Student rejects Limbaugh apology as sponsors flee

03-05-2012, 21h08

A law student branded a "slut" and a "prostitute" by US radio host Rush Limbaugh in an on-air rant about contraception rejected his apology Monday as more sponsors abandoned the right-wing icon's show.

Internet pioneer AOL was the biggest name to declare it would no longer advertise on "The Rush Limbaugh Show," the highest-rated talk show on US radio, syndicated to more than 600 radio stations from coast to coast.

"At AOL, one of our core values is that we act with integrity," it said on its Twitter account. "We have monitored the unfolding events and have determined that Mr. Limbaugh's comments are not in line with our values."

California-based Tax Resolution Services also yanked its ads, it announced via Twitter, although it retained Limbaugh's personal endorsement of its services on its website.

Distancing themselves earlier from the famously abrasive broadcaster were ProFlowers, Quicken Loans, mattress outlets Sleep Train and Sleep Number, and tech firms Citrix Systems, Carbonite and LegalZoom.

Limbaugh apologized to Georgetown University student Sandra Fluke over the weekend for calling her "a slut" and "a prostitute" after she argued before a congressional panel in favor of health insurance coverage for contraceptives.

He renewed that apology on Monday, telling listeners: "Those two words were inappropriate. They were uncalled for... I again sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for using those two words to describe her."

But Fluke, 30, appearing on ABC television's "The View," said she did not think Limbaugh's remarks changed anything, "especially when that statement is issued when he's under significant pressure from his sponsors."

Advertising Age, a trade journal, in a recap of similar furors in the past, said: "Advertisers may appear to leave, but they more often simply move to the sidelines. Sometimes, they even come back."

Last month Fluke told Democrats on Capitol Hill that health insurance at her Catholic-affiliated university ought to pay for contraception -- a key but controversial requirement in President Barack Obama's 2010 health care law.

The past president of the Georgetown Law Students for Reproductive Justice also told of a gay friend who had been denied birth control pills to treat an ovarian cyst that grew to the point where her ovaries had to be removed.

"Without insurance coverage, contraception can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school," added Fluke, who said the issue was "not about church and state; it's about women's health."

To which Limbaugh told listeners: "What does it say about the college co-ed Sandra Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex?"

"What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute," Limbaugh said. "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."

Obama called Fluke on Friday to express support as the firestorm over Limbaugh's attack swept the nation.

Birth control has become a major issue as the 2012 election campaign heats up, after Republicans called Obama's provision requiring all employers -- including those with religious affiliations -- to offer free contraception on employee health plans was a war on religion.

Limbaugh's program is syndicated by Clear Channel Communications, which is part-owned by Bain Capital, a private equity firm co-founded by Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney.

Americans United for Change, a liberal group, challenged Romney to demand that Clear Channel "fire him today... Anything short of that can only be interpreted as a tacit endorsement of Limbaugh's vile comments."