Ethics Dunce: Sandra Fluke

Made for each other.

Well, now the jig is up on Sandra Fluke. Yes, she was the victim of Rush Limbaugh’s gross verbal assault. But she rejected his apology, which was direct and unequivocal, saying…

“I don’t think that a statement like this issued, saying that his choice of words was not the best, changes anything, and especially when that statement is issued when he’s under significant pressure from his sponsors who have begun to pull their support.”

So now we know who and what Rush’s adversary and momentary victim is. She is a steely-eyed activist who isn’t interested in mutual dialogue, fair play or civil discourse, only ideological victory. She thinks she has America’s most popular conservative pundit on the ropes, so she refuses to be gracious and to match an apology with acknowledgment and forgiveness. In this she reveals herself as no different from Limbaugh, who never gives a thought to fairness or courtesy to his perceived opponents. He sees his job as the destruction of “the bad guys.” So does she.

We need waste no more sympathy on Sandra Fluke. She was misrepresented to the public by the media, with the assistance of House Democrats, as a typical law student, when we now know that she was an activist on women’s health issues before she enrolled at Georgetown, and may have  entered the Jesuit institution prepared to make an issue of its insurance coverage. Rush Limbaugh played into her hands with a boorish, vulgar and mean-spirited attack, and his subsequent apology gave her an opportunity to use the ugly episode to show how contentious policy debate can still be civil and based on reason, rather than political warfare and personal destruction. Fluke rejected it. She wants to demonize her opponents as much as they would demonize her, and she believes, foolishly, that she has Rush Limbaugh trapped.

Her reasoning for rejecting the apology is absurd. Apparently, once pressure is put on someone to apologize, they can never apologize sincerely, since it must necessarily come after the pressure. I have explained why this is nonsense, but her illogical reasoning doesn’t require exposition; its clear meaning is that expressing contempt for an adversary is higher in Fluke’s set of values than treating him ethically. That, and the partisan warrior’s conviction that any apology must include not only contrition for words used, but also for the opinion expressed. Rush Limbaugh need not apologize for his opinions, whether they are offensive to his ideological adversaries or not. He should apologize when his manner of expressing them violates standards of fairness and civility for his medium—and he did.

And what has Fluke accomplished by being graceless? She has surrendered the moral high ground. She has frittered away a rare chance to change the tone of the nation’s polarized political discourse. She has convinced Rush Limbaugh and his apologists that if he was going to abuse a woman, at least he picked an arrogant and vindictive one.

Meanwhile, Rush sounded cheerful and confident today, even more upbeat than usual. The episode wounded him, but he’ll get other sponsors. He’ll be aggravating Democrats and liberals long after Sandra Fluke has joined Fawn Hall and Donna Rice as answers to trivia questions. She could have had a positive impact on the culture if she had shown that she was better, fairer, and more reasonable than the partisan talk radio star.

But she didn’t, and she isn’t.

Too bad.

60 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Sandra Fluke

  1. ethical standards (and double-standards) aside, do you really think Rush would have apologized if his sponsors hadn’t begun to put pressure on him? i’m not so sure. and i think that’s what ms. fluke was getting at.

    i’m not sure her refusal puts her on his level. she didn’t call Limbaugh a fat perv–that might have been more in line with the tone of his comments.
    i say this even though Rush’s original comment that she might put herself out on video was close to the line of perversion, and he is fat. so, on second thought, i think ms. fluke could’ve called mr. limbaugh a fat perv and still would not be on par with that fat perv (my sentiments).

          • now, the real question is whether or not you knew what you meant.

            because that dismissive tone you’re taking either means 1. you don’t 2. you do but are too lazy to explain your position 3. you do but you feel your position is so wonderfully precious that such a pearl would be wasted on the likes of me. If it’s option 1 or 3, you can let it rest there. if it’s 2. then come on, get yourself up and do the hard work of explaining your thoughts to someone who is not privy. it’s the ethical thing to do.

              • there is no venom. only frustration with a blogger who calls himself an ethicist but who I believed was not quite being fair in his judgment. calling oneself an ethicist is a tricky label, and I was challenging his assertion that what he was arguing was in line with that label.
                I commented accordingly–out of my sense of right and wrong. I think, therefore, I deserve no to be dismissed, which I think is what your comments seemed to do. If I am mistaken, then you have my apology–truly.

                • Actually, “calling oneself an ethicist” isn’t tricky at all, when one makes one’s living talking, writing, advising, consulting, researching about ethics, ethics rules and professional ethical standards. As I do. If I made my living talking, writing, advising, consulting and researching about history, I would be called “a historian.” It I made my living talking, writing, advising, consulting, studying and researching about geology, I would be called “a geologist.” I don’t know why calling oneself what one does for a living seems to confound so many people when it is ethics, but I bet you can get the hang of it if you stop and think a bit.

