Rush’s Wimpy Apology: No Second-Grade Teacher Would Accept It – and Neither Should We

By Shel Horowitz, Author, “Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers,” “Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green

For a self-styled pull-no-punches talk-show host, Rush Limbaugh sure used a lot of weasel words and pablum phrases in his “apology.” Apparently, Rush was embarrassed not by what he said—calling a bright and courageous young woman a “slut” and a “prostitute” and demanding that she make sex tapes for public enjoyment—but by the financial consequences of losing advertisers, in droves.

Rush posted this wimpy, defensive, and self-justifying statement. Let’s look at what he said, point by point:

For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week. 

He tries to portray himself as a gadfly—yet he is taken seriously by mainstream media as a political commentator, has helped to build a massive movement of ultraconservatives, and has frequently turned to inflammatory speech to make his points (see this list of 19 Rushisms).

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 can’t ascribe motive, but it’s hard to believe Rush wouldn’t notice that he engaged in the lowest of low personal attacks, two days running. He went out of his way to shame Sandra Fluke not once, but twice. First calling her a prostitute because she testified in favor of funding contraception, and the next day saying that she owed the American public some sex videos so they could watch what they had paid for. The original comment was made on Wednesday, but he waited until Sunday to post his statement—while advertisers fled from the show.

I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress.

Ironically, Fluke wasn’t even talking about sex. She was actually testifying about the medical need of some women to treat certain conditions with contraceptives.

I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities.

Again, this doesn’t sound like much of an apology. And funny—I don’t hear Mr. Limbaugh objecting to health insurance covering Viagra. Do we have a bit of a double standard here?

What happened to personal responsibility and accountability?

Good question. Rush, where is YOUR personal responsibility and accountability, beyond grudgingly admitting, “I chose the wrong words” while denying that you intended a personal attack? This does not pass the smell test.

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?

Good old-fashioned red herring/reductio ad absurdum strategy. Just the sort of thing we’d expect in a  “sincere” apology, right? Not exactly contrite. But classic Rush.

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.

We could take this more seriously if it weren’t for Rush’s long public history of crude and grossly homophobic or sexist remarks. He claims that a pro-choice position is an attempt by “militant feminists” to “impose their will on the rest of society, particularly on men.”

A few of his most homophobic remarks show that he has no hesitation about using crude bedroom humor. Apparently he did think bedroom behavior was his business when he said, “Imagine we identify the gene…that will tell us prior to birth that a baby is going to be gay… and the parents say ‘Nope, don’t wanna give birth to that child’…Bam. So we abort the kid.”

My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir.

For a man not known for understatement, “not the best” is simply laughable. How about “deeply offensive”?

I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.

That might count as sincere on the day the Pope converts to Buddhism. A real apology shows understanding of the wrong committed, contrition, and a promise not to do it again I don’t see any of that in Rush’s statement.

Rush’s so-called apology reminds me of a second-grader whose teacher interrupts a fight. Instead of apologizing, the kid says, “But he started it.” And just as no second-grade teacher would accept that as valid, we should not accept Rush’s too-little, too-late defensiveness as anything resembling a genuine apology.


Shel Horowtiz is the author of “Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers,” “Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green” and six other books. He is also an internationally syndicated columnist. Shel also speaks on book publishing/marketing, green business/green marketing, ethical business success.



  1. Dave S. on March 12, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    Rush Limbaugh was absolutely wrong to call any woman names regardless of the reason. That said, where is the referent mention of Bill Maurer and other commentators on the left who have regularly uttered much worse misogynistic comments against conservative women? Selective criticism without comparison is anything but instructive. It’s like the reporters who questioned the peaceful, respectful, weekend-long Tea Party protesters who cleaned up after themselves, then showed empathy with the paid OWS bunch whose goals are to disrupt society.
    Insofar as Limbaugh’s loss of sponsors, the small numbers he’s lost out of thousands across the country will be replaced with new and returning advertisers. Bottom line, business is business.

