Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mr. Limbaugh's Apology

Following up on the prior post, I wanted to write about Rush Limbaugh’s public apology to Sandra Fluke. The apology was reported at the following website among others:

Last weekend, Mr. Limbaugh apparently posted the following on his website:

For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week. In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.

I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress. I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities.

What happened to personal responsibility and accountability? Where do we draw the line? If this is accepted as the norm, what will follow? Will we be debating if taxpayers should pay for new sneakers for all students that are interested in running to keep fit? In my monologue, I posited that it is not our business whatsoever to know what is going on in anyone's bedroom nor do I think it is a topic that should reach a Presidential level.

My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.

The apology is available at the following link:

There are a couple things I’d like to mention about this apology.

First, Mr. Limbaugh mentions his poor choice of words and the fact that he is on the air three hours per day five days each week. He does not say it explicitly, but I think a reasonable inference is that he is trying to flag that when one is talking publicly for such long stretches of time, one occasionally puts one’s foot in one’s mouth. Some may see this as an excuse and a failure to take full responsibility for his words, but I for one think it is a fair point. 

Unless one is reading from a pre-written script, one will sometimes say things off-the-cuff that can be interpreted in an offensive manner that the speaker did not intend. Both in private settings and in situations when I had a sizeable audience, I myself have certainly put my own foot in my mouth. Words have not always come out as I have intended.  Sometimes, to my great regret, my words caused hurt feelings as a result.  So, I can appreciate the reality, to which Mr. Limbaugh alludes. Many politicians struggle with such issues.  It is particularly difficult when the media takes things out of context, and only regards with superficiality the words a politician utters.

As I mentioned in my prior post, banning from one's vocabulary particular words that are deeply hurtful and do not contribute to a thoughtful political debate would be a prudent first step towards avoiding such foot-in-mouth issues.  But the problem with Mr. Limbaugh’s recent rant about Ms. Fluke is that it wasn’t solely the use of an offensive word or phrase that caused an uproar. 

His words were not taken out of context. To my chagrin since I had young children in the room, some newscasters played a fairly lengthy excerpt of Mr. Limbaugh’s program to provide context. I’ve read elsewhere even longer excerpts from the radio program in question. His words expressed some really ugly concepts including a basic disrespect for women and for the role of sex.  

Because of this basic lack of respect, I’ve wondered whether Mr. Limbaugh’s wife was disturbed by what he said. If my husband said such things, I would have been horrified.  But knowing my husband, I couldn’t fathom him saying anything like what Mr. Limbaugh said in his rant about Ms. Fluke.  I cannot imagine any self-respecting woman (or any compassionate human being for that matter) not being disgusted by what Mr. Limbaugh expressed in that particular radio program.

I would like to note some of the particular language used in the apology quoted above. In particular, I think Mr. Limbaugh's characterization of the debate is insightful and quite sad.   He makes reference to “personal sexual recreational activities” and “these social activities.” From context, it appears that this language is describing sexual intercourse.


I gather from this presumably more thoughtful choice of words that Mr. Limbaugh’s view of sexual intercourse is that it is merely a form of recreation and a type of social activity.

Again, interesting.

So, in that sense, sex would not be (much) different from playing golf, smoking a cigar, or watching professional football. Those are all “recreational activities” and often they are done in a “social” setting. I find that attitude fascinating since it is coming from someone who has actually been married (and presumably has had sexual intercourse).  

I perhaps would not have been so stunned if such an attitude towards sex were expressed by someone who has never been in a committed relationship.  The lack of life experience in that context might lead such an individual to a less than fully informed view on the matter.

From a Christian perspective, sexual intercourse is not just a form of recreation when you miss your tee time, you are out of cigars and/or it is no longer football season.   Sexual intercourse is a deeply personal form of intimacy. In the context of marriage, it is a special type of intimacy that can deepen already profound bonds between spouses.  Sexual intercourse can bring forth the miracle of life. But even if it does not, it serves important purposes in supporting a relationship that is the cornerstone of the family. 

These views about the role of sex are not the aberrational perspective of just one Christ follower.  These are the basic lessons I've been taught repeatedly in church throughout my adult faith life.  For example, these are the basic concepts my husband and I were taught as we received pre-marriage instruction in order to have a sacramental wedding in the Roman Catholic Church.  These are also the basic attitudes that we team-taught along with ordained priests when my husband and I worked for several years in a Church-sponsored ministry to support married couples and teach them to strengthen their relationships.  These were also the foundational concepts in the official curriculum we used when my husband and I taught in a Church-sponsored program to help prepare engaged couples for sacramental marriage.  Nonetheless, these are not uniquely Catholic views on sex.  These are also the basic attitudes that we were taught later in our Christian walk when for several years we attended a Bible Study for married couples at a large non-denominational church.

As a result of all this, from my perspective as a Christian, to dismiss sexual intercourse as simply recreational or social is astonishing and actually quite tragic. I would not be so surprised to hear such a characterization from a younger person who has never been in a committed relationship, who lacks life experience generally and who engages in illicit sexual encounters with strangers. Such a person would understandably view sex as simply a means to access a form of physical pleasure. But Mr. Limbaugh is in his 60s and is in his fourth marriage. I would have anticipated at this point in his life that he would have a more mature view of sex and would give it more respect.

Genesis 2:18, 24

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.


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