                  • Read your Plato–he often spoke about the Sophists. They made money arguing, but were they really saying anything?
                    Your making a living doesn’t make your claim any less tricky, by which I mean, it is possible that you make your living based on a myth that somehow just because you call a thing right or wrong it makes it so.

                    • But nothing here has ever suggested, nor do I suggest in most seminars, that me arguing that something is true “makes it so.” Ethical analysis is as good as its logic and the legitimacy of the standards applied. All my seminars are interactive—I don’t deliver edicts. I have my conclusions.
                      That said, before I’ll accept demeaning comments from a commenter, I usually require some evidence of of care, discipline and thought. Your initial comment provided exactly none of those, but rather argued against positions I didn’t take.

                      I did not, for example, say, nor do I believe that Rush would have apologized without the uproar (I don’t think his sponsors had anything to do with it, but it was an apology under pressure.) That does not mean that the apology has no meaning, which I made clear if you could read or comprehend the post or the related article about apologies. AGAIN: her position would mean that no apology issued after criticism could be taken as sincere. I believe Rush was sincere in what he apologized for. I am also quite sure that he wouldn’t have apologized if he didn’t feel he had to,

                      Nor did I say that she was “on par” with Rush. I said that she could have shown herself to be better than he was, regarding partisan combat, by being gracious and allowing a truce. Your argument is absurdly literal and using “fat” to insult Limbaugh is juvenile and a form of bigotry itself. I also understood the point of his Youtube comparison, whereas you evidently do not.

                      I am not surprised you are familiar with Sophists, I will humbly accept qualitative criticism of my analysis from those who demonstrate from their comments that they actually comprehend it and have taken the time to consider what I write. Most here do. You clearly have not. So you can show minimal respect and courtesy and demonstrate some reading comprehension before you attack my professional credentials, or you can find another place to troll. You are here by leave of my generosity, since your initial comments were excuses to spam your blog (the links have been removed.); I allowed your comments to remain as a courtesy, which has not been reciprocated. So far, your most sophisticated commentary has been to call Rush Limbaugh a “fat perv.” Sorry—I need more trenchant thinking than that before I let someone imply that I’m a fraud.

                  • But let me take this one step further, so there is no confusion. I am not saying that you are not good at the consulting, writing, etc. that you do. You might be great. You might not be very good at it. It would be hard for me to judge one way or another based on the blog. I think you are off on your points, and the arguments you’ve put forth are not convincing, but that’s secondary since to be honest, I am not sure I truly believe that I believe in the idea of an ethicist. (You can get paid for it, but that doesn’t make what you do any more real.) They pay actors to pretend.
                    I guess, when put simply, I would like to know where you feel you get the authority to judge right from wrong? Does come from study? Study of what? Does it come from getting paid? I don’t know that that is a very convincing notion. But I am willing to try to be convinced. As I said before, there is no doubting your intelligence. I just have some doubts about your project here.

                    • I frankly couldn’t care less about your “doubts”. I have not seen any evidence thus far that you are capable of a coherent argument. Much of what you ask for is available in the Concepts and Special Terms and the Comment Policies—you obviously haven’t taken the time to read them. I am not going to give you a seminar. Do your home work. I wrote it to be read.

                      I have no “authority” to judge conduct, any more than anyone—we all have authority, and judging conduct is an obligation of living in a society. Judgments made using sound reasoning and ethical principles are more valuable than judgments based on emotions, rationalizations, bias and stupidity. There’s a lot written about THAT here too. Again, do your damn homework.

                      If you don’t believe in “the idea of an ethicist”, then you don’t believe that there are any skills and knowledge involved in determining right from wrong. If that’s the case, 1) you are sadly confused or 2) you are hanging out at the wrong blog. I have no time or interest in debating with people who think matters of right and wrong should just be decided at whim according to what feels good at the time, or what they can get away with. And “who are you to judge?” is specifically banned as an argument here, because it is boring, lazy, and fatuaous.

                    • Yeah, I listen to Rush’s show when I can… which is rare these days. I listen to a lot of things. How, though, is this relevant? The “fat” part, though the result of pure, schoolyard spite, I can forgive. When you specifically call someone a “perv”, however, you directly assault his character at the most basic level. I never call anyone that unless it’s demonstrably the case.

  2. Damn! I wish I had not edited my comment of 4 March. I had “that feeling” that Ms. Fluke was more than just a law student who wandered in to talk to the committee…. she’s an operative, and thus not eligible for the kid-glove handling some claim she deserves.

      • Perhaps, but as I learn more about Ms. Fluke, it is obvious that she’s been an activist for a while.

        She also took part in trying to shut down a pro-life event while she was at Cornell.

        She strikes me as the kind of person who can dish stuff out, but cannot take return fire.

      • I agree, sort of. As we learn more about Ms. Fluke we are seeing that she is not “just another law student”. That said, she should not be greeted with vulgarity and personal attacks, but she is definitely open to attacks on her position, if one disagrees with that position.

