If you speak before a congressional committee about the benefits of contraception, it’s possible that Rush Limbaugh thinks you’re a slut.
Depending on his mood, you may be a prostitute too. If it’s sunny outside and the coffee’s still warm, it might cross his mind to call you these things on his radio show.
He will repeat them if you’re short of hearing. It’s a program he’s paid at least $50 million a year to host for three hours a day, five days a week. Coming from a man who earns $17,000 a year, someone earning $128 a minute to provide self-coined “conservative talk” knows what he’s saying when he claims you’re wasting the government’s money.
He is justified — even obligated — to speak slanderously of you on syndicated public radio, so he will.
And after he does, he just might apologize.
Keep in mind that a Rush Limbaugh apology is no ordinary one — there’s a message within the message, but you’ll need a map and a compass to find it.
When he tells you he chose “the wrong words” to describe you, he isn’t taking them back. He simply committed a technical error.
There are so many sexual slurs that it’s only natural to pick the wrong one, but it won’t happen again. Next time, he’ll compare your reproductive habits to those of a rabbit on the prairie.
It will be a liberal rabbit with a family of 1,400. He will call you these things, and this time he will not apologize. He will have chosen the right words.
Regardless of the past being the past, he’ll post the transcript of his slip-up online in spite of it. He owes it to his listeners who may have missed that afternoon’s program.
But amongst his 3,000,000 daily followers, one of them might be the president, who will take it upon himself to personally call you and apologize on Limbaugh’s behalf. Another might be a sponsor. They contribute to his annual earnings. Pro-Flowers, Carbonite, Quicken Loans, and LegalZoom may not support these comments, even accidentally. They might pull their advertisements from his slot.
Mattress retailers Sleep Train and Sleep Number may also pull out. They don’t believe that an individual should be persecuted for their sexual habits.
But when Sarah Fluke, a third-year law student at Georgetown University, spoke before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee in February, she couldn’t have known these things.
Or maybe she did. Maybe she was aware that an opinion, regardless of what it is, may be disagreed with, but should never serve as grounds for a personal attack. With these unwritten societal truths in mind, she spoke freely and with conviction about a matter that gravely concerned her. And because she chose to speak, she moved boundaries with her words, which, while inciting disagreement with some, may inspire bravery in others. Her words were honest, and an honest contention is worth more than commercial slander ever could be.
Ask Rush Limbaugh.
Bryan Washington is a sociology freshman and may be reached at [email protected].