning of the end for Rush.

    The only problem (apart from summoning the necessary patience to await said hoisting) is the collateral damage. For example, a couple of wars during the Bush era. It sounds like Fluke is surviving, Obama's assist helps, and thank God the Blunt amendment didn't go anywhere. It's the stuff that happens meanwhile -- between now and the downfall of Limbaugh -- that is disturbing. It's like waiting for the Wall St. malefactors to get prosecuted. Frequently they get away with it for a few years.

  • CRhetts on March 04, 2012 6:16 PM:

    This dust-up ought to stay fresh for at least another week or so. For fun, I'd advise WM readers to check out Townhall.com, for the inevitable, twisted justifications. This one is representative:


    ...its a virtual compendium of tiresome right-wing rationalizations.

    To my mind, whats REALLY happening here is that for a Limbaugh fan to stay a fan, he or she will have to automatically lower their own, personal standards of decency. Note in the above article, the author confides the term "slut" has lost its sting, and sources the transformation to the frequent use of the term by liberals!

    So now we can assume that, thanks to liberals, conservatives calling women sluts and prostitutes amounts to nothing more than a playful, harmless jest. Who woulda thunk it?

  • Ron Beyrs on March 04, 2012 6:16 PM:

    My understanding is there are now 7 sponsors who have dropped him. Seven out of about 20 or so. No, he is down, but not out for the count. Progressives have to keep it up.

    We didn't start the war on women but we are in a position to finish it. I think it is absolutely imperative that we do.

  • patrick on March 04, 2012 10:40 PM:

    Limbaugh tries weasel wording to get him off the petard he created for himself In his pseudo apology he is only equaled by the weaseling approach of Romney,Santorum and others in response to Limbaugh.These guys are intimidated by the bully Limbaugh.In running for President they claim to be prepared to face down the bullies of the world.Of course they'll get other people's kids to run interference for them.

  • pdevlin on March 06, 2012 10:11 AM:

    I don't like Limbaugh at all, but let the market and/or lawyers decide. What he said might be considered libelous, but that is difficult to prove in a court of law.

    By the way, why aren't people as outraged over Bill Maher's disgusting description of Sarah Palin - which he's said over and over again? Her political views aren't mine, but there is no reason to use that kind of language (about the worse thing you can call a female) against any woman.