Rush Limbaugh: Not the Only One with First Amendment Rights

UPDATE March 3, 2012.  Limbaugh is apologizing to Sandra Fluke for his choice of words."

Limbaugh has hurled insults before, but he hasn't apologized. But this time, sponsors are walking away.  No sponsors, no money. No money, no way to pay his $400 million contract. Presto, Clear Channel, which is already on the financial ropes goes bankrupt.

March 2, 2012

Rush Limbaugh does it again...  and of course it comes as no surprise.

This time he targeted Sandra Fluke, the third year Georgetown Law student who was denied an opportunity to speak to a key all male Republican committee (headed by indicted car thief Darrel Issa) about the need for women to have access to contraception.

Rush raged that since Fluke wants to require employer based health insurance policies to cover birth control,    she is a "slut" and worse.  He somehow equates getting health coverage for birth control with getting paid to have sex, and then argues that Fluke wants taxpayers to pay her to have sex, and she should post videos of herself having sex so taxpayers will know what they are getting for their money.  Hmmn, what great "conservative" thinking that is. 

The taxpayer argument?  Tut, tut, tut.  You wonder if he really believes this stuff himself.  America's Anchorman, as Rush advertises himself, is again trying to scare people about a complete nonstarter.  But frightening people with misinformation is what he does, three hours a day, five days a week, to 20 million listeners across the country.  Whoring himself out with lies in order to gain ratings. 

This time, he is facing some pushback.  Groups across the country are urging a boycott of Limbaugh  The mattress giant Sleep Train has already pulled its ads in the wake of the Fluke comments, and the group is pressuring Pro Flowers to stop advertising as well.  The National Organization for Women is also calling on Clear Channel to lose Limbaugh.  These are good measures, but not good enough.

Rush targets women all the time (including yours truly,) but broadcasters like Clear Channel who put him on hundreds of stations nationwide and profit handsomely insist no matter how vile his comments, he enjoys "freedom of speech."  

True.  But Clear Channel is effectively denying the rest of us OUR freedom of speech on our public airwaves, something which is expressly forbidden by the United States Supreme Court.   From RedLion Broadcasting v FCC, "The First Amendment does not protect private censorship by broadcasters who are licensed by the Government to use a scarce resource which is denied to others."

People like Sandra Fluke (and frankly anyone who has a non-right wing agenda,) are routinely denied access to the microphones on our public airwaves.  That is private censorship, and it needs to stop. It is bad for the individuals being unfairly attacked, it is bad for society, and it is bad for democracy.

It is past time for We the People to demand we ALL enjoy our first amendment rights on the radio airwaves which we own (and which the corporations only borrow.)


  1. First, I don't listen to a lot of radio but the microphones at MSNBC don't seem to be off limits to less conservative voices. I am a fan of the market deciding what is available, so if a liberal voice is out there with a market presence, the voice will probably be heard.
    I used to listen to Limbaugh when he was in Sacramento. He was occasionally bombastic, if for no other reason, to generate calls and attacks so he could "defend" himself.
    Sandra Fluke should have no problem paying for her education and healthcare out of pocket now. She has been granted a national forum, a national image and, if nothing else, pen a book detailing her struggles as a single woman fighting the healthcare machine. I don't know what job opportunities exist on the east coast for Georgetown educated lawyers but I have to think that the law firms in San Francisco will be tripping over each other to offer her jobs.
    Her future is set. Brush off Limbaugh's mud, smile and grab the brass ring that's out there waiting for her.

  2. Thanks NorCalBob, for your comment.

    My point is there is no market in radio. (Radio is very different than cable TV. When you write a check to Comcast you make a business deal to bring stations from Disney to Playboy into your home. Radio and Local TV go over the free public airwaves, owned by all of us.)

    Let's support a real market in radio. Let's ask Clear Channel for a contest to see which shows people will listen to. They won't do it, of course. Their mega corporation and others it supports only thrive if they can control a narrow message with no questions asked.

    As to Fluke, people who work in the public interest often defend those who are personally less well off than themselves. Fluke is a Georgetown Law Student, yes she will do just fine. But the Protestant medical assistant who works at the only hospital in the region that happens to be owned by the Catholic Church also needs an advocate so she can access birth control. Fluke is effectively advocating for all women who want contraception.

  3. Sue, you stated: "But the Protestant medical assistant who works at the only hospital in the region that happens to be owned by the Catholic Church also needs an advocate so she can access birth control. Fluke is effectively advocating for all women who want contraception"........
    Sue; That is a ridiculous statement to make. There are quite a few organizations that Miss Fluke and every other woman can go to "right now" that will supply her with free contraception if she chooses. Planned Parenthood is one example. There are also businesses that sell contraceptives at a very, very low cost. As an example Walmart. So all Miss Fluke has to do is get up off of where she is sitting and go get her contraceptives if she chooses. It will not cost her $3,000.00 during her school term. So why all the hyperbole, and why should taxpayers really pay for her extra curricular activity's ?

  4. NorcalBob,

    We aren't really talking about taxpayers here, this is not a Medicare issue. This is about what baseline package any employer will offer to their employees.

