When 30-year-old Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke rose to prominence last spring it was in an unconventional way. The grad student was pilloried by ultra-conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh who repeatedly and publicly called her a “slut” for standing up for women’s contraceptive coverage.
House Democrats pushed for Fluke’s voice to be heard in a February 2012 Congressional hearing on the HHS mandate’s role in governing religious institutions, like the one she attended. When Oversight Committee Chair Darrell Issa, R-Calif., refused, Fluke spoke in front of the Democratic caucus instead. Issa and his Republican colleagues in the House faced a backlash of criticism for not including Fluke - and, for that matter, not including any women speakers at all.
Limbaugh piled on Fluke, launching at least 20 personal attacks on the Georgetown student by telling his radio audience that, among other things, her support for contraception coverage by insurers meant that “she wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex,” and even going as far as to say, “She’s having so much sex, she can’t afford it” and “it’s amazing she can still walk.”
After a number of prominent advertisers abandoned his radio show, Limbaugh apologized.
President Barack Obama stood up for Fluke, placing a personal call to her moments before she appeared on msnbc’s Andrea Mitchell Reports.
He encouraged me and supported me and thanked me for speaking out about the concerns of American women,” Fluke told Mitchell moment after the call. “And what was really personal for me was that he said to tell my parents that they should be proud. And that meant a lot because Rush Limbaugh questioned whether or not my family would be proud of me. So, I just appreciated that very much.
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(Watch Fluke’s interview on Andrea Mitchell Reports moments after she received a phone call from President Obama.)