Ethics Train Wreck Chronicles: Villains, Victims, Hypocrites and Unlikely Heroes In the Contraception / Limbaugh / Fluke Debacle

If this isn’t the Ethics Train Wreck of the Year, we have something truly horrible in store for us down the line. A no-so-brief brief re-cap:

  • The Obama Administration announces that church-run institutions like hospitals and universities will still be required to offer insurance coverage for abortions, sterilizations and other medical matters that might be in direct opposition to church beliefs. It’s a cynical move, designed to cater to the Democratic base at the expense of religious institutions. It is also irresponsible, since it jeopardizes the huge proportion of medical services performed by church institutions.
  • Conservatives scream that the measure is a breach of religious freedom. The is either ignorant or a lie. The Constitution has no provision requiring the government to make special accommodations for churches or church-operated institutions.
  • Caught by surprise by the intensity of the backlash, the Administration crafts a “compromise,” which is essentially deceitful sleight-of-hand, form over substance. The insurance companies now have to provide those services but the religious institutions don’t have to pay for it. But of course they will, through increased premiums elsewhere.
  • Flagging the deceit, Republican attacks on the measure continue. Democrats successfully frame the debate as a conservative attack on contraception, which it is a misrepresentation, and a “war on women,” which is ridiculous and unfair. The issue is churches being forced to provide or pay for services that violate their faith—which the government has every right to do.
  • The controversy activates GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who is a fringe extremist in sexual matters and toes the Roman Catholic line. He really thinks birth control is immoral. This position, which is unethical, is suddenly given exposure it doesn’t deserve in the 21st Century
  • Foster Freiss, one of Santorum’s key supporters, goes on television and makes an inappropriate, older than Methuselah joke about aspirin being a contraceptive (if a woman holds the tablets between her knees). The joke is disrespectful to women, and he is an idiot, but the media works overtime to cast him as a typical Republican.
  • Many media sources, incredibly, incompetently and misleadingly report that he seriously suggested that aspirin could be used as a contraceptive, unfairly making him out to be a bigger idiot than he is.
  • In a House hearing on the issue, House Democrats pull a successful and deceptive stunt, recruiting a male witness on the issue of the need to include contraception in insurance plans, then staging a walk-out on the grounds that no women are testifying. The media, which already has muddled the issues in the controversy, duly takes the bait.
  • Sandra Fluke, a 30-year old feminist activist who believes free contraception is a right, testifies before an all-Democrat pseudo-hearing, during which her position is unchallenged, since no opposing voices are among the questioners. This process by itself is deceptive, unfair and unethical. News Media reports, sloppy, careless, misleading and incompetent, widely describe her as merely “a law student” and the informal forum as “a Congressional hearing.”
  • Some of Fluke’s assertions and rhetoric are dubious bordering on disingenuous. Her quoted yearly cost of contraception is wildly exaggerated from the norm. Her use of the term “access to contraception” is deceptive. Nobody, but nobody, has suggested limiting access to contraception, which is widely accessible and generally cheap. Nonetheless, this is adopted by the news media as the terms of the debate.
  • Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh launches into an ill-considered routine casting Fluke as a “slut” and a “prostitute” who wants “us” to pay her to have sex. It is a cruel, unfair, disgraceful and uncivil display. Also not funny.
  • Outrage erupts against Limbaugh, both because his attack was bullying, vulgar and unfair, and also because a lot of people are dying to shut him up and stifle conservative commentary. Petitions circulate calling for a boycott of sponsors of the program.
  • Many of the liberal/progressive individuals most indignant over Limbaugh’s comments were not troubled, or didn’t say so, on the multiple occasions comedian Bill Maher used terms like “twat” and “cunt” to denigrate Republican women. Maher had just given a million dollars to President Obama’s Super PAC. There is cynicism and hypocrisy in this, as well as a double standard.
  • Republicans and conservatives use the Maher incident to excuse Limbaugh, whose offense was 1) worse, because it was directed at a private citizen 2) more widely disseminated, and  3) irrelevant to Maher in any way. Their defense is an unethical rationalization.
  • Democrats use the Limbaugh incident to demand that prominent Republicans condemn his comments, which they have no obligation to do, since he doesn’t speak for them or represent them. It’s a clever and deceptive “When did you stop beating your wife?” trap though: if they refuse, the Republican seem to be excusing Rush; if they do criticize him, they appear to acknowledge  their responsibility for him.
  • The Republicans, in cowardly fashion, generally refuse to condemn Limbaugh. (John McCain is a notable exception.)
  • Several sponsors cave to pressure and drop Limbaugh. The boycott effort is in equal measure an effort to show disapproval of uncivil public discourse (legitimate) and an effort to silence political opinion (unethical.) Maybe a little bit more the latter.
  • Limbaugh apologizes publicly to Fluke for his “analogy,” presumably the dumb comparison of advocating free contraception and prostitution, and his use of the words “slut” and “prostitute.” The apology is narrow, but direct. It only occurs, however, after another round of ridiculing Fluke, so its sincerity is suspect.
  • Fluke, showing no graciousness and proving that she is allied to the “Get Limbaugh off the air” crowd, refuses to accept Limbaugh’s apology. Other activists make it clear that nothing short of an apology for Limbaugh’s opposition to coverage for contraceptives will do, making the real objective of the boycott palpable: censorship by economic boycott. [ Iconoclast liberal commentator—and my college classmate—Michael Kinsley takes a typically rye but fair look at this phenomenon here.]
  • President Obama, maintaining his well-established bad habit of mis-using his power by involving the highest authority in the land in non-governmental disputes and taking sides for and against private citizens, calls Fluke to offer his support and sympathy. This makes his PAC’s willingness to enjoy Bill Maher’s money seem hypocritical to some; in fact, all it does is prove that the call to Fluke is a political stunt designed to keep the pressure on Limbaugh.