        Rush is no babe in the woods here and he knows what can happen when one’s mouth overrides one’s brain. As is often the case he either misread what was said, or disregarded the context of what was said and made a fool of himself. Not really new ground for him…

  3. Let’s cut through all the BS…Thirty cents a day for “The Pill”….”The Reproductive Rights Crisis” a figment of the imagination….and has been cooked up by BHO/DNC/ABC/CBS/NBC…all this over thirty cents a day? You are being duped! Let me put it in perspective for you….one week of oral contraceptives costs the same as one cup of regular coffee at Starbucks….one month of the pill or a late night pizza… year of the pill…..or one month of cell-phone service….I know there are alot of independent responsible women out there….don’t sell your vote to Obama for 30 cents a day….it will cost all of us a lot more in the long run

  4. The writer of this article makes me want to puke and I am disgusted that this person/persons is allowed to make up bullshit out of thin air. How stupid can they get? I just don’t know what else to say. You asshole, are the minority.

    • What a persuasive and well-reasoned response, Vic! I like the irony, though: “If you think someone should forgive a person for calling her crude names, you’re an asshole!” And I like your ultimate condemnation—I’m in the minority! I’m so ashamed.

      Except that if assholes are a minority in the US, it’s a very powerful and vocal minority. My membership is occasional at best, unfortunatly.

  5. Of course, she is not going to accept his apology. She wants to keep this thing going as long as possible. The whole thing was political from the start and still is. The Republican Party is now in deep do do.

  6. Yep, She could have made him look like more of a fool by graciously accepting his apology whether it was real or not. She would have looked stronger and more in control than Rush. Now she looks more partisan and less of a person working for the rights of people regardless of politics. She had a right to be hurt and angry. She might have helped change the tone of political discourse. Oh well, no cigar for Rush or Ms. Fluke.

  7. The problem with this article is that Mr. Limbaugh did not actually retract the bulk, and essence, of his inappropriate comments, and that which he did retract was retracted conditionally–he wishes he chose other words, apparently for a similar message. To accept the apology would be to pretend that there was a meaningful apology. There is a double standard when the author faults Ms. Fluke for not being gracious in accepting an apology when the only apology was the words “I apologize” followed by not apologizing for the bulk of his communication.

    • That’s a warped reading of the apology. Rush need not apologize for his criticism of Fluke’s argument, and he doesn’t have to retract it. He can say that she wants other peopl to pay for her sexual activities—it’s a stupid argument, but it’s not something he has to apologize for. The legitimate criticism of his comments was the personal denigration. He apologized for that. He said he did not intend a personal attack, and that’s true–he was using Fluke as a prop in a typical, though unfunny and badly-conceived, riff. Activists want him to apologize for his opinion. If he believes it, he needn’t apologize. Both the left and right like to argue that opposing opinions aren’t just wrong, but “offensive.” That’s Rush. And that’s Fluke.

      And you miss the point. The point is that insisting on a perfect apology-she said that she would regard any apology as insincere, you know—just keeps the warfare on. It’s a ritual, and the obligation of the one apologized to is to clear the air and accept it. Most forgiveness isn’t 100% sincere, either….and it doesn’t matter. The point is to let the other side off the hook, create good will, and bring adversaries together while defusing long term bad feeling.

  8. She misrepresented herself to the media, with the assistance of House Democrats, as a typical law student, when we now know that she was an activist on women’s health issues before she enrolled at Georgetown, and in fact chose the Jesuit institution specifically to make an issue of its insurance coverage.

    Jack, where are the quotes or evidence to support your personal attacks on Fluke? I don’t see anything in the link you provided quoting Fluke saying that she’s a non-activist, nor does it support your claim that she chose Georgetown in order to make an issue of its insurance coverage.

    No one in the national media cared about Fluke until the hearing she didn’t speak at, which was on February 15th. Apparently on February 15th, a Washington Post blogger “caught her outside the hearing room” and interviewed her; the post based on that interview was published on February 16th. Your claim that she spent time misrepresenting herself as a non-activist doesn’t seem fair, since Fluke apparently was being open with the media about her activism on February 15th, which is the earliest date anyone would have interviewed her.

    In that interview, Fluke also discussed the reason she decided to attend Georgetown: “I decided I was absolutely not willing to compromise the quality of my education in exchange for my health care.”

    It appears that your claim that she decided to attend Georgetown “specifically to make an issue of its insurance coverage” isn’t true. She decided to attend it because it’s a high-quality school (for all we know, the best quality school she got into), despite, not because of, the health insurance situation.

    • “Like Cindy Sheehan, Fluke was a left-wing activist cast in the role of everywoman (or as much of an “everywoman” as a student at an elite law school can be). “Fluke has a long history of feminist advocacy,” reports the Daily Caller: “While [an undergraduate] at Cornell, Fluke’s organized activities centered on the far-left feminist and gender equity movements. Fluke participated in rallies supporting abortion, protests against war in Iraq and efforts to recruit other womens’ [sic] rights activists to campus.” She even got a bachelor’s degree in something called “Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality Studies.”

