WASHINGTON — Radio host Rush Limbaugh said his apology to the Georgetown law student he called a “slut” was sincere but also joked that he, too, got a busy signal Monday when he called the show to join the growing roster of advertisers abandoning it.
The student, Sandra Fluke, said Limbaugh’s apology did nothing to change the corrosive tone of the debate over health care coverage and that Americans have to decide whether they want to support companies that continue to advertise on his program. AOL and Tax Resolution Services Co. on Monday became the eighth and ninth advertisers to leave Limbaugh’s three-hour show as he sought to stem the exodus of advertisers and fellow conservatives declined to offer him support.
“I should not have used the language I did, and it was wrong,” a rarely contrite Limbaugh told listeners.
Fluke, who testified to congressional Democrats in support of their national health care policy that would compel her Jesuit college’s health plan to cover her birth control, said she had not heard from Limbaugh directly but signalled she had little interest in speaking with him. She said his criticism of her beliefs was an attack on women’s health.
“It is an attempt to silence me,” Fluke told ABC’s The View.
Fluke had been invited to testify to a House committee about her school’s health care plan, which does not include contraception. Republican lawmakers barred her from testifying during that hearing, but Democrats invited her back and she spoke to the Democratic lawmakers at an unofficial session.
The issue has been much debated in the presidential race, with Republican candidates particularly criticizing President Barack Obama’s requirements on such employers as Catholic hospitals.
Limbaugh, even as he retreated from his earlier characterization of Fluke as a “slut” and “prostitute,” insisted the 30-year-old was trying to “force a religious institution to abandon its principles to meet hers.”
“Those two words were inappropriate. They were uncalled for,” he said of his initial comments that roiled his critics. “They distracted from the point that I was actually trying to make.”
Even so, eight companies now have stopped advertising on Limbaugh’s program on Clear Channel’s Premiere Radio Networks Inc. The parent company is supporting Limbaugh, whose on-air contract with Premiere runs through 2016.
AOL said Monday that Limbaugh’s messages “are not in line with our values.”
ProFlowers, mortgage lender Quicken Loans, mattress retailers Sleep Train and Sleep Number, software maker Citrix Systems Inc., online data backup service provider Carbonite and the online legal document services company LegalZoom also left Limbaugh’s roster of advertisers.
Limbaugh sought to find some humour in the situation.
“I called myself to cancel my advertising. I got a busy signal,” he deadpanned Monday.