Or, to be more succinct, yeccch!

But wait! There’s more!

Laura Ingraham, a frequent presence on Fox News and a conservative radio host herself, refused to criticize Limbaugh’s insults and instead attacked the substance of Fluke’s arguments, which is what Limbaugh should have been doing, of course. This, despite the fact that Ingraham had herself been called a slut in a 2011 TV attack by resident MSNBC boor Ed Schultz, and had been properly indignant about it. But while employing her own double standard on the issue of Limbaugh’s identical insult against another, more vulnerable woman, Ingraham did turn up a spectacular example of a media double standard. Fluke’s public rejection of Limbaugh’s apology took place on The View, where Whoopi and the gang  excoriated Limbaugh for his language. Ingraham drew attention to the same group’s discussion of Schultz’s use of “slut” against Ingraham, in which the women all agreed that it was no big deal. They had a good laugh about it, in fact. You can see the clip here.

The real mark of an Ethics Train Wreck is that it gets so bad, you can’t tell the heroes from the miscreants after a while. Sure enough, who should become a voice of reason in the carnage but….Bill Maher, who tweeted:

“Hate to defend #RushLimbaugh but he apologized, liberals looking bad not accepting. Also hate intimidation by sponsor pullout”

Maher may be a misogynist, but he has integrity. Or does he? Maher lost his Comedy Central show because of threatened boycotts and a public uproar over a politically incorrect remark (on a show called “Politically Incorrect”). Is this just a self-serving tweet by Bill, employing the Golden Rule distortion, “Do Unto Others What You Wish Others Had Done Unto You And Hope They Do Unto You When You’re In The Same Position, Which Could Be Any Minute Now”? Is Bill readying a  mea culpa for his “cunt” comments about Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann?

And the wreck goes on.

66 thoughts on “Ethics Train Wreck Chronicles: Villains, Victims, Hypocrites and Unlikely Heroes In the Contraception / Limbaugh / Fluke Debacle

  1. The issue is churches being forced to provide or pay for services that violate their faith

    Liar, liar, pants on fire.

    I’m not bothering to read past this point.

    • Back off. That IS the issue. I didn’t say it was a valid issue. Remember? But that is still the issue. That’s what the churches and the institutions are protesting; that’s what the GOP Presidential candidates are arguing, and that’s what the phony Obama “compromise” was supposedly addressing. Don’t call me a liar for stating a fact. Yes, it’s a new framing of the “don’t make us pay for an act we think is immoral” complaint, which is ALSO a bogus issue—but it IS the issue.

      • It’s false that churches were going to have to pay a penny for services that violated their faith. Contraception coverage tends to LOWER the cost of insurance plans.

        • Utter sophistry. The institutions were paying for premiums that cover services they oppose, ergo they are paying for the services. Whether the services were more or less expensive is beside the point—they didn’t want them in the package they paid for. Refusing to play word games is hardly “lying.” They pay for the whole package. If I hire a hit man to mow my lawn, I’m still paying money to a hit man, and if I find putting money in a hit man’s pocket, your argument that I’m paying for a lawn mower, not a hit man is hyper-technical bullhockey.

          • If I hire a hit man to mow my lawn, I’m still paying money to a hit man.

            But unless the hit man serves up a free murder for every lawn mowing, you would not be paying him to be a hit man.