      She was represented by the media, fed by the Democrats who recruited her, as a younger, typical, concerned female student to speak for women at Georgetown. In fact, she’s more like a Democratic operative and an extreme feminist. I don’t think any of that excuses Rush, but she was not up-front about herself (I saw her debate Megyn Kelly on Fox, and she was just ” a law student”). You’re spinning. And it’s a tangential aspect of the post, though it explains why she wants to keep the acrimony going.

      • Jack you claimed that Fluke misrepresented herself as a non-activist. This was not true.

        But nothing you quote supports that claim. That a far-right op-ed page claims that she was “cast in the role of everywoman” doesn’t support your claim that Fluke has ever misrepresented her past or her activism. I’ve already proven, beyond any doubt, that Fluke was openly talking to the media about her activism as of March 15; how can you square that with the claim that she was representing herself as a non-activist?

        …she was not up-front about herself (I saw her debate Megyn Kelly on Fox, and she was just ” a law student”)

        With all due respect, Jack, I can find absolutely no evidence that this interview ever happened.

        TVNewser has a listing of every TV interview Fluke has done, as of yesterday morning; none of them were with Megyn Kelly. A Google search doesn’t turn up any evidence of Kelly ever interviewing Fluke, and neither does the Fox’s website search function. Fox’s website for Kelly’s show has an archive of Kelly’s segments, including a segment in which she talks about the Fluke case, but I couldn’t find any in which she interviewed Fluke; why would Fox bury what’s currently one of the hottest stories in the country? I watched the first few minutes of Kelly’s segment about the Fluke case, she doesn’t mention ever interviewing Fluke, nor does she announce any plans to interview Fluke.

        We’ve tussled in the past about your habit of using your own memory as if it were evidence, while I’ve argued that memory without documentation is no evidence at all. Human memory — especially memory that supports what we want to believe — is unreliable. I think that your citation of an interview that seemingly never occurred proves my point.

        You wisely don’t even attempt to defend your claim that Fluke chose Georgetown “specifically to make an issue of its insurance coverage.”

        It’s not reasonable behavior to misrepresent Fluke as long as it’s not the central point of your post. Tangential or not, don’ t you think you should hold yourself to ordinary standards of accuracy?

        You accused her of two things that you can’t prove, and that I’ve shown to be untrue — not with half-baked memories, but with direct quotes from Fluke herself. The ethical thing to do is revise your post to correct your errors.

        • 1. You’re right about Kelly—I checked too. It was a debate with another brunette whom I took to be Fluke at the time (I missed the intros), taking her position. (The words under the interview said something like: “Law student argues that…”) Thanks. That was my first view of the whole issue, in fact.
          2. It doesn’t prove your point. You know and I know that Fluke was described in most (I can’t say all) news reports as just “a female law student.” That was misleading. I do not rely on my memory in writing posts; I occasionally do, and need to be careful, in responding to comments. I am trying to find a happy medium between timely response and accuracy–you’re just talking to me; I’m talking to about ten. That’s not an excuse, but it is the reason some mistakes occur.
          3. I re-read the way I wrote the sentence about Georgetown in light of your earlier comment, and revised it. It is silly to suggest that anyone would go to law school just to challenge a health care policy. However, she was already armed and ready, as an activist on the same topic, when it arose, and it’s fair to assume that since she made an issue of coverage before she enrolled, she was prepared to do so and perhaps expected to do so….but my original phrasing was wrong. See–I do pay attention to you.
          4. All that said, I am not misrepresenting Fluke. She’s an operative who happens to be a law student, and that’s exactly how she’s acting. She wasn’t the unprepared, naive, defenseless young woman who just told her story to a sort-of Congressional committee and got viciously attacked by a big, bad radio talk show host. She misrepesented herself, with assistance. That doesn’t make Rush’s comments any less objectionable, but it does explain, in part, why she would rather keep the fight brewing rather than defuse it.
          5. I want you to keep me honest, Barry—that’s a service. It still doesn’t challenge the point of the post in the least.

          • Thank you, Barry, for saying so well what I wanted to point out. Sandra Fluke was introduced at the congressional hearing as an activist and has never misrepresented herself. Anyone who followed this story had to have seen the video with her credentials displayed. If people aren’t paying attention, it’s not her fault. She has stated that she wanted to go to Georgetown, and was aware of their insurance policy and intended to try to change it. The administration, from what I hear, has the utmost respect for her and has defended her from Rush’s attacks. Blame the media for the “poor little law student” image, but she has displayed nothing but dignity in this fiasco, even if you disagree with her response to Rush’s apology. It was about as insincere as you can get, an obvious cowtowing to his fleeing sponsors.

