After Rush Limbaugh described women using birth control as prostitutes and sluts, one would think that the media would demand that Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and the Republican Congressional leadership condemn such comments. After all, in 2008 the media turned what it described as Barack Obama’s refusal to sufficiently denounce comments by Reverend Jeremiah Wright – who, unlike Limbaugh, was not the kingmaker of a national political party – into such a national issue that Obama had to give a speech further condemning Wright’s views. Obama’s initial condemnations of Wright did not satisfy the media despite being far harsher than the Republicans response to Limbaugh. In fact, frontrunner Romney’s claim that he would have used different words than Limbaugh did not even cause the media to press him to explain what words should have been used. The traditional media is giving Republicans a pass on Limbaugh, allowing likely presidential nominee Romney to avoid answering whether he agrees with the Republican political operative/ talk show host’s underlying argument.
Mitt Romney offered a “notably mild response
” to Rush Limbaugh’s attacking a woman who used birth control as a “slut,” a “prostitute, ” and as someone who “wants to be paid to have sex.” After dodging media inquires, Romney expressed his lack of indignation at Limbaugh’s comments by saying, “It's not the language I would have used."
The media did not let Barack Obama get away with such a weak response to comments made by the politically powerless Reverend Jeremiah Wright. And can you imagine the media response had Obama said about Wright’s statements about “God damn America” that it was “not the language I would have used”?
Instead of pressing Romney at every campaign stop to announce what language he “would have used” to attack women using birth control, the media spent the weekend promoting Romney’s political resurgence. Having invested in stories focused on rebuilding Romney’s reputation, it could not allow the candidate’s weak response to Limbaugh get in the way.
Traditional Media Bias Unchanged
Because so many activists rely on online news sources, the traditional media’s ongoing conservative bias is less discussed. But episodes like the Limbaugh slanders confirm that the traditional media bends as far backwards today to help Republicans as it did during its notoriously one-sided coverage of the Bush v. Gore race in 2000.
And its not just about protecting front-runner Romney. His leading challenger, Rick Santorum defended Limbaugh’s comments, saying “He’s being absurd. But that’s, you know – an entertainer can be absurd.” The media has not pressed Santorum to further denounce Limbaugh’s comments, which appear consistent with Santorum’s own views.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner issued a statement, “The speaker obviously believes the use of those words was inappropriate, as is trying to raise money off the situation.”
Think about these words. Boehner is equating Limbaugh’s calling women who use birth control sluts and prostitutes with efforts by MoveOn, the national Democratic Party and other groups to gain campaign donations from those opposed to such statements.
According to Limbaugh, “If we are going to pay for your contraceptives and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.” And after the most powerful Republican in elected office in the United States equates campaign fundraising with Limbaugh’s requiring women using public contraceptives to have video sex, the traditional media says nothing.
Imagine if Nancy Pelosi had defended similar comments when she was Speaker. Her equating the issuance of hateful and defamatory words with efforts to raise money to combat their spread would have dominated the airwaves, and the media would have hounded her out of office within days.
Kaili Joy Gray over at Daily Kos contrasted
Premiere Radio Network’s (a subsidiary of Clear Channel) acceptance of Limbaugh’s comments – “We respect the right of Mr. Limbaugh, as well as the rights of those who disagree with him, to express those opinions” – to Clear Channel’s refusal to play the Dixie Chicks on their stations after singer Natalie Maines said she was “ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas.”
According to Clear Channel, despite widespread opposition to the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003, a country singer had no right to criticize the President’s action. Yet Clear Channel believes Limbaugh, speaking to an audience over fifty million times larger than that addressed by Manes, has the right to call women using birth control sluts and prostitutes who should display their sexual acts online to people like him.
While some advertisers have “suspended” support for Limbaugh’s show, the war against women is evident throughout the traditional media. Advertisers should take a closer look at the Sunday news talks shows they are funding.
As reported by Media Matters
, despite all the political debate about women’s health, “A total of 56 guests were booked on NBC’s Meet the Press, CBS's Face The Nation, ABC's This Week, Fox News Sunday and CNN's State of The Union, the Sunday programs to discuss national affairs in February. Of those, 52 were men.”
And two of the four women were Tea Party favorites Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin.
Randy Shaw is author of The Activist’s Handbook and Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century.