            Similarly, if insurance companies were merely required to offer a contraception rider while being permitted to exclude it from the basic policy, purchasing the basic policy does not pay for contraception.

            • Similarly, if insurance companies were merely required to offer a contraception rider while being permitted to exclude it from the basic policy, purchasing the basic policy does not pay for contraception.

              Jack called this “deceitful sleight-of-hand”

              • Jack called this “deceitful sleight-of-hand”

                Does the policy at issue require insurance companies to include contraceptive coverage in their basic policy, or merely require them to offer a separate rider that covers contraception while permitting them to exclude it from their basic policy? (I would not support either policy, as a matter of principle.)

                If the former, then religious institutions can not obtain health coverage for their employees without directly paying for contraceptive coverage. If the latter, they could simply offer only the basic coverage to their employees, who will have the option of choosing to purchase the rider.

                But merely buying a policy from a company that offers contraception coverage to others is not on the same plane as actually buying the contraceptive coverage. After all, where is the logical end point? Refusing to buy electricity because the power company covers contraception for its employees? Not ordering office supplies because the vendor offers contraceptive coverage to its employees?

                • The policy requires insurance companies to include contraception coverage as a direct rider to all policies.

                  I also agree with you on the slippery slope, though I tend to go the other way. Can mormons (who legitimately believe in the old teachings) require their insurance company not cover interracial children of their employees??

                  • The policy requires insurance companies to include contraception coverage as a direct rider to all policies.

                    Do employers have the option of choosing only the basic policy for their employees while excluding the rider?

                    Can mormons (who legitimately believe in the old teachings) require their insurance company not cover interracial children of their employees??

                    They could refuse to purchase a policy that covers interracial children.

              • You’re still paying the insurance company. Whether this coverage is there or not, they’re providing it to other people. I don’t see how this example applies.

          • The institutions were paying for premiums that cover services they oppose, ergo they are paying for the services.

            First, the institutions are not being forced to pay the premiums, but that’s another issue. More importantly, I don’t follow your logic here. And your example doesn’t make it any clearer to me. The insurance companies are bad people who aren’t doing anything bad, so paying them is bad. I don’t get it.

            Refusing to play word games is hardly “lying.”

            No, but using words that are clearly incorrect and misrepresentative of the issue is lying.

            • Those who are making it an issue are using exactly those words, ergo, that is the issue. If they don’t object on that basis, there is no issue. I don’t understand why you’re picking at nits.

          • If everyone was rational, then yes.

            You haven’t heard insurance companies complain about this, as they actually are looking at the bottom line.

            • You haven’t heard insurance companies complain about this, as they actually are looking at the bottom line.

              And what if other insurance companies conclude differently? Or what about nonprofits and mutuals who provide insurance in part for ideological reasons?

              • And what if other insurance companies conclude differently?

                With what we know at this point? They’d be irrational.

                Or what about nonprofits and mutuals who provide insurance in part for ideological reasons?

                Have any of them complained yet? More importantly, how much ideology is allowed to factor in. An insurance company can’t decide not to cover sickle cell anemia because they don’t like blacks.

                • An insurance company can’t decide not to cover sickle cell anemia because they don’t like blacks.

                  One side effect of requiring insurance companies to cover treatment for sickle-cell anemia is that persons with pre-existing sickle-cell anemia can not get insurance at all, even if they want coverage for cancer, diabetes, or heart treatments.

                  Similarly, a woman who requires contraception to treat a pre-existing condition would not be4 able to get insurance at all, if no insurance policies existed that excluded coverage for contraception.

  2. It’s a cynical move, designed to cater to the Democratic base at the expense of religious institutions.

    Really? What about requiring pharmacists to dispense all proscribed medicines?

    This was a proper and rational decision. An exception to the rule for religious institutions would be the cynical (and unconstitutional) move.

    It is also irresponsible, since it jeopardizes the huge proportion of medical services performed by church institutions.

    How does it do this in any way?

    • 1. I’m talking motive. The accounts of how the decision was made make it clear that it was a political calculation.
      2. Simple. Non-profit religious institutions do a lot of health care work that would have had to be picked up by other sources if they decided to stop providing them, as they threatened to do if the administration didn’t back down.

      • 1) Do you have any links? I haven’t seen that.
        2) You’re bying into blackmail. This decision doesn’t affect the health care work that is performed by non-profit religious institutions. It breaks down to: We don’t like decision X, so we’re going to stop doing good things Y and Z until you pay attention to our tantrum. I don’t like the color of speed limit signs, so I’m no longer going to give to goodwill.

        • It may be blackmail but they will stop providing services. Look what they did with Catholic Charities in several states and Washington DC. Once they were told they had to obey the laws on discriminatiing against gays if they had goverment contracts they shut down rather then do so.