            The idea that Fluke is some kind of “Manchurian Candidate,” groomed by the Democrats to become a contraception activist law student just in time to defend the Affordable Care Act from Republican objections is beyond absurd–it’s paranoid. It’s also an insult to women. I’m sure there are numerous women who are knowledgeable on this issue who could have testified. And the fact that numerous states have this insurance requirement, passed by Republican legislatures, makes the entire discussion just a continuing part of the Republican primary circus. I’m enjoying it very much.

            • You do know that it wasn’t a proper Congressional hearing, right? And that the Democrats sandbagged the process by scheduling a male witness, trying to substitute Fluke without the customary advance notice to check credentials and expertise, and then staging a walkout on the “all male” pretense when they had recruited the male witness? Then they called Fluke to “testify” without Republicans present, in an unofficial hearing, so she didn’t have to face legitimate questioning?

              Paranoid indeed.

              You and Barry are of a piece with Media Matters: you accept and acknowledge no criticism or responsibility for misconduct on the Left. Note: I have written that Obama’s position regarding church run institutions was correct (though his “compromise” is flim-flam). I condemned Rush’s comments without reservations. But pointing out that your partisan soul-mate Fluke has been part of intentional misrepresentation and has shown herself as graceless and vindictive is too much for you to accept.

              And you tell me, Jan, since you endorse Fluke’s dishonest reasoning regarding apologies: is it your position that once someone has been criticized, pressured and threatened with consequences, it is impossible to apologize? That any apology under such circumstance MUST be insincere? That’s what she is saying—are you agreeing with that?

              So President Obama’s apology for the Quran burning must be similarly insincere, right? And the Muslims are therefore justified in rejecting it…right? That’s your position and Fluke’ you have the courage to own it? Because it makes peace impossible, you know. And that’s what ideologues want.

              • Jack, there’s a zillion issues you’re throwing against the fan here, and I’m not going to reply to all of them, because I think you’re losing focus (presumably because you realize that your accusations against Fluke can’t be defended).

                But I do want to address your claim that I never criticize misconduct on the left. That’s simply not true. On your own blog, I’ve more than once agreed with your criticisms of Democrats (I think I did so with regard to Spitzer just last week).

                Over the years, I’ve criticized Dems and lefties countless times on my blog and in my political cartoons, including criticizing lefties who make misogynistic attacks on right-wing women. I criticize right-wingers much more often — I don’t claim to be a neutral party at all! — but I also criticize lefties and Democrats. I’d be happy to provide links if you doubt me.

                • I accept that, Barry,but my only data is what you choose to say here. Mostly, I feel like you choose to ride to the rescue of liberal causes and politicians who get swiped by me in a larger context, like our tiff about whether Obama’s international expressions of “regret” constituted apologies in the context of the Times ombudsman’s apparent cluelessness about his own biases.

                  My Media Matters comparison was quite unjustified, however, and I sincerely apologize to you for that. You’re usually fair, and though I may not always sound like it, I do appreciate your efforts to keep me fair as well.

              • It doesn’t matter that it wasn’t a “proper” congressional hearing, as Barry has stated. The video was played over and over, with her activist title predominantly displayed.

                They picked the best witness they could and figured out a way to have her testify. But some on the right actually are portraying this as some kind of long-term scheme planned in advance in anticipation of a tiff about contraceptives. Yeah, paranoid.

                I have often, on this blog, criticized Obama and the left. I agree with you about Wasserman-Schultz. I don’t like her. I also think the left has a double standard on this issue, although I’ve never heard of a politician changing his stance on an issue because of something Maher says. It happens frequently with Limbaugh.

                No, I don’t believe that Limbaugh’s apology is sincere. This is the guy that famously stated that he never apologizes. Only when he is faced with financial consequences does he apologize for his “wording,” but not the underlying accusation. And “wording” does not cover his request that Fluke video tape her sex life for his enjoyment. His apology doesn’t even meet Imus standards.

                It’s very possible Obama isn’t truly sorry for the Quran burnings, and only did it to save American lives. That’s a bit more honorable than protecting your pocket book. And Obama apologizes all the time, right? But no, the Afghanis are under no obligation to accept it. Mainly because this is just one in a long of list of humiliations we have subjected them to with this war. And Limbaugh’s remark is just one in a long list of personal, disgusting attacks he has made on individuals. I can provide you with a list, if you like.

                No, peace is not possible when countries and people deliberately attack and humiliate each other, and then expect to say “I’m sorry,” and everything will be okay. I’m not talking about inadvertant stupid remarks and diplomatic mistakes. I’m talking about invading countries and deliberately humiliating people without thinking about the consequences.

          • 1 and 3. Thanks for conceding that.

            2 and 4. It’s not relevant how Fluke has been described in “most news reports.” Fluke doesn’t write the news reports.

            You wrote in your post that Fluke “misrepresented herself to the media […] as a typical law student.” But that’s not true, and if you don’t withdraw it, then you’re being dishonest.

