Cal Thomas: A sincere apology that won't be accepted

The first apology by Rush Limbaugh, posted on his website over the weekend, sounded forced, qualified, almost defensive. The second, broadcast live on his Monday show, sounded sincere and heartfelt.

Rush Limbaugh did something not usually associated with either himself or bombastic talk radio. He apologized for calling a woman a "slut" and a "prostitute."

The woman, 30-year-old Sandra Fluke, a law student at Georgetown University, wants the Catholic school to pay for contraceptives in its insurance policy because, she says, she and her friends cannot afford the cost otherwise. Apparently Fluke is not aware that contraceptive pills, according to John McCormack of The Weekly Standard, "can be purchased for as low as $9 per month at a pharmacy near Georgetown's campus." Or that some places dispense them for free, along with condoms.

Back to the Limbaugh apology. I have known Rush for some years (he wrote a forward to one of my books) and I think I can tell when he is sincere. A lot of what he does is theatrics designed to rev up his audience with red meat and to dramatize a point. It isn't that he is insincere about his positions; rather, it is because the media environment, in which we are all forced to live, requires some to be louder and more emphatic than others to attract attention and ratings.

Limbaugh opened his Monday show sounding contrite: "I acted too much like the leftists who despise me. I descended to their level using names and exaggerations to describe Sandra Fluke. It's what we have come to know and expect from them, but it's way beneath me. And it's way beneath you. It was wrong and that's why I've apologized, 'cause I succumbed. ... Don't be mad at them or mad at her. Everybody here was being true to their nature except me. I'm the one who had the failing on this, and for that I genuinely apologized for using those words to describe Ms. Fluke."

That sounds sincere to me and should end the controversy, but it probably won't. Limbaugh's political enemies have never demonstrated anything approaching contrition when it comes to their desire to destroy him. They have succeeded in getting several sponsors to drop ads from his show and calls for a boycott of his show continue. Limbaugh's detractors have the example of Glenn Beck, late of Fox News Channel, as inspiration. That network dropped Beck in part because, though his ratings were high, few sponsors wanted to be associated with his controversial remarks.

Limbaugh's apology shifts the burden to his critics, including Ms. Fluke. If they keep attacking Limbaugh, they risk damaging their own character for refusing to forgive. In fact, Ms. Fluke went on ABC's "The View" Monday morning to say that Limbaugh's apology changed nothing.

As noted in many other places, there is often a double standard when it comes to speech. Horrible things have been said about conservatives and especially conservative women, but have a conservative said anything close to those things about a liberal woman and you have the Sandra Fluke controversy. Rush is right, though. Such things ought to be beneath conservatives.

That civil discourse may be on life support is not news to anyone paying attention to political rhetoric. Part of this has to do with fundraising, which mostly relies on negatives, not positives, because as a fundraiser once told me, you can't raise money on a positive. Part of it is also ratings. In an uncertain world, people like to tune into programs — liberal and conservative — that reinforce views they already hold.

Limbaugh might resist this next suggestion, but I speak from experience, having had to apologize for a recent misstatement of my own. Limbaugh should invite Sandra Fluke to lunch and get to know her as a person, not a label. At the very least, he would send an important message that civility and strong political speech do not have to be contradictory.

Who knows, he might even persuade her to become a conservative. From his perspective, and mine, that would be a win-win for everybody, except liberals.

Cal Thomas is a syndicated columnist and author.

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Steve  Dosh's picture

Cal , †uesday 4 pm ish hst

Cal , †uesday 4 pm ish hst •
You are a radio/TV\print journalist , correct ? Sign of the old timers ... How can you stand to be in the same room as the guy ( metephorically ) ? We think he's got altzheimers , is deaf , dumb , uninsipiring , probably alcoholic , idiotic , a fool , moron , jerk , 100 % self centered , all about Rush and Rush only , and , we are being diplomatic here . He - H A T E S - everything and everybody . Buy a vowel and get a clue , Republicans , and look at who you are associated with . e.g., Quayle , Bush , Cheney , Ashcroft , Palin , Bachman , Ventura , Sanatorum . .etc .
We judge people by the company you keep
Shout radio is not and never has been very appealing . The other shock jocks ( m/ƒ ) are just as bad
/s, Dr. Dosh , Hawai'i :)

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

It's a lot more fun to play

It's a lot more fun to play the victim card then to accept an apology and extend forgiveness. Forgiveness-tolerance; isn't that what the left are always preaching to the body of unwashed and ungodly conservatives?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

"It's 8 to 5", sez the

"It's 8 to 5", sez the parrot, "that Ms. Fluke would accept Mr. Limbaugh's invitation to lunch."

CRYSTAL WARD's picture


Sincere is in the eye of the beholder

Lets see for three day , three hours a day Rush Limbaugh made disgusting comments about Ms. Fluke -- THREE DAYS -- only after his sponsors pushed back did he give a " forced , qualified, almost defensive apology" for TWO words only!
Then more push back, more sponcers leave and we get apology number TWO and this one is the "the left made me do it" defense strategy. Really this does not pass the straight face test on any level. Rush is trying to save Rush -- his about $50 million a year salary and his second apology is just like the first.
Georgetown University requires students to pay for the college insurance --- “A charge for this Premier Plan is placed on eligible students' accounts, per their registration status” (go to the Georgetown website)
Many women need birth control medicine for serious health issues which was Ms. Fluke's major concern. Why wouldn't a woman needing a medicine for a serious health illness is allowed to get the medicine with their insurance just like you get medicine for all other illnesses. Cal, you and Rush seem not to know that birth control medicine is used for more than birth control. Your reference to "civil discourse" and what Rush does in his "theatrics designed to rev up his audience with red meat" have nothing to do with each other.

Betty Davies's picture

How not to apologize

"Dear Prudence" is an advice columnist who focuses on manners. Here's her take on Limbaugh's so-called apology--I'll quote just the start--

"“For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week. [Don’t lead with self-congratulation. If you’re aiming for self-pity, that’s also not the way to start an apology. After all, you’re not making the case that your remarks were the result of sleep deprivation or a medical crisis caused by overwork. Underlining that you get paid millions of dollars to sit in front of a microphone 15 hours a week does not create sympathy.]

"In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. [This wasn’t an errant remark, but a three-day attack. You pretty much ran through a thesaurus’ worth of synonyms to characterize Ms. Fluke, and you make your living choosing words. An apology should not drip with insincerity.]

"I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke. [This is false on its face, so not a good strategy.]"

"“I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress. [As your hero, Ronald Reagan so memorably said, ”There you go again.” When you’re apologizing for a personal attack – see paragraph above – don’t a) bring in the desperate times we live in, and b) remind that you are obsessed with the personal sexual activities of the woman you’ve accused of being a prostitute."



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