On Wednesday, Rush Limbaugh made one of the biggest mistakes of his career. He attacked law student Sandra Fluke (calling her “Susan”), and declared: “What does it say about the college co-ed Sandra Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex, what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute.”
Limbaugh has a long history of insulting women in crude terms that I detail in my book, The Most Dangerous Man in America: Rush Limbaugh's Assault on Reason. But in the past Limbaugh has usually attacked female politicians and celebrities, not women who merely dared to express their views to Congress. By picking on Fluke, and doing it in an incredibly crude way, Limbaugh made a serious error.
In the past, Limbaugh might have delivered a fake apology or hidden behind his usual defense of claiming to be “joking” and then blame "feminazis" who have no sense of humor. Instead, on Thursday, Limbaugh doubled down and said, "if we're going to pay for your contraceptives and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch." This was another serious error: by embracing pornography, he alienated the religious conservatives who often support him.
Today, Limbaugh went all in. He not only refused to apologize for his crude remarks, he claimed 14 times that Fluke was some kind of sex-crazed slut:
“she's having so much sex, she can't afford her birth control pills anymore.”
“she's having so much sex, she can't pay for it -- and we should.”
“She's having so much sex, she can't afford it.”
“this, frankly hilarious claim that she's having so much sex (and her buddies with her) that she can't afford it.”
“And not one person says, 'Well, did you ever think about maybe backing off the amount of sex that you have?'”
“Does she have more boyfriends? Ha! They're lined up around the block.”
“It was Sandra Fluke who said that she was having so much sex, she can't afford it.”
“By her own admission, in her own words, Sandra Fluke is having so much sex that she can't afford it.”
“they're having a lot of sex for which they need a lot of contraception.”
“Her sex life is active and she's having sex so frequently that she can't afford all the birth control pills that she needs.”
“who admits to having so much sex that she can't afford it anymore.”
“she's having so much sex, she can't pay for it.”
“As frequently as she has sex and to not be pregnant, she's obviously succeeding in contraception.”
“Ms. Fluke, asserts her right to free contraceptive, to handle her sex life -- and it's, by her own admission, quite active.”
So that's 14 times in one show that Limbaugh went out and effectively called Fluke a slut, accusing her of having so much sex that she needs birth control. In doing so, Limbaugh displayed not only his sexism, but his total ignorance. Limbaugh actually believes that the amount of birth control pills a woman takes depends on how much sex she has. That simple ignorant belief is the basis for all of his endless “slut” attacks.
Limbaugh concluded his tirade with an unusually bizarre conspiracy theory: “The Obama administration will take away your birth control, and if you let 'em do that, they'll tell you when you can and can't take it. And then they'll tell you when you can and can't have sex, and then they will tell you when you can or cannot have an abortion! You give them this power, that's what they want.”
Limbaugh regularly spouts conspiracy theories about the Obama administration plots to control everything. But it's strange for him to imagine that Obama is plotting to take away birth control, abortion, and sex, when these are conservative plans.
Limbaugh's persecution complex, his bigoted hatred of women, and his increasingly paranoid belief in endless conspiracy theories have all combined to bring him the worst scandal since his illegal purchase of massive quantities of prescription drugs. And Limbaugh predictably blames his own hateful words on a vast left-wing conspiracy against him: “This is all they've got, is to go out and try to discredit their critics, to impugn and discredit the people who disagree with them.”
That's exactly what Rush Limbaugh has done for 25 years, but by picking the wrong target, and refusing to back down, Limbaugh is finally provoking Republican officials to (weakly) condemn what he has said. For years, Limbaugh has made Republicans too terrified to utter a word of critique against him. Now, calling women sluts for using birth control pills may finally be the moment when the pompous fool took his comedy routine one step too far.
Crossposted at DailyKos.