There comes a point when you have to put down the officially issued talking points of your team and the partisan politics and look at the situations that you’re discussing and comparing and give them some thought before making yourself look clueless and foolish. This is apparently not an ability that a great many Rush fans have right now.
Back in the middle of last week, Rush Limbaugh decided to attack a young woman, Sandra Fluke. In this attack, he called her several names. One of these names was “slut.” His actions and words brought a lot of attention and condemnation down on him and some of his sponsors started pulling their support by Friday. At that point, some of the conservative blogs started putting forth a talking point that the faithful ran out and repeated all across the information superhighway. The talking point? Ed Schultz called a conservative radio personality, Laura Ingraham, a slut last year and some of the sponsors pulling their ads from Rush still support his show. This is somehow proof of liberal biases, double standards and hypocrisy.
I hate to break it to you, but no it’s not.
Maybe, maybe, it would be if that was all there was to it. Maybe that could be put forward and accepted as having a shred of comparability if the entire incident in each case was about one word used on the air. Problem for the talking point repeaters out there is that it wasn’t about just one word. It was about everything else around that word and everything else Ed and Rush did after uttering that word.
Let’s compare the two things from start to finish (or as close to finish as we can get since the Rush thing is still going.)
Ed Shultz was criticizing things that Laura Ingraham and others had said and, during that criticism, crossed the line of civility and good taste and called Ingraham a “right-wing slut.” He didn’t repeat the slur and he didn’t elaborate on it during his program. It was said as a one and done and he went on with the rest of his program.
Rush was commenting on a woman named Sandra Fluke who was going to testify before Congress on the medical applications of some contraceptives and the need for some of these to be covered by insurance. Fluke was going to be speaking on this and using as a point of illustration something that happened to an acquaintance of hers who had to fight to get coverage for the treatment and procedures she needed and, after a long fight with her employer provided health insurance, finally got it. However, the time wasted by the insurance company had an impact on the woman’s health and when she finally got the treatment it was too late to save one of her ovaries. Fluke’s testimony before Congress was also going to touch on the many other medical issues that affect women that are treated with some of the contraceptives out there. Some of this would have covered the detrimental effects on women that blood diseases like von Willebrand disease and hemophilia have (yes, despite conventional wisdom, hemophilia can have an affect on women) and on some hormonal problems that some contraceptives help to treat.
So Rush lied and characterized what Fluke was going to say as her talking about how she other women like her want to have so much sex that they can’t afford all the birth control that they need. Rush mischaracterized what she was going to talk before Congress about as her essentially demanding that everyone else pay her and other women like her to have sex. And then he called her a slut, called her a prostitute, and said that she was round-heeled.
By day two of Ed Schultz’s exercise in foot-in-mouth disease, he issued an apology directly to Laura Ingraham. He didn’t do it on his radio program however. He couldn’t. Ed was taken off of the air for a week. MSNBC also took him off the air for a week (supposedly at his request) from his TV show despite the fact that the comments were made on Ed’s radio show and MSNBC had no ownership or control of the radio show.
At the start of Ed’s MSNBC TV show the next night, he introduced the show before departing to allow a guest host to do the show. This is what Ed said.
“Good evening, Americans and welcome to The Ed Show from New York tonight. Thomas Roberts will be here tonight anchoring the program, but first I want to take some time to offer an apology. On my radio show yesterday I used vile and inappropriate language when talking about talk show host Laura Ingraham. I am deeply sorry, and I apologize. It was wrong, uncalled for and I recognize the severity of what I said. I apologize to you, Laura, and ask for your forgiveness.
It doesn’t matter what the circumstances were. It doesn’t matter that it was on radio and I was ad-libbing. None of that matters. None of that matters. What matters is what I said was terribly vile and not of the standards that I or any other person should adhere to. I want all of you to know tonight that I did call Laura Ingraham today and did not make contact with her and I will apologize to her as I did in the message that I left her today.
I also met with management here at MSNBC, and understanding the severity of the situation and what I said on the radio and how it reflected terribly on this company, I have offered to take myself off the air for an indefinite period of time with no pay. I want to apologize to Laura Ingraham. I want to apologize to my family, my wife. I have embarrassed my family. I have embarrassed this company.
And I have been in this business since 1978, and I have made a lot of mistakes. This is the lowest of low for me. I stand before you tonight in front of this camera in this studio in an environment that I absolutely love. I love working here. I love communicating with all of you on the radio and the communication that I have with you when I go out and do town hall meetings and meet the people that actually watch. I stand before you tonight to take full responsibility for what I said and how I said it, and I am deeply sorry.
My wife is a wonderful woman. We have a wonderful family. And with six kids and eight grandkids, I try to set an example. In this moment, I have failed. And I want you to know that I talked to my sons especially about character and about dignity and about the truth. And I tell you the truth tonight that I am deeply sorry and I tell them every day that they have to live up to standards if they want to be a successful human being in life. And I have let them down. I have never been in this position before to the point where it has affected so many people. And I know that I have let a lot of people down.
To the staff here at MSNBC, I apologize for embarrassing the company and the only way that I can really make restitution for you is to give you a guarantee, and the only way that I can prove my sincerity in all of this is if I never use those words again. Tonight, you have my word that I won’t. Laura Ingraham, I am sorry. Very sorry. I’ll be back with you in the coming days.”
On day two of Rush’s exercise in foot-in-mouth disease, Rush responded to the idea that his comments were creating controversy by doubling down on the lies about what Fluke was going to discuss before congress, gleefully threw more insults her way and questioned whether her parents should feel proud about a girl “like her.”
There obviously was no day three for Ed since he was off the air. So, skipping ahead a bit on Ed; Ed came back on the air a week later. He reiterated his apology both on his radio show and his TV show. He made it clear that he was 110% in the wrong and that there were no excuses to be made for what he said.
Day three of the Rush Limbaugh experience included more lies, more insults directed at Fluke and the beginning of Rush spinning the situation to portray himself as the real victim in the situation.
And then the night of Rush’s day three started and continued into day four. Sponsors started to leave Rush. Major sponsors started to leave Rush. And so Rush threw a statement that was meant to be an apology out there Saturday night. The wording was… interesting.
“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.
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.
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.”
Ed came out and put all responsibility for his words on himself and made no excuses. Rush starts out claiming that this was just him illustrating the absurd with absurdity and, amazingly, even after three solid days of directly addressing Fluke by name and disparaging her character specifically, states that he never meant to attack her personally. He then spends more words in the thing than he spends on actually “apologizing” to continue to lie about what Sandra Fluke was going before Congress to discuss, added asinine asides to it and excuses his actions actions thusly.
One man said something stupid in one sentence and apologized for it the next day. That man also accepted punitive actions without whining or excusing what he did. That same man made it clear a week later that what he did was completely out of line, the fault of no one but himself and made it clear that there were no excuses for what he did.
The other man spent show time on three separate days telling lies about a woman who held a different political or ideological belief than he does and then proceeded to insult and slander her based on the lies he made up about her. When that other man finally started to feel heat from his sponsors, he issued a half-assed apology where he essentially excused his actions to a degree and continued to tell yet more lies about what the target of his lies and slanders was talking about and doing.
I’m sorry, but if you think that these two incidents compare in size, scope and severity at all and you want to proclaim that companies like Carbonite online backup and ProFlowers are exposing a liberal bias or being hypocritical for dropping Rush while still having ads play on Ed Shultz’s radio show… You’re a complete and total idiot. Or you’re a Ditto-Head/mindless conservative talking points repeater. But then, I guess those are the same things, aren’t they.