      • Jack, am I confused, or has your position on this reversed since last month when you wrote the following?
        “Women have a right under the law for their contraception to be covered by their health insurance. Church-run organizations should not be able to restrict those rights, and the government should not permit “conscience” to outweigh the law.”

        First of all, you didn’t frame the issue as an attack on religion then, and in fact you said that “the Christian soldiers are on the wrong side of this argument,” and more straightforward still, “President Obama is right.” I know you were speaking ethically at the time, and not politically. But if the effect of the policy on religious institutions is an issue now, it was then. What’s changed?

        I suppose that you believed even last month that the right thing to do would have been to never provide women with a right to contraceptive coverage, and that you were saying in your earlier post that the president’s position was only right within the context of what changes had already been made to the law. But I’m still baffled by the tremendous change in tone between then and now. Nor do I understand why you didn’t think this accusation of an attack on religion would have been well-placed in your original discussion of the topic.

        • There’s no contradiction. The law is the law. Obama was enforcing the law. The argument that it was a violation of religious freedom IS the controversy, but it’s bogus and has no traction in the Constitution. I didn’t frame the actual decision as an attack on religion then or now. It was a political calculation that pleasing a core constituency—liberal women—was worth ticking off religious institutions….who would feel attacked, whether it was an attack or not.

          It WAS an issue back then–a bad and ignorant one—and it’s an issue now, also a bad and ignorant one, but it’s an issue. Where did you and tgt get the idea that acknowledging what opponents to the policy are complaining about is advocating, agreeing with or validating it? It’s an issue because they are making it an issue. it’s an issue.

          I take no position on providing free contraceptives at all. I don’t think it’s a right in any way, shape or form. It’s nice. It’s probably cost effective. I find the argument that its a right and that not making it free is restricting “access” is dishonest. I think it’s a slippery slope. I found Fluke’s arguments overstated.

          I can, and do, flag the ethical violations on both sides, which requires treating the matter as if I have no dog in the hunt. It’s a train wreck–EVERYONE is wrong and has behaved badly. That’s the tone. In the previous post, I was talking about one aspect of the controversy at the very beginning. Apples and plums, my friend.

          • By no means was I disputing the fact that the religious conflict is an issue, but that didn’t seem to be all that you were saying. I, and presumably tgt, got the idea that you were agreeing with the views on one side from the declarative language in that section of the post. He said that the administration’s decision was cynical, and “designed to cater to the Democratic base at the expense of religious institutions.” That doesn’t sound like a synopsis of other people’s positions; it sounds like a value judgment.

            Designed. You didn’t say that the move was just perceived as attacking religious institutions, or that it had the incidental effect of outraging them. You gave the impression that you think the administration deliberately acted against religious groups because it thought that there was political advantage in doing so.

            I can accept that my reading of that is attributable to somewhat unclear language, but I don’t see that the same can be said for your declaration that the administrations act was “irresponsible.” I brought up the earlier post because you had defending the idea of holding religious institutions to the law, while this recent comment suggests that doing holding them to this had negative and foreseen consequences. The only conclusion to be made from those two positions is that you think the administration was wrong to institute the law, specifically for the reason that the religious response to it constituted a social threat.

            My point is, either you do have a position on this, or there’s some tension among the value judgements that you’ve applied to your two posts.

            • I see your problem with “irresponsible”, Ed. An action can be right and still irresponsible in the way it was handled. The institutions were sandbagged and didn’t have to be: the manner of the decision jeopardized the huge proportion of humanitarian and educational work performed by religious institutions. Not finding a way to enforce the law without making them violate their conscience was legal, but it was reckless, and since everything I’ve read indicates that it was to some extent an effort to heal the wounds in the base resulting from the really foolish decision to limit the morning after pill’s availability

              The point of the overview was to highlight all unethical elements of all conduct on all sides. Doing that is contradictory on occasion…and action is ethical and unethical in various ways. You were right to call me on it.

      • For ibuprofen, being able to order it would most likely be enough. It’s the attempt to limit access that’s illegal.

        • It’s the attempt to limit access that’s illegal.

          How so? The policy in question does not repeal a pre-existing ban on contraception, or even a ban on insurance companies covering contraception.

  3. Although I understand Rush’s apology to a point. What bothers me about his apology is when he said- “Against my own instincts, against my own knowledge, against everything I know to be right and wrong, I descended to their level when I used those words to describe Sandra Fluke,” the law student. That doesn’t sound (to me) like he wants to take full responsibility. It’s like he is saying that he was influenced by tactics other than his own. Really? He has never used the same tactics with people that were “fair game”?