    And have you priced contraceptives at Walmart if they are not part of a covered benefit?

    As to "extra-curricular activities," tell that to a mother of five who doesn't want more kids.

  5. I am retired, don't have a lot of money. My Doctor telles to me to eat healther food. I can't afford the kind of food I need. Can I get the Goverment to require Insurance Co. to pay for the food I need. Right now in my life I need the right food more than I need sex.

  6. If you are going to reference the “fairness doctrine” as presented in RedLion v FCC you should at least include the fact that the FCC dropped this policy in 2011 because of the multiple platforms available for people to express their opposition to any issue. In this particular case Ms. Fluke was not only able to have a very public platform, provided by Nancy Pelosi, to express her position on the contraception mandate, but was the given time on national television to respond to Limbaugh’s tirade. The opposition to Limbaugh’s words was then expressed by virtually every opponent in the country, including the President. For you to claim that your freedom of speech is in any way being denied is simply ludicrous. Are you now claiming a “right” to not only free contraceptives, but also to free air time to express your views?
    I do find Limbaugh’s remarks despicable and divisive, while Ms. Flukes testimony was thoughtful and respectful, even if somewhat exaggerated. Her testimony should serve as a positive example of how to appropriately debate any issue.

  7. Hi, Jack,

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment. While the Fairness Doctrine was formally buried in 2011 (after being put on life support in 1987) the elements of the public interest in broadcasting still survive. Please see my article written at that time, on this blog, and cross-posted at Huffington Post:

    No, I am not calling for a right to free contraceptives, but I am calling for insurance companies to include them in their basic benefit packages which people pay for with their own earned dollars. Not the same thing.

    But YES! I am calling for air time to express my views, your views, Ron Paul's views, and everyone else's. The airwaves belong to ALL of us, and there is no reason ONE view gets unlimited airtime for free, while everyone else has to pay to be heard in 30 spots.

    What the corporations are doing now on OUR public airwaves is un-American. But the law is on our side, that's the good news, and you will see the Roberts court agree this spring.

  8. What are the facts that support your belief that one view gets unlimited airtime for free while everyone else has to pay? Anyone can call into most talk shows and express their views for free. Many liberal leaning programs are eager to air views opposing conservative ideas, especially Chris Matthews on MSNBC. While that is on television, I believe his program and others are available to be heard via streaming audio.
    Regarding your position on insurance coverage, that is between the people and their insurance carriers. If the insurance companies want to include such coverage, and adjust their premiums accordingly (either up or down depending on their risk assessment) that’s fine. What I object to is the federal government mandating what a private company must include.

  9. To Jack Nemo,
    I think the public has a "right" to airtime if there is a dispute of fact. On economics:

    Sean Hannity has been saying every day for years that tax cuts for the rich create jobs, but I have seen that theory disproven from 2001 when they were enacted till the economy actually crashed. I called many times asking to ask Hannity on the air to source his claims, but they hang up on me saying "I'll pass it on."

    On war: Hannity said Iraq was a threat to us, but we know now Iraq was no threat to us. There were people saying this in 2003 when there was a chanvce to save our children one trillion in debt and thousands of soldier's lives. But they got no air time and no chance to dispel Hannity's propaganda where it originated.

    On the economic crisis: Hannity says the consumer and the Democrats via the CRE caused the crisis by mandating banks lend to unworthy borrowers such as minorities. But the CRE mandated stricter than normal verification requirements that professional lenders shirked. The FBI confirmed 80% of loans involved lender fraud. Hannity is still lying today to shift blame - the only time he was cornered on this was the rare time he debated Michael Moore but Hannity abruptly changed the subject. It was sad.

    Don't you think America's #1 broadcasters have a duty to serve the public interest by answering tough questions so listeners can see who has the best argument? Or do you think that free speech over taxpayer funded airwaves includes the right to pretend those questions don't exist?

  10. Sue: Thank you for providing examples of the difficulty in airing your views. It is not surprising that programs like Hannity or Limbaugh limit, or prevent the airing of serious critics who are well informed on the issues. The same problem occurs when someone in the opposition attempts to gain access or debate on the Chris Matthews show. These extreme right/left shows are not the place to expect a meaningful debate. At best they might make us aware of an issue, and then we should then do our own research to find the truth (if possible). I have never listened to Hannity, rarely to Limbaugh or Matthews, and only then to reaffirm their extreme rantings. It has been a challenge to find people who are willing to have an honest debate on important issues without resorting to insults and regurgitation of tired sound bites.
    I do understand your concern with the lack of balance within specific programs, but I believe it is somewhat naïve to expect any one commentator, or more accurately, any one entertainer or program to provide a fully balanced discussion of any issue. Their motivation is more often about ratings that ensure their future employment and financial success rather than providing a public service. I do not believe any “fairness” legislation will solve the problem. I do think that it is incumbent upon each of us to do our own in-depth research on the important issues and then advocate our beliefs through whatever means are available. Fortunately, the internet does provide one method for research and advocacy. The challenge is reaching enough people to have an effect.
    May you be successful in being heard, and thank you for your civility.