As I write this column, Rush Limbaugh is still a free man. It certainly seems possible, though, that he could be jailed, executed, or at least tarred and feathered by the time this is published. He seems to be the most reviled man in America right now, judging by the great lengths people seem to be going to condemn his bizarre and pointless attack on a 30-year-old woman who testified before Congress in support of contraception coverage for college age women.
His comments weren’t really out of character. The man is not known for his gentlemanly demeanor and -- let’s face it -- one doesn’t become a star on talk radio by being a nice person. I think this time he just chose a really bad target. It’s one thing to hurl invectives at a public figure like President Obama or even females like Hillary Clinton or Nancy Pelosi. It’s quite another to use language like he used in reference to this private citizen who was merely expressing her views at a public hearing.
He deserves to be condemned. He has been condemned. He probably deserves to lose some sponsors and some radio stations, and that has happened to. I wouldn’t be surprised if he loses some listeners too, though I have a feeling that his most ardent fans will forgive him for this outburst.
But does he deserve to be fired, or least put on suspension for some period of time? Obviously that decision is up to his employer, and I expect the decision will be mostly about money. As long as Limbaugh remains profitable, he will remain employed. People will still listen to him, and somebody somewhere will give him a microphone. Even if they do let him go, I expect he won’t be out of work long.
It is interesting to note that our society seems to punish “hateful speech” in widely different measures depending on who is doing the talking and who they are talking about. Conservative commentators have been quick to point out that the same media outlets that have had a conniption about Limbaugh’s misogyny have given a free pass to liberals such as Bill Maher.
Maher has said things about Sarah Palin that are so vile and vulgar that I can’t even hint at the language he used in a family newspaper, but the media seems to respect his “free speech rights” without a hint of condemnation. Nor has President Obama returned the $1 million Maher gave to his super PAC despite his rather colorful descriptions of the former governor of Alaska.
The world is not a fair place and it is full of double standards. No one has ever lost their job in the entertainment industry using disparaging language about white males, Republicans, or evangelical Christians. That’s why a guy like Rick Santorum is has such a big target on him. The poor guy just has to take it, too, because no one likes a bad sport.
The thing that makes me really sad is that we have become so distracted by an issue (contraception) that very few people even consider worth talking about. Aside from Santorum, the Pope, and possibly Mel Gibson, there aren’t many who have a problem with the idea that medical insurance should cover contraceptive services for women.
It’s a losing issue for the Republican Party, and it is one that no one who wants to see President Obama limited to a single term should be running their mouths about. Rush is not doing the eventual Republican nominee or the conservative cause any favors by making a target out of a private citizen testifying in support of contraception coverage.
I don’t think he deserves to be yanked off the airwaves because of what he said, but I think if he really cared about his party doing well this year he’d take a voluntary leave of absence all on his own. Please Rush -- take a long vacation and give us a chance to miss you.
Bill Ferguson is a resident of Centerville. Readers can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his blog at nscsense.blogspot.com.