    • I don’t know how you read it that way. Bill Maher and Ed Schultz, of the Left, have been the ones throwing around words like “slut.” He said that he sunk to their level, not that they made him sink to that level.

      I don’t know what you mean by tactics. Insults? Sure. Ridicule? Sure. Hyperbole? Sure. Legitimate all in the sphere of opinion talk radio. Calling a private citizen a slut and a prostitute, aka whore, for advocating birth control? Never.

      • The way he said it- is like he is saying “I’m not the only one that has done this and had trouble apologizing”. Why did he even bring up the “sinking to their level” bit if he was just truly sorry for what “he” said? I wasn’t thinking about them, however I knew who he was talking about. His apology just seemed cheaper by mentioning that others use insults as well.

        The whole “Rush thing” doesn’t really bother me that much. He went overboard and it made me angry because I have daughters. Maybe I wouldn’t agree with their stance, but I wouldn’t want my girls to be called “sluts” or someone suggesting to the public because they use the pills that they are using it to have reckless sex. I know some use it for homornal purposes. It just didn’t look like an analogy to me, I would have taken it personal. After I cooled off, I considered the source….he is an idiot.

  4. Foster Freiss, one of Santorum’s key supporters, goes on television and makes an inappropriate, older than Methuselah joke about aspirin being a contraceptive (if a woman holds the tablets between her knees). The joke is disrespectful to women, and he is an idiot, but the media works overtime to cast him as a typical Republican.

    I’m not defending the media here, but you missed the real problem with the statement. It was using a joke to make people thnink that contraception is both cheap and available, while giving him deniability.

  5. Nobody, but nobody, has suggested limiting access to contraception, which is widely accessible and generally cheap.

    $30/month may be cheap for you, but for someone who makes $7/hour? Not so much. Shutting off coverage is intended to limit access.

    • $30/month may be cheap for you, but for someone who makes $7/hour? Not so much. Shutting off coverage is intended to limit access.

      And no one is arguing that insurance companies should be prohibited from covering contraception; the issue is whether they should be required to do so. And they should not, any more than restaurants should be required to serve lobster bisque with every order.

      • That’s irrelevant to this specific point. I was noting that Jack was misrepresenting one specific thing, and it has nothing to do with prohibition.

  6. Her quoted yearly cost of contraception is wildly exaggerated from the norm.

    From what I saw of her, I am surprised that no one pointed out that her face and figure are all the contraception she needs. While that would be offensive as Limbaugh calling her a slut (though not as offensive as calling her a nithing), given our culture, someone is expected to say it, as I describe below.

    # President Obama, maintaining his well-established bad habit of mis-using his power by involving the highest authority in the land in non-governmental disputes and taking sides for and against private citizens, calls Fluke to offer his support and sympathy.

    Just recently, a few soldiers were killed in Afghanistan.

    I wonder what Obama said when he called their families.

    Fluke’s public rejection of Limbaugh’s apology took place on The View, where Whoopi and the gang excoriated Limbaugh for his language. Ingraham drew attention to the same group’s discussion of Schultz’s use of “slut” against Ingraham, in which the women all agreed that it was no big deal. They had a good laugh about it, in fact.

    Even more important than the offensiveness of comments by Rush Limabugh, Bill Maher, Ed Schultz, and David Letterman, is how we, as a society, react to such things. Double standards are no standards at all, and there is no reason Rush, either implicitly or explicitly, assumed a higher standard.

    I once observed this double standard years ago. On August 18, 1995, Jim Kennemuir called Chris Morton the “n-word” on Usenet. Even more than six years later, Kennemur’s allies were still claiming that is was somehow not racist.

    If we do not call out people for offensive remarks consistently, people will still use them

    • 1. Fluke looks pretty attractive to me.
      2. Letterman and Maher are comedians, and in fact do have a lower standard to meet than Rush. They still failed to meet it. And the others denigrated public figures. While it isn’t right, it goes with the territory.

  7. Many of the liberal/progressive individuals most indignant over Limbaugh’s comments were not troubled, or didn’t say so, on the multiple occasions comedian Bill Maher used terms like “twat” and “cunt” to denigrate Republican women.

    While Maher’s comments are horrible, they are not at all the same class as Limbaugh’s.

    Limbaugh’s statements weren’t just sexist, they were particularly tailored to impugn his subjects credibility. Poisoning the well. When talking about contraception, calling the person backing it a slut makes her opinion lesser. It wasn’t a conclusion, it was evidence to get this conclusion. Calling someone a twat is simply name calling. Maher should not have been given a pass, but comparing his general instults to Limbaugh’s attacks is a false equivalence. Maher was wrong on one axis. Limbaugh was wrong one 2 different axii.

