* 'Choice of words not the best'
* Obama called student to express support
(Adds comment from advertiser)
By Dan Whitcomb
March 3 Right-wing talk-show host Rush
Limbaugh, roundly criticized for branding a law student a "slut"
over her outspoken support of President Barack Obama's new
policy on contraception coverage, apologized on Saturday for his
"insulting word choices."
The furor over Limbaugh's comments, made on his influential
radio program, prompted Obama to call the 30-year-old Georgetown
University law student and women's rights activist, Sandra
Fluke, on Friday to express his support.
"My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to
be humorous, I created a national stir," Limbaugh said in a
written statement. "I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the
insulting word choices."
Fluke, who has advocated making contraception available to
all women, has been caught in the middle of a contentious
election-year fight between Obama and Republicans over his
policy that requires health insurance plans to cover
Religious-affiliated organizations, the Roman Catholic
Church and social conservatives have protested the policy as an
infringement on religious liberty. An effort by Republicans in
the Senate to overturn it failed this week.
Fluke told lawmakers in a Democratic House of
Representatives hearing last month that female students at
Georgetown, the Washington, D.C., school that is the oldest
Catholic and Jesuit university in the country, suffered
financial hardship because contraception was not covered by
their healthcare insurance, and in some cases had stopped taking
it because it cost too much.
Her comments were mocked by Limbaugh, an influential
conservative commentator known for his take-no-prisoners style.
"What does it say about the college co-ed 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? Makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to
have sex," Limbaugh said on Wednesday on his radio show.
On Thursday, he said: "If we are going to pay for your
contraceptives, thus pay for you to have sex, we want something
for it, and I'll tell you what it is: We want you to post the
videos online so we can all watch."
In the written apology issued on Saturday, Limbaugh said he
had not intended to make a personal attack on Fluke but "chose
the wrong words" as he attempted to make a point.
Several of Limbaugh's sponsors said they would stop
advertising on his program following his incendiary remarks and
David Friend, CEO of online data backup company Carbonite, said
the apology was not enough to change his mind about that
"Mr. Limbaugh, with his highly personal attacks on Miss
Fluke, overstepped any reasonable bounds of decency," Friend
wrote in a blog post.
"Even though Mr. Limbaugh has now issued an apology, we have
nonetheless decided to withdraw our advertising from his show.
We hope that our action, along with the other advertisers who
have already withdrawn their ads, will ultimately contribute to
a more civilized public discourse," he said.
Fluke, who earlier told Reuters she was initially hurt, then
outraged by Limbaugh's remarks, has said she hoped the incident
raised awareness about the new policy. She did not immediately
respond to a request for comment about the apology.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Cynthia
Johnston and Peter Cooney)