If there is a more loathsome person than Rush Limbaugh on the airwaves these days, I don’t know who it is. I certainly can’t speak for anyone else, but it really pisses me off that, in my humble opinion, this hypocritical, pompous slob is paid in excess of $50 million per year to sit on his fat ass in front of his precious gold microphone and spew his detestable brand of venom for the dittoheads (his fans) to slurp up. It’s beyond reprehensible, and what is even worse is that he apparently has so much power that no one can hold him accountable for abusing the First Amendment on his radio show.
I devoted most of my professional life to teaching journalism at West Liberty State College (Now it is West Liberty University.), and while I am not naïve enough to believe that I reached every student who sat in my classes, I can say that I did my utmost to instill in all of them a sense of obligation to respect and uphold the principles of the First Amendment and fair and accurate reporting. And when I hear someone who has more money than God and millions of listeners make a mockery of the First Amendment, it infuriates me. In case you missed them, here are the facts.
On Feb. 23 Sandra Fluke, a 30-year-old third-year student at the prestigious Georgetown Law School testified at an unofficial Democratic hearing and said she thought contraception should be covered as a part of Georgetown’s health insurance for students. (Her complete testimony follows if you are interested in reading it.) Now before I go on, let me explain that I am not going to comment on whether or not I agree or disagree with Fluke’s remarks because that is immaterial here. What is relevant, however, is what happened in the wake of her testimony.
On Feb. 29, El Rushbo, the “doctor of Democracy,” that pontificating windbag who has “half his brain tied behind his back just to make things fair,” plopped his behemoth behind in his chair behind the golden microphone at the Limbaugh Institute for Advanced Conservative Studies and proceeded to launch a viciously vituperative attack on Ms. Fluke. Here is part of what he said.
“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. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We’re the pimps.
“If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it, and I’ll tell you what it is: We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”
Over a period of three days Limbaugh continued his merciless assault on Ms. Fluke’s character, and when she recently appeared on “The View” hosted by Whoopi Goldberg, she said that Limbaugh had insulted her more than 50 times, and she also pointed out that, contrary to what Limbaugh had said, her remarks did not pertain to taxpayers’ money.
“The idea that this is about taxpayers or the government paying for contraception, it is absolutely not. This regulation covers private insurance, and it wants to have this medical drug treated in away that is similar to how other medical drugs are treated. And it is health care. Women need this medication to prevent seizures, to prevent cysts from growing on their ovaries. I’ve heard from so many women who talked about why they need this critically, not to mention the important medical need of preventing unintended pregnancies.”
Since making his inauspiciously insidious remarks, the king dittohead untied the half of his brain that was behind his back and issued an apology to Ms. Fluke and said in part that he was trying to be humorous. I wonder how many of his devoted listeners laughed their dittoheads off when they heard him refer to this woman as a “slut” and a “prostitute.” After all, isn’t it absolutely hilarious?
In the wake of all the uproar caused by this incident, the Internet has been flooded with different opinions about the whole thing including a debate about whether or not Ms. Fluke should sue Limbaugh. Of course the key to bringing a lawsuit against Dittobrain is whether or not she could win it, and I’m afraid she could not.
In the first place, if my understanding of libel law is correct, Ms. Fluke gave up her status a private citizen and became a public figure (or at the very least a limited-purpose public figure) when she voluntarily thrust herself into the vortex of a public controversy by testifying before Congress. This means that (under the decision reached in the New York Times vs. Sullivan) in order to win a suit, she would have to show that Dittodude’s remarks were uttered with knowing falsity or with reckless disregard for whether they were true or false. Not an easy thing to prove.
Another thing Dr. Democracy would have in his favor is that the law protects both opinion and satire. Thus, he can say anything he wants as long as it is his opinion because the law holds that there is no such thing as a false idea. Under the protection of satire he could claim that his remarks were so hyperbolic that no reasonable person would believe that to be true.
So that sad truth is that Ditto Blowhard will continue his abuse of the First Amendment because apparently he is beyond reproach. Five years ago Don Imus was fired from MSNBC for referring to the members of the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hos,” and he didn’t even call them by name the way Dittojerk did with Ms. Fluke.