    • You’re just aping back what I already wrote elsewhere. I know all that. It’s still a double standard. Maher was more vulgar, Rush was worse. https://ethicsalarms.com/2012/03/03/rushs-misogyny-no-defense/ QUOTE:

      “Yes, Maher’s words were uglier than Limbaugh’s, as El Rushbo only referred to Fluke as a “slut” and “round-heeled.” Sarah Palin, however, is a public figure. It is unfair and repulsive to insult her purely on the basis of her gender, but at least she is fair game to a political comedian like Maher. Fluke is a private citizen and student, properly participating in our system by testifying before Congress. For the nation’s highest-rated radio personality to attack her character and dignity in such personal and vile terms goes beyond unfair and cruel to outright bullying. It also smacks of intimidation,and an attempt to discourage political speech. Rush should have no defenders, None.”

      I am recounting the tenor of the development of the controversy from both sides.

  8. Democrats use the Limbaugh incident to demand that prominent Republicans condemn his comments, which they have no obligation to do, since he doesn’t speak for them or represent them.

    Republican congressman are tied to Rush. They court his favor and his opinion. They cite him as influential and a conservative thought leader.

    Yes, this is all pandering to his listenership, but it’s the Republicans who tied themselves to Rush. They can’t pretend that tie isn’t there when he goes farther beyond the bounds of decency then they like.

    The liberal entertainers do not hold that same position.

    • They are not “tied” to Rush simply because he often favors them. That’s a Democratic/liberal trick. How is he “tied” to them? He doesn’t give them money or raise funds for them. They don’t include him in policy deliberations. He refuses to endorse candidates. Unlike Hannity and even Letterman, he doesn’t have them as guests on his show. He sometimes speaks at events. Was Bob Hope “tied” to Nixon? Is Paul Krugman “tied” to Obama? They have no mutual obligations to each other whatsoever.

      That’s just garbage, and impossible to support.

  9. Fluke, showing no graciousness and proving that she is allied to the “Get Limbaugh off the air” crowd, refuses to accept Limbaugh’s apology. Other activists make it clear that nothing short of an apology for Limbaugh’s opposition to coverage for contraceptives will do, making the real objective of the boycott palpable: censorship by economic boycott.

    The other advocates are not Fluke. They should not be tied together.

    The rejection of the apology by Fluke was appropriate. Rush didn’t apologize for the ideas beind the words, just the words themselves. In his apology, he stood by his ideas.

    Since the problem wasn’t the words so much as the concepts, there really wasn’t any apology to accept.

    • Outrageous. Rush has no obligation to apologize for his opinions—that’s bullying as much as his treatment of Fluke. He should have apologized for his words, and only his words. If his opinion is offensive, too damn bad. The idea that he had to apologize for the effrontery of disagreeing with Fluke’s entitlement mentality is itself offensive. You don’t have to apologize for it, but it should embarrass you.

      • The idea that he had to apologize for the effrontery of disagreeing with Fluke’s entitlement mentality is itself offensive. You don’t have to apologize for it, but it should embarrass you.

        Fluke’s entitlement mentality should embarrass her.

        If I demanded that the government require every restaurant to serve lobster bisque with every order, because I went to a restaurant that did not serve lobster bisque, and knew that it did not serve lobster bisque (but obviously served something else I wanted),then I should be embarrassed about my entitlement mentality.

      • He should have apologized for his words, and only his words.

        I’ll eschew analyzing the integrity of Limbaugh’s own apology and talk about this sentiment in general terms. I don’t think there’s much ethical value in apologizing for one’s words and only one’s words. And I don’t think it’s something that should be demanded, advocated, or expected. If someone still believes everything that they’d put behind their offensive commentary, then they can’t possibly be sorry for that commentary. Bear in mind that I’m speaking purely hypothetically here, and think, but if I tried to insult you by calling you “baldo” and later came back and said, “I’m sorry for my choice of words; what I meant to say is that you have no hair, and that makes you older, less attractive, and lacking in virility,” would that apology hold water? It’s not words that are unethical, it’s what they express.

        “If his opinion is offensive, too damn bad.”
        Then he shouldn’t apologize in the first place.