            All you can fairly hold her responsible for is what she, herself, says, and she clearly and forthrightly has described herself as a college activist — not only to the mainstream media, but also in her remarks to Congress. It was literally the third thing she said to Congress, in fact – she said “good morning,” she said “I’m a third year student,” and she said she’s a past president of her school’s reproductive rights organization. How much more up front could she have been?

            Suppose I told the Washington Post “I’m a cartoonist and a blogger,” testified before Congress that “I’m a cartoonist and a blogger,” and then released printed text of my remarks before Congress describing myself as “a cartoonist and a blogger.” Then ABC reported that I’m a cartoonist but doesn’t mention the blog. Would it be honest of you to claim that I had misrepresented myself to the media?

            5. Your blog post conflates two different things; being ungracious and being unethical. I agree that Fluke was ungracious, although I can’t blame her (it’s easy for you to dismiss the harm Rush did; you’re not the one that he insulted over fifty times over a couple of days.) I don’t agree that being ungracious is, in and of itself, unethical.

            I also think you’re spinning like crazy to make excuses for Rush. You disagree with the idea that an apology in this situation “must include not only contrition for words used, but also for the opinion expressed.”

            But the “opinion expressed” was that Fluke is a prostitute, and that she wants to be paid by the government for having sex. Rush clearly expressed this opinion not once, but many times, over the course of two days. Why do you think Ms. Fluke is wrong to want him to apologize for that opinion, and not merely the words he chose? If he had just called her an “escort” but not a “slut,” would that have been okay?

            Rush’s apology was explicitly not for the content of his statement, but for the words chosen, e.g., “My choice of words was not the best…I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.

            This is a textbook case of your apology category #9: “Deceitful apologies,in which the wording of the apology is crafted to appear apologetic when it is not (“if my words offended, I am sorry”).” Rush — an expert speaker, far more articulate than 99% of the population — explicitly apologized for his “word choices” three times in his “apology,” but never actually apologized for the actual sentiments he expressed literally dozens of times about Ms. Fluke.

            She’s quite right to hold out for a better apology, and you’re completely wrong to attack her for thinking that someone who calls her a prostitute over and over and over in public owes her a real apology, not just an apology for “word choices.”

            • Let me just say (having read your reply to Jan) that of course I realize (and I bet Jan did, too) that Fluke didn’t testify before the official committee meeting. That’s not relevant to your false accusation that Fluke misrepresented herself.

              The point is, did she or did she not misrepresent herself? And the facts are crystal clear: She did not. You should correct your post.

            • 1. Barry, it wasn’t a Congressional hearing. It was the Democrats on the committee holding their own hearing. There was no legitimate cross examination. She wasn’t vetted. Do you regard a prosecution without defense counsel a trial?
              2. I’ll change the wording to “she was misrepresented.” I think she was less than forthcoming: simply saying she was past president of a school organization doesn’t tell the story. She had authored articles; she is on the far pole of what one might consider “reproductive rights.” She apparently advocates full insurance coverage of gender re-assignment surgery—personally, I agree with her, but since she wasn’t examined in her beliefs, she was not accurately presented to the public. She was a Trojan Horse…no pun intended.
              3. Barry, he did apologize. “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.” What does the last sentence mean? That isn’t “I’m sorry if I offended.” That’s “I didn’t mean it the way it came out.” Choice of words covers slut, prostitute, “round heeled.” “Analogy of the situation” covers the stupid video comment and “she wants to be paid for sex.” Fluke wants an apology for Rush’s contempt for her position. Tough. He has a right to that, and she can take it.
              4. Don’t say I’m making excuses for Rush. My view on Rush is on record in two posts, and my condemnation was without reserve, except to note, fairly, that in his field, crossing lines is an occupational hazard. But his apology was good enough.
              5. It isn’t just the gracelessness of the rejection that is unethical. It is also ungenerous, and forgiveness itself is an ethical value. She wants to fight. She won’t accept a preferred hand. She could make public discourse better and be a good example, and instead she chose to maintain discord. Yes—I think that’s unethical conduct. It costs her nothing to accept his apology other than leverage.
              6. And again: do you agree with her that once there are threats and pressure, NO apology is sincere?

              • 1. Irrelevant to my point. She publicly described herself as an activist at the most public venue she was invited to speak in.

                2. Thanks for making the change. “Less than forthcoming” is unfair, imo — I think you’re being completely unforgiving of her for not having said the precise words you think she should have said — but the important thing is that you corrected your post, and thanks for that.

                3. Oh, please. “I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.”” isn’t an apology — it’s an attempt to dodge responsibility. It’s also obviously untrue. Given how often Rush talks, I agree with you that we should give him some leeway; even someone as extraordinarily well spoken as Rush, can have a slip of the tongue now and again. We’ve all had the experience of saying “does” when we meant “doesn’t” and so on.