More recently Juan Williams, a senior news analyst for National Public Radio, received his walking papers for what he said on “The O’Reilly Factor” about feeling nervous when he gets on a plane with people wearing “Muslim garb.”
And just last month Anthony Frederico, an ESPN editor, was fired when he wrote the following headline over a column: “Chink in the Armor: Jeremy Lin’s 9 Turnovers Cost Knicks in Streak-stopping Loss to Hornets.” Of course Lin is of Chinese lineage, and Frederico’s headline was interpreted as a racial slur, which he insisted it was not in his apology.
I could list more instances of media people who have lost their jobs, but the point is that after committing an offense that is every bit, if not more, as egregiously offensive as those listed above, our standard bearer of excellence in broadcasting and our paragon of patriotism who once said he hoped the newly elected President Barack Obama would “fail” still sits behind the golden microphone polluting the airwaves with his pompous pronouncements
Oh sure, a number (45 at last count) of his sponsors have left him, but he as declared that others will come along, and sadly he’s probably right. At any rate, thank you for taking the time to read this rant, and please permit me a final thought.
In a perfect world I would be invited to a press conference at which the powers that be at the Clear Channel stations stood up and made the following announcement: “Effective immediately Rush Limbaugh is no longer an employee of our organization. And frankly we are glad he’s gone.”
And then I’d jump up and shout, “DITTO!”
COMPLETE TEXT OF SANDRA FLUKE’S TESTIMONY
Leader Pelosi, Members of Congress, good morning, and thank you for calling this hearing on women’s health and allowing me to testify on behalf of the women who will benefit from the Affordable Care Act contraceptive coverage regulation. My name is Sandra Fluke, and I’m a third year student at Georgetown Law, a Jesuit school. I’m also a past president of Georgetown Law Students for Reproductive Justice or LSRJ. I’d like to acknowledge my fellow LSRJ members and allies and all of the student activists with us and thank them for being here today.
Georgetown LSRJ is here today because we’re so grateful that this regulation implements the nonpartisan, medical advice of the Institute of Medicine. I attend a Jesuit law school that does not provide contraception coverage in its student health plan. Just as we students have faced financial, emotional, and medical burdens as a result, employees at religiously affiliated hospitals and universities across the country have suffered similar burdens. We are all grateful for the new regulation that will meet the critical health care needs of so many women. Simultaneously, the recently announced adjustment addresses any potential conflict with the religious identity of Catholic and Jesuit institutions.
When I look around my campus, I see the faces of the women affected, and I have heard more and more of their stories. . On a daily basis, I hear from yet another woman from Georgetown or other schools or who works for a religiously affiliated employer who has suffered financial, emotional, and medical burdens because of this lack of contraceptive coverage. And so, I am here to share their voices and I thank you for allowing them to be heard.
Without insurance coverage, contraception can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school. For a lot of students who, like me, are on public interest scholarships, that’s practically an entire summer’s salary. Forty percent of female students at Georgetown Law report struggling financially as a result of this policy. One told us of how embarrassed and powerless she felt when she was standing at the pharmacy counter, learning for the first time that contraception wasn’t covered, and had to walk away because she couldn’t afford it. Women like her have no choice but to go without contraception. Just last week, a married female student told me she had to stop using contraception because she couldn’t afford it any longer. Women employed in low wage jobs without contraceptive coverage face the same choice.
You might respond that contraception is accessible in lots of other ways. Unfortunately, that’s not true. Women’s health clinics provide vital medical services, but as the Guttmacher Institute has documented, clinics are unable to meet the crushing demand for these services. Clinics are closing and women are being forced to go without. How can Congress consider the Fortenberry, Rubio, and Blunt legislation that would allow even more employers and institutions to refuse contraceptive coverage and then respond that the non-profit clinics should step up to take care of the resulting medical crisis, particularly when so many legislators are attempting to defund those very same clinics?
These denials of contraceptive coverage impact real people. In the worst cases, women who need this medication for other medical reasons suffer dire consequences. A friend of mine, for example, has polycystic ovarian syndrome and has to take prescription birth control to stop cysts from growing on her ovaries. Her prescription is technically covered by Georgetown insurance because it’s not intended to prevent pregnancy. Under many religious institutions’ insurance plans, it wouldn’t be, and under Senator Blunt’s amendment, Senator Rubio’s bill, or Representative Fortenberry’s bill, there’s no requirement that an exception be made for such medical needs. When they do exist, these exceptions don’t accomplish their well-intended goals because when you let university administrators or other employers, rather than women and their doctors, dictate whose medical needs are legitimate and whose aren’t, a woman’s health takes a back seat to a bureaucracy focused on policing her body.
