Chatological Humor: Why 'fair comment' is not a defense for Rush Limbaugh

Mar 06, 2012

Every Tuesday, Gene publishes weekly updates to his chats.

This week, find out why Gene Weingarten thinks Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke should sue the pants off conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh.

Gene's latest chat.

Greetings, update readers.

Were you as gratified as I was when Rush Limbaugh finally admitted on the air yesterday that he has gotten rich and famous by “pandering to the prejudices and insecurities of marginally literate, unfathomably ignorant jackasses who have to be told what to hate”?

Under assault for his rant against a Georgetown Law School student who dared to incur his wrath by advocating insurance coverage for birth control, and hemorrhaging appalled advertisers from his show, Limbaugh finally took to the airwaves to issue both an apology and an unusually frank and honest self-appraisal. 

I was surprised yet delighted that he finally forthrightly addressed his past criminal charges stemming from his addiction to prescription painkillers,  saying he used them to numb his conscience to the terrible knowledge that his soul had become “a spavined, corrupt, shriveled, pathetic, withered little thing, not unlike my manhood.” That final reference was to a 2006 contretemps in which he was detained at an airport for carrying 29 100-mg Viagra pills in a mislabeled bottle.   Yesterday, Limbaugh admitted this was enough Viagra “to arouse a corpse” but noted that he needs the extra stimulation since “the only woman I ever found truly sexy was my mommy, circa 1978.”

The most interesting element of his mea culpa yesterday was his frank contempt for Republican politicians “who were without the testicular fortitude” to unambiguously criticize him for his unjustified, vicious, baffling, and falsehood-filled three-day-long sexually obsessed attack on the blameless Georgetown law student.   Singling out Mitt Romney and John Boehner, Limbaugh surmised that neither of them dared to take him on because “they know I can turn the bucktoothed rubes and nitwits against them in a heartbeat, and bucktoothed rubes and nitwits are now pretty much the base of their party, which has splintered into competing posses of angry, intolerant, ill-informed pinheads braying at each other ungrammatically.”

It was brave of Limbaugh to challenge his few remaining advertisers to desert his show, acknowledging that if they valued the good name of their brands, they would “evacuate faster than my bowels the after one of my notorious evenings of revolting gluttony."

Perhaps the most surprising, if creepy, revelation involved Limbaugh’s frank revulsion at his own body, which he said resembles “a gelatinous oblate spheroid, a weather balloon filled with tapioca pudding and snot”; creepier, still, was what he said next, which was: “I really wish I could carry myself as gracefully as President Obama, who has an effortless, Astaire-like, achingly beautiful way of moving.”

I for one, think this episode should hasten Limbaugh’s retirement, which, when it comes, as he revealed yesterday, will be lived out in a pied a terre in Paris “where I will serve as manservant to Horst, my master of discipline.” 

All of these frank disclosures, which I applaud, come just a few days after Limbaugh finished his bizarre attack on Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law student.  Lost in much of the deserved furor over his unprovoked, leering, sex-frothed tirade against a young woman Limbaugh clearly fantasizes about when alone in futile but increasingly desperate efforts at self arousal that sometimes involve industrial power tools – lost in all this was a rather astonishing fact:  All of his criticisms stemmed from the constantly restated falsehood, a total invention by Limbaugh, that Ms. Fluke – and here I quote Limbaugh directly (and accurately, for the first time in this post) --  “goes to a Congressional hearing conducted by the Botox-filled Nancy Pelosi and testifies that she is having so much sex she can’t afford her own birth control pills!” 

This assertion was predicate to every vile and sickening thing that Limbaugh said after that (and all of  which had a perverse, Constitutionally-protected tinge of exaggerated humor and satire to it): that she is “a slut,” a “prostitute,” that he’s surprised she can still walk given how much sex she has, and, most adorably, that if she is going to expect the public to pay for her sex, she should at least make the videotapes public for our (read: his) enjoyment.   It is all compiled and excerpted, for your revulsion, here.

 All of this bile followed from his assertion that she testified about her own extremely active sex life.     

Here's the thing:  She didn’t.  She said nothing whatsoever about her own sex life.  She did not mention her own contraceptive needs at all: She spoke passionately and eloquently, and respectfully, about several friends of hers, Georgetown students who she said were diagnosed with medical conditions requiring the birth control pill, but who could not get it because they could not afford it.   That was it.   Here is the transcript of her testimony.

In short -- though Limbaugh doesn't address this in his mealy-mouthed, backhanded "apology" -- Limbaugh just made it all up, then went hog-wild, oinker-frenzy-wild, elaborating on it so he could call her names.   Calling people names is bad, but calling people names based on your own invented calumny is the textbook definition of slander.   The First Amendment does not protect you from that, nor should it.  Even on an issue of public debate, and even if the victim is a public figure, as Ms. Fluke was here, "fair comment” is not a defense if you made up the central fact, and the central fact is wrong and is damaging and if your intent was to injure.  I’m no lawyer, but as I see it:  Check, check, check, check.     I hope Ms. Fluke knows a good lawyer; if she doesn’t, one will find her, I suspect:  The pockets here are really deep, though constricted and attenuated a bit:  A LOT of flibbity-flabbity belly fat there, Rush.   You really should do something about that, in your well-merited retirement. 

Rush, in internet-speak, you are about to be pwned.   By a woman.

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Gene Weingarten
Gene Weingarten is the humor writer for The Washington Post. His column, Below the Beltway, has appeared weekly in the Post's Sunday magazine since July 2000 and has been distributed nationwide on The Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service. He was awarded the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing.
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