                But Rush attacked her dozens of times over the course of two days. Do you really expect anyone to buy that was just an accidental slip of the tongue, as opposed to something he said intentionally because it was what he meant to say?

                You’re parsing his apology with a fine-tooth comb, trying to find an apology that isn’t there. The plain fact is, he three times specified that he was apologizing for his word choice, and he excused himself by falsely claiming that he didn’t mean it. “I should have chosen better words, and I didn’t mean it” isn’t an apology for calling someone a slut.

                4. You’re making excuses for Rush right now, Jack. You’re bending over backwards to make an obvious #9 apology into a sincere apology, and your post called his apology “direct and unequivocal,” when in fact it was full of equivocation — both by saying “I didn’t mean to say what I said,” and by the emphasis on “word choices” rather than on his actual insults.

                You do criticize Rush, and good for you. But you’re also making excuses for his lame-ass apology.

                5. Being ethical shouldn’t require being a doormat; she should accept a real apology, but it’s unfair of you to expect her to accept an obvious #9 apology.

                By the way, it’s obvious that you and I have a good-faith disagreement over whether Rush’s apology was a #6.75 or a #9. Suppose you agreed with me that Rush’s apology was a #9. Would you still say that Fluke was ethically obligated to accept the apology?

                (Thank you for providing the tautology of apologies, btw! Very useful.)

                6. Fluke actually said that Rush saying his choice of words wasn’t the best changes nothing, and that’s especially true because he only issued his non-apology under pressure. The first clause seems to be what mattered more to her, and our discussion should give that primacy.

                If Rush gave her a real apology — not just for his “word choice,” but accepting responsibility for what he intentionally said (which would be the exact opposite of saying “I didn’t mean it”) and apologizing for his many personal attacks on her — then I think she should accept it, even though it would be an apology delivered under pressure.

                • If Rush’s apology was a #9, she would have no obligation to accept it, but it would be exemplary ethics to do so. Treating people better than they deserve is usually ethical.

                  I accept Rush’ apology as phrased because I know exactly what he means. I have fallen into the same trap myself, harshly criticizing an individual on the basis of a particular act or statement, and characterizing the individual harshly or ridiculing him or her to show how wrong the conduct is. And I don’t intend the attack personally, but it certainly reads that way. The individual becomes an abstraction. You’ve never met him or her, so its easy to focus on the negatives. I believe Rush when he says he doesn’t mean a personal attack.

                  I think I wrote about this in relation to Arlen Specter, whom I had criticized in very harsh terms for switching parties. I met him last year, and he was stunningly nice to me. I don’t think that necessarily proves anything, but I do know that if I had written my piece after meeting him, the tone would have been more restrained.

                  • If Rush’s apology was a #9, she would have no obligation to accept it, but it would be exemplary ethics to do so. Treating people better than they deserve is usually ethical.


                    But I was going somewhere else with this. You agree that she has no obligation to accept a #9 apology (although it would be exemplary of her to do so).

                    You don’t think Rush’s apology was a #9. Fair enough.

                    But isn’t it possible that Sandra Fluke has a good-faith belief that Rush’s apology was a #9? Just as I do?

                    If what’s really going on here is that you and Ms. Fluke have a good-faith disagreement about Rush’s apology — you sincerely think it was a 6.75, she sincerely thinks it was a 9 — then do you still think she’s obligated to accept his apology?

                    P.S. Thanks for the rest of your comment, and the story about Specter. I did read and appreciate it, even though I’m not quoting and responding to it. 🙂

                    • Your point is well taken about Fluke’s belief about the apology. If it were Fluke and Rush in a vacuum, then I would be 100% on board.

                      But it is public now. Both the apology and the acceptance are symbolic and have public, rather than private, significance. When Jeremy Lin said that he forgave the headline writer and didn’t think it was intentional, that was a gracious public act, and defused a lot of tension. (I personally don’t believe Lin thinks the headline was an accident. How could he?)

                      I didn’t make that factor clear, apparently, in the post. I doubt, for instance, whether Hillary really forgave Bill for Monica, but if she came out in public and said she didn’t (in 1998), he might have been impeached. When a dispute becomes public, the considerations change. For Limbaugh to apologize at all in public is a big deal–he just never does it. Fluke accepting the apology would also be a big deal, and would do tangible good for the culture, for discourse, for politics. Rejecting it accomplishes nothing, as I wrote. It’s petty, whether Rush is sincere or not. I said she was an Ethics Dunce: she doesn’t recognize what the right and beneficial thing to do is. She could be part of a solution to a serious cultural/political problem, and instead she is content to fan the flames.

                      In hort, in this context, it shouldn’t matter whether she thinks the apology is sincere or not.

              • She apparently advocates full insurance coverage of gender re-assignment surgery—personally, I agree with her, but since she wasn’t examined in her beliefs, she was not accurately presented to the public. She was a Trojan Horse…no pun intended.