        • What? Civility and respect are form-related, not substance. Rush could have made his points respectfully and without denigration. Surely you can’t mean what you wrote. “Sir, I’m sorry, but your opinion is poorly reasoned hogwash, and resplendent with rationalizations and careless logic.” Fine. “Look, asshole, you’re a shit-for-brains moron, and your argument would be an embarrassment to a Altzheimer’s patient, which, based on your reasoning, you probably are.” That’s rude and abusive. I would apologize for the insults, but not the verdict that the argument stinks. The words used, not the core sentiment—it’s a lousy argument. How is that not a legitimate apology?

          • Actually, in your examples, the difference that I see between the two comments is still in content and not phrasing. To me, “your argument is stupid” is no more insulting than “your argument is invalid.” But “your argument is stupid” is different from “you are stupid.” The really essential lack of civility in, for instance, the Rush Limbaugh commentary is that it’s personal, and not limited to the subject at hand. I think it’s no less unethical to described Fluke as promiscuous than it is to call her a slut.

            Now, I acknowledge that this gives me a different conception of civility in ethics than is the norm, so we’ll probably have to accept that we have different terminology in this case. But bear in mind for future conversations that if you ever want to call my opinions poorly reasoned hogwash, I won’t be any more offended if you decide to have some fun with the language and call them moronic drivel or some such. Just don’t call me an asshole and I won’t take it personally.

            • That she is “promiscuous” didn’t strike me as the “concepts” and opinions that either Fluke or tgt are objecting to. That was included in the “analogy” part of the apology, as I interpreted it. He apologized for the personal attack, as embodied in those two words.

              Essentially they just don’t want to let Rush off the hook, because they hate his guts.

              • Bear in mind that I started this thread by saying “I’ll eschew analyzing the integrity of Limbaugh’s own apology and talk about this sentiment in general terms.”

                But since it’s come back to that, I will take the opportunity to have my say, because I think this can still be connected to what I was arguing about apologies in general. I don’t feel that I can speak for tgt or Fluke, but this does connect to the straw man argument that I think you were making in your criticism of J. Bryan Lowder.

                Part of the incivility of Limbaugh’s attack on Fluke is indeed attributable to his views. Not his views as a conservative, or as a Republican, or as a blowhard, but his misinformed views on women’s use of contraception. The language of his insult was to call her a slut, but the substance of it was the assumption that that’s the only reason why a women would need contraceptive insurance coverage. If despite apologizing for calling the woman bad names, he still earnestly believes that women who seek birth control medication do so because they want to sleep around, he hasn’t really apologized.

                I think it’s reasonable to expect him to recant of a view that is factually wrong and guarantees an insulting view of other people if we are to consider the apology genuine. It’s not reasonable to ask him to apologize for opposing liberals on the issue, but that’s not automatically what one is doing if he just says that Limbaugh hasn’t addressed the core issue of what he did wrong. What he did wrong was impugn people’s character. You can apologize for that without apologizing for your political views.

                • Ed, the position that mandated birth control, abortion and related coverage simply forces others to pay for an individual’s own poor, irresponsible or reckless choices may have fallen out of cultural favor, but it is a legitimate position, strongly held by a large proportion of the nation, and far from indefensible on ethical grounds,depending on which values one gives priority to. A woman can choose to have frequent unmarried, unprotected sex as a right and insist that I pay for the consequences of it or to minimize those consequnces—I can see the argument in favor of that, but the argument against it hardly requires an apology, as you, tgt and Fluke seem to be saying. What was wrong was Rush’s characterization of that argument as “paying for women to be sluts.” What he was arguing against was “paying for women to have sex as frequently as they want without concern about possible consequences.” That may be harsh, but it’s just a strong statement of a conservative argument: “If you want to have sex, get married, and be prepared for care of the kids that result.” Argue against it, call it unrealistic, or old-fashioned, or against recreational sex, but it’s still a position that many people passionately believe, they have a right to advocate it, and don’t owe any apologies. If women don’t like the implications that they are immoral or irresponsible, I understand, but people should not be bullied into abandoning a defensible position because the implications of it aren’t complimentary.

                  • Jack, I agree with you, but I think you’re mischaracterizing my position. What Limbaugh had to apologize for, if he had to apologize for anything, was neither his words alone nor his conservative value judgment on the issue, but his personal value judgment directed at particular women. Limbaugh’s position is defensible only to the extent that it responds to the issue in general.

                    “A woman can choose to have frequent unmarried, unprotected sex as a right and insist that I pay for the consequences of it or to minimize those consequences.” Sure, but that’s not the only reason why a woman might want a right to contraceptive health insurance coverage. And it’s offensive to say that any woman who wants birth control wants to sleep around. It’s offensive whether you call her a slut or use more delicate phrasing that conveys the same meaning. Unless you know a woman’s particular circumstances, it remains possible that she wants birth control primarily in order to control ovarian cysts, or to reduce heavy periods. Or she could be married and monogamous, but simply unready for or uninterested in having children.

