Taken Down As A Likely Hoax: “Speaking Of Dishonesty, Demonization, And Being Warped By Rigid Ideology, Here’s Sandra Fluke!”

I am taking down the post regarding the alleged insane statements of Sandra Fluke regarding the GOP’s culpability for Anthony Weiner’s sexting.  I am persuaded that it is a web hoax. Though it was sent to me as true, with a reference to “Best of the Web,” a reliable source, I have traced the item back to a blogger who tagged his post “satire” and “humor.”

This is why I detest web hoaxes.

While the claims attributed to Ms. Fluke were absurd and extreme, they were not especially funny, or  so removed from other positions she has advocated that the hyperbole here would be obvious, at least to me.


  • Gratitude and kudos to Arthur in Maine, who refocused my attention on the post.
  • Apologies and regrets to Ethics Alarms readers. I do check sources, but this time I didn’t check well enough.
  • I apologize to my fellow GULC alum, Ms. Fluke, for believing her capable of such idiocy.
  • I apologize to Emily’s List.
  • I apologize to James Taranto, to whom I originally and erroneously credited for the pointer.
  • I do not apologize to Rush Limbaugh or the GOP. My comments regarding them in relation to Sandra Fluke stand.

The Process Can Be Ugly, And Sure Was This Time, But This Is How Cultural Ethics Standards Change

Greta was the tipping point.

The Rush Limbaugh-Sandra Fluke Ethics Train Wreck is over at last, but unlike with many such debacles, something positive occurred. I believe that an emphatic cultural standard was established that calling a woman—any woman, famous or not, liberal or conservative—a derogatory term designed purely to denigrate her by denigrating her gender will not be considered acceptable in political, quasi-political or arguably-political commentary henceforward. If such rhetoric occurs in a comic or entertainment context, no politician or elected official can appear to endorse the individual who utters the offensive words.

I’m not arguing right now whether this is a good or a bad development, but merely that it happened, and that it is a real change. For this to happen, a conservative radio talk show host had to use the terms “slut’ and “prostitute” to make the botched satirical point that a feminist law student activist who argued that free contraceptives were a woman’s right was the equivalent of women who wanted to be “paid for sex.” If pundits and bloggers had merely declared this statement uncivil and cruel, nothing more would have happened, and the incident would have been quickly forgotten. But sensing political points to be scored in an election year, and with the added incentive of being handed what was seen as powerful ammunition to attempt a frontal attack against a detested partisan critic, Democrats,  progressives, feminists, activists, Obama strategists and left-biased journalists decided to cast the Limbaugh’s poor judgment in extreme terms. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Train Wreck Extra: the Lawyer, the Advisor, and the Kennedy”

Let's give a warm, Ethics Alarms welcome to attorney MAX KENNERLY!

Max Kennerly, the attorney who has argued that Sandra Fluke could legitimately sue talk show host Rush Limbaugh for his on-air insults, rebuts the Ethics Alarms post finding his argument disturbing. I’ll have a response at the end. Here is his Comment of the Day on “Ethics Train Wreck Extra: the Lawyer, the Advisor, and the Kennedy”:

“Who said anything about “silencing?” Defamation is a civil claim that, when proven, results in a monetary judgment, nothing more. Limbaugh’s still free to say what he wants.

“I assume your response to the “it’s not silencing” argument is something like, “he’s not technically silenced, but his speech is chilled.” To that, I ask which scenario is more chilling: Continue reading

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 Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Your Weekend Ethics Update

Sure, it's touching..but is it sincere?

Here’s what you may have missed if your attention was focused on non-ethical considerations over the weekend:

  • A Washington, D.C. Charter school has been using scenarios out of horror movies to teach math—to third graders.
  • Saturday Night Live gave fallen child star Lindsay Lohan a chance to be something other than an addict and scofflaw again. Was it exploitation or was it kindness? Kind exploitation, perhaps?
  • Rush Limbaugh became a victim of his own mouth, attacking a Georgetown Law student’s advocacy of insurance-covered contraceptives not by questioning her logic—which is questionable—but her character, and in crude and degrading terms. Indefensible.
  • At least two NFL team, it was revealed, put bounties on the heads of opposing teams’ stars, offering thousands to players for knocking them off the field and into hospital beds. Unethical, a violation of league rules, cheating, and criminal…and the reaction of players is, “What’s the big deal?” A culture problem perhaps?
  • While conservatives were rending their garments in grief over the sudden death of conservative web warrior Andrew Breitbart (and too many liberals were disgracing themselves by applauding an early demise that left his young children fatherless), a far more influential and infinitely more ethical conservative voice left us: scholar, author, social scientist, philosopher, historian…and Ethics Hero Emeritus… James Q. Wilson.
  • Rush apologized after his sponsors began to flee. With great power comes great responsibility, and Limbaugh has more power than he can possibly be responsible for. He still is accountable.
  • Finally…Is a forced apology a “real” apology? It depends.

Rush’s Apology, His Power, and His Responsibility

They're coming, Rush!

The Sunday morning talk shows had a real Rush Limbaugh bash-fest this morning, and that’s fine: he earned it, with his ill-considered and vicious attack on Sandra Fluke for stating her opinion. This is a real career crisis for Limbaugh, I think, and he knows it. His initial reaction to the furious criticism of his offensive comments about the Georgetown Law student was to refuse to back down, as has been his response to controversies his entire remarkable career, and it has served him well. Then he realized that this controversy was different. He had crossed a line of decency, fairness and civility that the culture as a whole, not just political adversaries, would not tolerate. He apologized, saying.

“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.

“I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress. I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities. What happened to personal responsibility and accountability? Where do we draw the line? If this is accepted as the norm, what will follow? Will we be debating if taxpayers should pay for new sneakers for all students that are interested in running to keep fit? In my monologue, I posited that it is not our business whatsoever to know what is going on in anyone’s bedroom nor do I think it is a topic that should reach a Presidential level.

“My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.”

Was it a “real” apology? I’m going to discuss the issue of apology ethics in the next post, but yes, it was as real as most apologies. If one’s definition of apology is ” a statement of contrition and regret freely and sincerely given,” the answer is no. Very few apologies meet that high standard, if only for the reason that few of us will apologize unless an apology benefits us in some way or is unavoidable. Rush’s reputation is based on daring, outrageousness and his refusal to back down from the ‘truth” despite assaults from the “drive-by” media and the politically correct; he, of all people, would never apologize for anything he said on his show if he had any choice in the matter. In this case, I assume that Limbaugh was hearing from his affiliates, his sponsors, other talk show hosts, and political figures that he was courting disaster if he didn’t back down. Continue reading

Rush’s Misogyny: No Defense

This is one of Rush's ugly pictures. He's earned it.

Any idiot, except Rush Limbaugh, apparently, could identify Rush’s outrageous, uncivil, mean-spirited, and ignorant (does he really think a woman has to take more birth control pills the more she has sex?) rant against Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke (who testified before Congressional Democrats to advocate insurance coverage of contraceptives) as indefensible. That is why I wasn’t going to insult anyone’s intelligence by stating the obvious by posting to that effect. But a commenter here reminded me of the Ethics Alarms post about Bill Maher’s misogyny when he called Sarah Palin a “dumb twat” on his HBO show, and I decided that it should be made clear that as despicable as Maher’s statement was, Rush’s was worse. Continue reading