In 65 percent of cases, our female students were interrogated by insurance representatives and university medical staff about why they needed these prescriptions and whether they were lying about their symptoms. For my friend, and 20 percent of women in her situation, she never got the insurance company to cover her prescription, despite verification of her illness from her doctor. Her claim was denied repeatedly on the assumption that she really wanted the birth control to prevent pregnancy. She’s gay, so clearly polycystic ovarian syndrome was a much more urgent concern than accidental pregnancy. After months of paying over $100 out of pocket, she just couldn’t afford her medication anymore and had to stop taking it.
I learned about all of this when I walked out of a test and got a message from her that in the middle of her final exam period she’d been in the emergency room all night in excruciating pain. She wrote, “It was so painful, I woke up thinking I’d been shot.” Without her taking the birth control, a massive cyst the size of a tennis ball had grown on her ovary. She had to have surgery to remove her entire ovary. On the morning I was originally scheduled to give this testimony, she sat in a doctor’s office. Since last year’s surgery, she’s been experiencing night sweats, weight gain, and other symptoms of early menopause as a result of the removal of her ovary. She’s 32 years old. As she put it: “If my body indeed does enter early menopause, no fertility specialist in the world will be able to help me have my own children. I will have no chance at giving my mother her desperately desired grandbabies, simply because the insurance policy that I paid for totally unsubsidized by my school wouldn’t cover my prescription for birth control when I needed it.” Now, in addition to potentially facing the health complications that come with having menopause at an early age– increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis — she may never be able to conceive a child.
Perhaps you think my friend’s tragic story is rare. It’s not. One woman told us doctors believe she has endometriosis, but it can’t be proven without surgery, so the insurance hasn’t been willing to cover her medication. Recently, another friend of mine told me that she also has polycystic ovarian syndrome. She’s struggling to pay for her medication and is terrified to not have access to it. Due to the barriers erected by Georgetown’s policy, she hasn’t been reimbursed for her medication since last August. I sincerely pray that we don’t have to wait until she loses an ovary or is diagnosed with cancer before her needs and the needs of all of these women are taken seriously.
This is the message that not requiring coverage of contraception sends. A woman’s reproductive healthcare isn’t a necessity, isn’t a priority. One student told us that she knew birth control wasn’t covered, and she assumed that’s how Georgetown’s insurance handled all of women’s sexual healthcare, so when she was raped, she didn’t go to the doctor even to be examined or tested for sexually transmitted infections because she thought insurance wasn’t going to cover something like that, something that was related to a woman’s reproductive health. As one student put it, “this policy communicates to female students that our school doesn’t understand our needs.” These are not feelings that male fellow students experience. And they’re not burdens that male students must shoulder.
In the media lately, conservative Catholic organizations have been asking: what did we expect when we enrolled at a Catholic school? We can only answer that we expected women to be treated equally, to not have our school create untenable burdens that impede our academic success. We expected that our schools would live up to the Jesuit creed of cura personalis, to care for the whole person, by meeting all of our medical needs. We expected that when we told our universities of the problems this policy created for students, they would help us. We expected that when 94% of students opposed the policy, the university would respect our choices regarding insurance students pay for completely unsubsidized by the university. We did not expect that women would be told in the national media that if we wanted comprehensive insurance that met our needs, not just those of men, we should have gone to school elsewhere, even if that meant a less prestigious university. We refuse to pick between a quality education and our health, and we resent that, in the 21st century, anyone thinks it’s acceptable to ask us to make this choice simply because we are women.
Many of the women whose stories I’ve shared are Catholic women, so ours is not a war against the church. It is a struggle for access to the healthcare we need. The President of the Association of Jesuit Colleges has shared that Jesuit colleges and universities appreciate the modification to the rule announced last week. Religious concerns are addressed and women get the healthcare they need. That is something we can all agree on. Thank you.