                I have no problem with insurance companies choosing to cover contraception, gender re-assignment surgery, or conversion therapy, whether for ideological reasons, or merely because they believe enough people are willing pay enough money to cover the costs.

                The government should neither prohibit nor mandate such coverage.

  9. This row over Limbaugh and Fluke sets new lows in political discourse in the United States. The parties in conflict appear to have taken to heart the “lessons” of other conflicts and the parties thereto, like for example the numerous conflicts in the Middle East. Americans now have no reason to look forward to anything else in either the near or far term but ever increasingly painful, personalized, threatening, depraved, destructive and generally unethical, amoral, ends-justify-the-means “political violence.” Words are no longer enough. That may be a grim and pessimistic assessment, but I believe it is (and will continue to be) the truth.

    • I have had a sense that such stuff was going to happen in the wake of Prop 8. In essence, the gay community and supporters carried out massive retaliation against the measure’s supporters.

      The Heritage Foundation documented those actions.

      Mormons, in particular, were targeted. But I guess Mormons opposed to gay rights are acceptable targets for bullying, but a feminist who wants to force a Catholic institution to pay for her contraception should get a free ride.

      • I am familiar with the unethical activism you cite, including what is on line about it at the Heritage Foundation website. Other firsthand sources either corroborate those accounts, or provide me additional accounts on the violence of the “equality movement.” I have a number of relatives in California, and have lived there for significant parts of my life. It is ironic, for the term “bullying” (and the general topic of “bully-ology”) to be so prominent at a time when there is ostensibly so much alarm and concern about acts of bullying, prevention of such, etc. – when in reality, “on the ground,” more (and more brutal) actual bullying, and threats of bullying, are taking place – and are being encouraged and enabled – every new day.

        This is what I expect on Election Night 2012, November: just as in 2008, a massive crowd will assemble in downtown Chicago. The ostensible purpose of that assembly will be for the celebration of Barack Obama’s presidency and his imminent, expected re-election. But, just as it was in 2008, another, unstated, underlying reason for that mass of people will be a cover for what I call “rioters in reserve.” Yes: Blackmail. Extortion. Terror and the threat of terror. Bullying “plus oultre. ”

        I saw that mob in Chicago for exactly what it was then, and I know exactly what it will be assembled for all over again, this year. If, in 2008, there had been the slightest doubt that Obama could prevail over John McCain, you would have seen that crowd in Chicago turn ugly, fast. If it had started to become clear that Obama was losing the election, you would have seen that town burn to greater devastation than was seen after the great fire of 1871. That is what will happen, if on Election Night 2012 it becomes doubtful that Obama will be re-elected. That is what is very likely to happen to some extent, in any case; revelers, like those we’ve seen in recent years in cities with professional sports champions, are just as likely to do severe damage to public and others’ private property in Chicago, even notwithstanding an Obama victory. Only, this year, if Obama is voted out, multiple cities will burn. Mark those words. This is the state of U.S. politics and culture.

        And it is only going to get worse. Americans have devolved beyond the tipping point with their bully culture. First like Greece, then like Syria. Ethiopia (or, is it Egypt, Iraq, or some other hell-hole?), here we come.

        • No. “Cover”? “Rioters in Reserve”? I might have bought that regarding 2008, but it was extremely clear (at least to me) that Obama had that one wrapped up 3 weeks in advance.

          In 2012, certainly not. The race-tensions aren’t there like they might have been 4 years ago.

          • Proam, I do think you are excessively pessimistic.I wouldn’t want to guess what would happen if we had another Florida 2000 mess, but if Obama loses in 2012 and isn’t irresponsible himself, there won’t be any violence.

          • We’ll see. The 2008 election outcome might have been clear enough to you and me soon enough. But it was not clear enough, soon enough, to enough rioters in reserve, to keep them from infiltrating that Chicago crowd in large numbers – ready, “just in case,” to do their dirty work. That “r.i.r. guard” – men, mostly – are people like Sandra Fluke: they are just itching for action, likening it to sport, and are going to hurt people and destroy stuff, even if their enemies unconditionally surrender.

            Racial tensions aren’t all whipped-up right now as much as they could be; that much is clear. But that’s just another card being held in reserve for later play. There’s a lot of race-bait “out there,” and ever more fish eager to bite it. It’ll get more interesting if, as he had promised at one point (but since when can he be trusted to keep such a promise?), Newt Gingrich stalks the President from city to city (regardless whether Gingrich gets his party’s nomination), giving strong speeches that promote policies radically different from the administration’s. We’ll see.

        • Yikes…thanks, Gregory—I hadn’t checked the links. What in the world got into you, Michael? Why was that necessary…or relevant?

          To show that my language describing Fluke was tame as compared to the language I described others.

          And, as far as I know, Fluke has not “earned” the title of nithing- and it would have been just as wrong for Limbaugh to have called her a nithing as to call her a slut.

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