After Rush's "Apology" to Fluke: How the Media Sells Limbaugh's Big Lie About Taxpayer Role
Rush Limbaugh offered on Saturday and again today a half-hearted "apology" to try to stave off further defections by advertisers (hat tip to Political Carnival) over the contraception furor:
I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities. What happened to personal responsibility and accountability?...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.
Yet in protesting the vulgar and offensive language used to tar Flake as a "slut" and "prostitute," liberals haven't been effectively headlining the false premises and fabricated "news" stories behind his rant -- and most mainstream media outlets have ignored that side of the story. Now that Andrew Breitbart has passed away, other right-wingers, including Rush, are stepping up to carry out his legacy of creating false news stories and promoting phony narratives.
Taxpayers have nothing to do with the coverage for contraception Sandra Flake was testifying about, nor did she ask for more contraception for herself so she could have more sex. CNN continues to hype those claims, while other news organizations have left them unchallenged and right-wing pundits keep selling those lies. It's been up to a handful of progressive blogs, including Firedoglake, to point out just how false such arguments really have been. In fact, there's another scandal that the Rush contraception controversy underscores: how the right-wing media too often fabricates the news they want the the public to believe, and the way the mainstream news outlets serve as enablers for those lies. Think Progress has done perhaps the best job deconstructing this fabrication about taxpayer funding that seems to have been accepted uncritically in most mainstream coverage, with the media focus having been almost entirely on the slurs, not the false arguments. As Think Progress first noted, the lies stem from an article on the CNSnews.com website, part of the Media Research Center network of right-wing media "watchdogs" founded by Brent Bozell.
In short, a hard-right organization dedicated to sniffing out "bias" in mainstream and liberal news outlets supports a crackpot publication that apparently doesn't just spin the news -- but also fabricates news out of whole cloth to make its point. In this case, the story was headlined, apparently inspired by the old Weekly World News:
Sex-Crazed Co-Eds Going Broke Buying Birth Control, Student Tells Pelosi Hearing Touting Freebie Mandate
The article led by concocting this eye-catching scenario:
A Georgetown co-ed told Rep. Nancy Pelosi's hearing that the women in her law school program are having so much sex that they're going broke, so you and I should pay for their birth control.Speaking at a hearing held by Pelosi to tout Pres. Obama's mandate that virtually every health insurance plan cover the full cost of contraception and abortion-inducing products, Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke said that it's too expensive to have sex in law school without mandated insurance coverage.
As Think Progress and others have pointed out, her testimony actually was about "insurance companies paying for contraception as part of their health coverage, the way they pay for any other medication, such as Viagra. Morevoer, Fluke's testimony was not about herself, but about a friend who needed contraception to fight cancer and [about] other fellow law students."
Yet in the right-wing media ecosystem, the GOP-fueled notion gets traction that a pro-contraception student would actually testify before Congress along these lines: "I'm going broke having so much sex I need hard-working taxpayers to pay for my sex life. I want to while away my nights in my elite East Coast university having sex orgies paid for by farmers in Iowa and struggling factory workers in Ohio. What's wrong with that?" Of course, even the author of the article, Craig Bannister, didn't go so far as to make up such fake quotes, he just used the device of fabricating her statements in paraphrase. He wasn't some novice intern who took poor notes at the hearing, but the director of communications for CNSNews.com and executive editor of its "The Right View, Right Now" blog.
So in deliberately faking the main thrust of the article and the headline, Bannister carefully omitted using any direct quotes that supported his incendiary paraphrased account of her testimony. The only quotes attributed to her followed his made-up lead paragraphs about the sex-crazed co-ed seeking government funding for her wild sex life. One of the few direct, genuine quotes that seized Rush's imagination was this:
"Forty percent of the female students at Georgetown Law reported to us that they struggled financially as a result of this policy [Georgetown student insurance not covering contraception]," Fluke reported.
On the third day of his rants targeting Fluke about the contraception policy, Limbaugh built on this deliberately faked story with his own embellishments:
This woman comes forth with this frankly hilarious claim that she's having so much sex, and her buddies with her, that she can't afford it. And not one person says, did you ever think about maybe backing off the amount of sex that you have? ... And amazingly, when there is the slightest bit of opposition to this new welfare entitlement to be created, that all of a sudden, we hate women, we want them barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, all of these other things.
As of Monday, the faked "news" story about Fluke's testimony remains on the front page of the media watchdog's website, cnsnews.com. And while Limbaugh, conservative pundits, Rick Santorum and other dittoheads may start distancing themselves from the overt misogynist slurs that Santorum has dubbed merely "absurd," their false, inflammatory arguments about taxpayer-funded birth control continue unimpeded.
UPDATE: Bill O'Riley has doubled down on the Big Lie that Fluke and feminists in this contraception debate want to force American taxpayers to foot the bill for their sex lives.