Rush Limbaugh needs accountability from listeners

Shaefer Bagwell argues radio host Rush Limbaugh needs accountability from listeners because of recent comments made on air.

Shaefer Bagwell, Writer

The furor of the moment in Washington is birth control. The president, as part of his health care reform initiative, has proposed mandating that health care insurers cover the cost of contraception for women. There has been outcry from many groups, but the loudest and most adamant is the Catholic church. The church runs a large insurance group and provides health care for its employees. The basis for their objection is the Catholic belief that contraception is sinful.

Conservatives have tried to cast this issue as one of First Amendment religious freedom. Liberals have pushed to have it viewed as a women’s rights issue. For the moment, to me, both viewpoints are irrelevant. What has me up in arms isn’t opposition or support for the mandate.

Rush Limbaugh insults woman on show

See, last week a woman named Sandra Fluke testified on the issue before Congress. She spoke on behalf of her friend, who needed birth control to prevent ovarian cysts. Her friend cannot afford birth control without insurance. These days, “the pill” requires a prescription and can be prohibitively expensive.

Rush Limbaugh acted fast. On his show, he called her a slut, a prostitute, and said she was having so much sex it was lucky that she was able to sit down. This is an immensely popular man with millions of listeners and immeasurable influence. Yet, again and again, he acts without recognition of his influence.

I think it’s time for Limbaugh to sit down and shut up. He’s vulgar, crude, racist and rude. He speaks, while millions listen, spewing lies, hatred, bigotry and excessive partisanship. He has inordinate power for a man of his position.

Influencing listeners’ voting choices

Here’s the issue, though. This country is already paralyzed by partisanship. Limbaugh capitalizes on that fact. He actively degrades the level of debate. He sinks the process lower every time he opens his mouth, pushing his listeners further to the right. These people are voters. When he pushes the conversation to the political fringe, it’s reflected in the way his listeners vote.

The longer this country listens to people like Limbaugh, on either side of the aisle, the longer we are going to be mired in a partisan swamp. When commentators can get away with calling congressional witnesses “sluts” on nationally syndicated airwaves, we’ve reached a point where we should be ashamed of the level of rhetoric.

Influential hosts need accountability

Limbaugh and others of his ilk need to be held accountable. Limbaugh has already lost more than 28 advertisers, according to Politico. I say he should lose some more. He, and others like him, need to lose listeners, they need to lose subscribing stations, they need to lose their jobs. The longer we wait until we reach that point, the longer it will be until we see actual progress in this country.

All of this being said, that woman was incredibly brave. She went in front of Congress and testified about a sensitive issue. She put her face on the cover of many newspapers and on many TV screens for the sake of her friend. Whether or not you agree with her, she should be applauded. By testifying in front of Congress, she was taking part in an act that lifts the level of debate and aids democracy in progress. The fact that a man can attack her in such a petty and disgusting way, and get away with it, is shameful.

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