  2. Donna Maurillo on March 12, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    Dave, surely you jest. Bill Maher, whom I often find reprehensible, was making fun of a public figure. He called her a name. Big whoop. People call me names all the time because they’re entitled to their opinions.

    Limbaugh is radically different. He maligned a woman’s reputation by saying that she was a prostitute and a slut. He said she must have had boys lining up around the block when she was in junior high. He said she had to post sex tapes online so everyone could see them. And it did it for three days running. This was not just a momentary lapse of judgment. He milked it.

    If you can’t see the difference, then there’s no hope. Even a court of law would see the difference if Ms Fluke decided to sue for defamation. She couldn’t sue if he called her the C-word, but she certainly can sue over his slander.

    You think that Rush won’t care because he always can get sponsors. You’re right. He can. And I know he won’t be pushed off the air because of this. There are enough small-minded people in this country that he will never lack for an audience. But those of us with higher standards will take our personal responsibility seriously and refuse to condone such tasteless behavior.

    Maybe next time he’ll think twice.

    • Dave S. on March 12, 2012 at 6:56 pm

      Thank you for your comment. Let’s look at things in context. The world is not going to end because a law student who has chosen to make herself a public figure (according to reports this isn’t the first time she’s spoken out on causes in which she believes) has been insulted.
      Limbaugh has apologized. Please let us know what else you want him to do. Beyond that — and I surely don’t know you — have you also publicly reacted to even worse insults by so-called “comedians” and commentors on the left when they have repeatedly called women with whom they disagree [much] worse?
      That’s the issue on which many have focused. While your indignation is justified, is it politically selective?

      • Donna Maurillo on March 12, 2012 at 7:29 pm

        Dave, I like to think of us as Americans rather than to place us into categories. I have many conservative values as well as liberal values. Mostly I’m in the middle. I’ve never voted party lines because I don’t want anyone to take my vote for granted. Although I’m a Democrat, I’ve also been a Republican. In fact, I currently have a Republican’s campaign sign on my front lawn. So let’s get the “right/left” thing off the table.

        As a woman in her sixties, I’ve lived long enough to see plenty of mud slinging from every direction. And as a woman, I’ve heard females called many insulting things — not just for their ideology, but simply because they are not males — or in this case, simply because they want their (self-paid) health insurance to cover contraception.

        Name calling is one thing. If Rush had called her a bitch or whatever, nobody would have raised an eyebrow. It’s so disgustingly common today that it generates hardly a reaction.

        But Rush maligned her reputation. He maligned her good name. And he did it again and again. I don’t know how you were raised, buy my parents taught me better than that. And I taught my own kids better than that.

        If we don’t draw the line somewhere, then how far will we have to be pushed before someone like you understands?

        • Dave S. on March 12, 2012 at 8:40 pm

          We probably have a lot in common. I too am in my mid-60s and based on your comments we were raised with the same values.
          I agree we should think of ourselves as Americans and also agree that we shouldn’t place ourselves in categories. But isn’t that what you’re doing by asking “how far will we have to be pushed before someone like you understands?” Like me?
          Again my point is that Limbaugh was wrong to malign Ms. Fluke, but the only time there’s big time and ongoing controversy in the media is when a conservative commentator says something inappropriate. When liberal commentators suffer the same scrutiny I’ll take the outrage more seriously.
          The larger controversy to my mind is not about whether women have the right to health care. They clearly do. It’s about church run organizations being ordered by a secular government to pay for services that go against their religious beliefs.
          That’s the separation of church and state clause of the Constitution. The other issue is the Nanny state where taxpayers are asked to pay for more and more for people who often have the means to pay for it themselves. Ms. Fluke stated she’s on a public service scholarship already. Now she wants the taxpayer to pay for her birth control. Really?
          Despite her stated figure of $3,000 a year for birth control, there have been a number of commentators who have stated that these pills can be purchased for as little as $9 a month from clinics. Where’s the truth? Because Ms. Fluke is a student I suspect she would qualify.
          If for health reasons the government ordered all delis and butcher shops — including Jewish and Muslim shops — to offer white meat like pork in addition to red meat, would you agree with that?