As you probably heard, Rush Limbaugh offered what he called an apology to Sandra Fluke on Saturday. It was the equivalent of the bully finally being taken to task, so of course he’s the victim, and he also pulled out the tried-and-true “I was kidding! Sheesh!” line.
What I think really happened was that Mr. Limbaugh’s lawyers explained the libel and slander laws to him, and a number of advertisers dropped their commercials on his show. That’s what truly gets to him: the threat to his income, not to his reputation.
Of course this was the topic on the Sunday chat shows. George F. Will told ABC’s This Week that the Republican leadership is afraid of Mr. Limbaugh’s wrath if they should speak out against him. That’s hardly a news flash, but as I noted the other night, what’s making it tough for them isn’t that Rush Limbaugh attacked a Georgetown Law student with crude language — he does that to everyone. It’s that he changed the discussion from a question about religious freedom and conscientious objection to slut shaming and misogyny. Now all the talk is about the Republicans’ attitudes towards women. They clearly do not want to spend the next seven months explaining to the American electorate — the majority of whom are women — that they really don’t hate them and want total control over their uteri. Good luck with that.
As for Mr. Limbaugh, I wish I could say that this will really bring him down, but I doubt it. He’s been damaged by his words and his own actions so many times before and still come back that you have to at least give him credit for resilience. Every bully, though, does reach a point where they go too far; it happened to Father Coughlin, it happened to Joe McCarthy, and if the people who fear him the most — the Republican establishment — sense that he’s vulnerable, they may come up with something stronger than Mitt Romney’s tepid comment about “inappropriate” language (as if there’s a good way to call a woman a slut). Good luck with that, too.