                    If Limbaugh thinks that it’s not worth providing contraception to women who want to sleep around even if it means also providing it to women who have legitimate medical reasons for seeking it, fine. If he thinks that even a married woman who doesn’t want children simply shouldn’t have sex, fine. But if those are his positions, he’d better acknowledge that they are the consequences of his views, and defend those views in spite of them. The black-and-white idea that contraception is for sleeping around and only for sleeping around predicates a value judgment on every woman who uses contraception, not just on the issue of providing it to women in general. It’s a cheap tactic, it’s ignorant of the facts, and it’s offensive.

                    • Except that to assume Rush really meant that, you have to ignore what we know about Rush. He’s a shock satirist, so he intentionally grabs the most inflammatory way to reduce a position to its most absurd extension. Do some listeners take him literally? Sure. Is it a fair or responsible way to argue? No. Does it sometimes uncover real truths? Yes—satire will do that. Is it high risk? Yes. Does it sometimes cross over into abuse? This time it did. As I mentioned in my exchange here with Barry Deutch, using a human being as an abstraction to make a point is a pitfall easy to stumble into—I’ve done it myself. When Rush said that he didn’t mean to attack Fluke personally, I believe him completely, and so should she.

    • I understand tgt’s point about Limbaugh’s apology to Fluke being insufficient – so insufficient, it’s a non-apology to her (and to tgt and to many more). What I don’t understand is the lack of challenging of Fluke to move constructively beyond her non-acceptance of Limbaugh’s non-apology. WHY won’t SOMEONE ask her: “What specific words would you have Rush Limbaugh speak, to apologize for his personal attack on you?” Her response would be enlightening if nothing else, as would Limbaugh’s next attempt to clear the air (oh gosh, I guess that’s a bad pun) in follow-up to Fluke’s response.

      But of course, we all know: this row is bloodsport, and the bloodsportspersons consider it their vital interest to keep their options open for maneuvering to their advantage; they’re not interested in letting a silly, puny, artificial imposition of rules, like as via ETHICS, get in the way of their self-serving self-righteousness. There is never enough power in such people’s hands, never enough opportunity for total control.

      • tgt’s argument that Limbaugh has to apologize for his opinion rather than his mode of expressing it is a distortion of the principles of free debate and nothing more than partisan thuggery, as I already indicated. They don’t want an apology, which at this stage is a symbolic humbling and admission of wrongdoing. Guilty pleas are often insincere too—nobody cares, The point is, they are formally admitting wrongdoing. So was Rush. What he wasn’t doing, and must not do, is admit wrong THINKING. What words would she want? She doesn’t want an apology–she wants to silence him.

        At this point, I’m in Rush’s camp. He’s the victim.

        • Maybe I actually did not understand tgt, but I have read all his posts here at least once, and have yet to have the impression that he expects Limbaugh to apologize for the opinion he (Limbaugh) holds. I posted on the understanding that tgt does not regard Limbaugh’s attempt to apologize for his personal attack on Fluke as an apology – and understanding only that. I am viewing Limbaugh’s ethical obligation as being limited to apologizing only for his personal attack on Fluke, apart and unrelated to his opinion (which differs from Fluke’s) on contraception and insurance.

          • “The rejection of the apology by Fluke was appropriate. Rush didn’t apologize for the ideas behind the words, just the words themselves. In his apology, he stood by his ideas.

            “Since the problem wasn’t the words so much as the concepts, there really wasn’t any apology to accept.”

            Seems pretty clear to me.

            • Without further clarification from tgt, then, if it’s that clear, there is no reason to accept any apology from tgt for his having censorious ideas, even though he should apologize for having such; his ideas are more vulgar and unworthy of public approbation than Limbaugh’s “slut” ideas.

  10. Sure enough, who should become a voice of reason in the carnage but….Bill Maher, who tweeted:

    “Hate to defend #RushLimbaugh but he apologized, liberals looking bad not accepting. Also hate intimidation by sponsor pullout”

    Liberals only looks bad because people are pretending like Rush’s apology was actually an apology. Maher was right on what’s occuring, but wrong on what Rush did.

    • Of course it was an apology, as I said. He was criticized, by me among others, by his use of denigrating terms, and that’s what he apologized for. He doesn’t have to apologize for being a conservative, opposing insurance covered contraception, objecting to churches being forced to cover procedures they regard as sins, or being Rush Limbaugh. The left wants to make it socially unacceptable to disagree with it, if not outright illegal. If that’s the line in the sand, I’ll stand with Bill and Rush.

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