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10 March 2012

Condemnation of Rush Limbaugh Shows Our Hypocrisy



‘Slut’ and ‘whore’ are offensive words, but some of his biggest critics in the whole Sandra Fluke controversy are guilty of using the similar language—they just happen to be liberals. Paul Theroux on how the whole affair reveals our smugness and hypocrisy.

At first I didn't know whether I’d yawn or puke when I read what Rush Limbaugh said reacting to the Georgetown Law student and self-described reproductive-rights activist, Sandra Fluke. “What does it say about the college coed Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We’re the pimps—the johns. No, that’s right—pimp is not the right word.”

All of this is offensive hyperbole—and the confusion of “pimp” and “john” is odd for the man whose idea of a good time is a week in the Dominican Republic with a bagful of Viagra. But it is little more than flapdoodle. Did anyone really think that the earnest, scholarly Sandra Fluke was a prostitute?

It will go away, I thought, and I can return to eating lotuses on my tropical island. But it didn't go away. The president of the United States called Ms. Fluke to tell her that her parents should be proud of her. The war in Afghanistan is deadlier than ever, Israelis are on the verge of bombing Iran, Syria is imploding, gas is inching to $5 a gallon and the president is bucking up a law student who was called a naughty name?

Projectile vomiting became a real possibility when Don Imus weighed in, calling Limbaugh a “fat gutless pill-popping loser.” “It’s the worst kind of cowardice,” Imus said. “Maybe he’s still jacked up on the Oxycontin, or whatever it is, but you can’t say stuff about somebody and not, one, own up to it, and, two, have guts enough to go sit down with her and say, ‘Look, I’m sorry and I won’t do this again.’ But no, he’s a punk.”


This was rich. Don Imus, as he says himself, spent years snorting cocaine, drinking himself into blackouts, and running a radio show in which he routinely insults people. A few years ago, called the black women of a college basketball team “nappy-headed hoes,” which was no surprise to his listeners. At the time his sidekick Bernard McGuirk did an impersonation of New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin, which anyone could have mistaken for his channeling Amos & Andy.

The defense of Sandra Fluke is so shrill that it is almost as though many of her defenders actually believe there is a vicious taint of self-indulgence, if not sluttiness, in a female student’s clamoring for a federal mandate of  subsidized contraceptives. 

Virtually everyone in public life condemned Limbaugh, some mildly, some harshly, and none were more strident or hypocritical—as Sarah Palin was later to point out—than the hordes of liberals, Fluke-like in their sanctimony. Limbaugh had been offensive! Ms Fluke said she was contemplating a lawsuit—for what? Apoplexy was rife. The man whose whole career is based on offense and mockery had apparently touched a nerve. No one raised much fuss when he hauled out “Queasy” his pet name for Kweisi Mfume (born Frizzell Gray), or called Charles Barkley “Milk Dud,” and when he said that black quarterbacks couldn't rifle the ball he was merely admonished and lost a gig.

Limbaugh is referred to as “the virtual leader of the Republican Party.” Oh, really? If you believe that a cracker like Rush with a radio show is the “virtual leader” of the Republican Party, you need a good proctologist to reposition your head.

Limbaugh, like many mockers—and many successful populists—is a man with a mere high-school education who is able, partly through recklessness, partly through overweening self-regard, to reflect the justifiable anger of a large proportion of the white American public.

This is the identical profile of Michael Moore. And by the way, both these semieducated men calling themselves men of the people are multimillionaires.

“Do you ever think you’re just a bag of hot gas?” David Letterman asked Limbaugh a few years ago, when he appeared as a guest. Limbaugh squinted and then, taken aback, denied that the thought had ever occurred to him, as Letterman to his credit said, “I certainly think I am!”

My gorge rose again when Limbaugh offered an apology, muttering about a poor choice of words, sorry, sorry, blah-blah, and of course no one believed him for a minute. Many of his sponsors bailed. Limbaugh’s spin to his listeners on this was “They don’t want your business!” The result was that he got even more listeners.