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Rush Limbaugh and Freedom of Speech

Are His Rights Being Trampled?

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Rush Limbaugh and Freedom of Speech
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After Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a slut, the Internet exploded with comments from people taking one side or another. And, while Limbaugh’s faithful “mega-dittoes” crowd could be counted upon to defend their champion, it was the “strange bedfellows” that were made that confounded many.

Bill Maher came out in open support of Limbaugh’s free speech rights. And, he came out as opposed to the advertiser boycott that Limbaugh is currently under. These two points have been found at the crux of much of the arguments that people are filling comments sections about (including our own). In fact, the main things we hear here are:

1) Limbaugh was right. That girl is a slut.

2) Limbaugh’s statements degrade public debate on an important issue to the level of juvenile name-calling.

3) Limbaugh has First Amendment free speech rights.

3) An ad boycott violates Limabugh’s free speech rights.

4) If someone advertises on Limbaugh, I will not do business with them.

5) If an advertiser leaves Limbaugh, I will not to business with them.

Personal opinions are going to swing all over the map. Let’s set those aside for a moment and deal with the ad boycott as it relates to free speech rights.

Freedom of speech is guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, First Amendment. That, of course, does not indemnify a person against civil suits for slander, libel, defamation of character, etc. Free speech does have limits and consequences. Other than a handful of misguided folks who think that Limbaugh should be “banned”, no one is suggesting a legislative removal of the talk show host, not even his much-hated opponents on the left.

When given the opportunity to comment on Limbaugh’s statements, even President Obama did not suggest that he be “banned”. Limbaugh has long been a fan of and believer in free market forces, the dollar vote. An advertiser boycott is a pure expression of those very forces. Someone does not like your product. They get the word out that your product is poisonous. People abandon your product.

Some people like to draw distinctions between advertisers and listeners. They say that it would only be an expression of pure market forces if listeners were abandoning Limbaugh, not if advertisers were abandoning him due to listener pressure. But, many conservatives are putting that same principle into play in response to the boycott: If you pull you ads from Limbaugh, I will drop my business with you. How is that not the same kind of “intimidation”? Now a business can’t decide to drop its ads, whatever the reason, lest they face a backlash? Fair is fair. If Netflix or Regal Assets decides to drop Limbaugh, and they lose business because of it, how is that any different from LifeLock staying with Limbaugh and losing business because of it?

Rush Limbaugh is losing advertisers. At least one has said they are leaving because they can’t support his statements anymore. Business will be gained, business will be lost, opportunists will take advantage of the whole thing. But, no one is stifling Limbaugh’s speech on the basis of law. Therefore, debate over free speech rights has no place in the argument. He has them, he has never lost them.

That doesn’t mean that he, nor anyone else, anyone else, does not have to face market consequences.

And guess who knows that all too well? Bill Maher.

Maher lost his former television show, “Politically Incorrect” in the wake of a scandal resulting from something he said on the air after 9/11, even after he apologized. In that fracas, advertisers also pulled out. Perhaps Maher is skittish about ad boycotts because of his own painful memories. But, one cannot feed from the free market teat and smile, then complain when the milk goes sour because of your own actions. It has nothing to do with “free speech”. It’s simply what happens when you tick off enough people. Maher should know that. And so should Limbaugh.

Rush Limbaugh and Freedom of Speech
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  • Bob

    To those of you who don’t want insurance to cover contraception because of cost: the costs of childbirth or ovary-removal or other surgeries are many, many times higher; hence, more contraception would greatly decrease our overall medical (and welfare) costs.
    And, I bet, if someone proposed that Viagra should not be covered by insurance, most Republicans and other so-called conservatives would scream to the heavens in hypocritical outrage.

  • Rodney Rachal

    3) “An ad boycott violates Limabugh’s free speech rights.” Thats an stupid comment advertisers have the right to pull their ads its their free speech Dumb Ass!!!

  • chuck

    krista, i too do not agree with your opinion. obviously you have never read the constitution concerning gun rights. also, who are you to say who should and should not be allowed in society. you are obviously one of the oh “so” tolerant left.

  • speeddydan

    Big Rushs free speech rights are not violated. No regulator has said he couldn’t say that. He has rights; we have rights. A young woman says the women in her school have lots of sex. Think about this. A 25 y/o woman can have lots of sex…with her husband. This statement does not say women are having lots of sex all over town. So Mr Rush thinks a woman having lots of sex with her husband is a “slut?” That’s what is sounds like to me. The people in a free market have a right to complain; the advertisers have a right to stay/quit; and Rush has the right to run his inappropriate mouth. Also, remember Rush doesn’t speak for himself anymore. He speaks almost 100% for the RNC.

  • a

    Thanks Rush for alienating woman from the GOP! Your a Good Ole Boy!

  • Rodney Rachal

    Dude, You’re totally sucking on Rush Limbaugh’s manhood

  • Southern Belle

    I think you nailed it. I am a mega-dittohead myself, and I think the “outrage” on the left is hypocritical and just a tad silly. Some of it I think is attributed to folks only knowing about Rush what is reported in the mainstream media. Little soundbites taken out of context do not capture the essence of Rush or his sarcastic wit or the very valid and relevant points he made.

    That said, though, I don’t think ordinary folks putting pressure on advertisers to pull ads from his show is violating his free speech rights. The calls for FCC bans, that’s a different story. But if advertisers want to pull their ads, it’s certainly their right to do so. And, like you so eloquently said, some will leave and others will jump on board with him. That’s just how things work.

    This is by far the most unbiased and truthful article I’ve read on this whole debacle, I think. Thanks!

  • http://facebook Spencer

    This is a diversion from the real issue? It is a political ploy by the Socialist Democrats.Fluke was used as a pawn to distract the American public to gain womens votes,to appear to be sympathetic to womens health…especially after the failure of trying to force Catholics to go against their core beliefs and violate their principles and deny them of the religious liberties.Not to mention the failed policies of the administration.That is how dirty they are.Frankly i am angry the way they insult the intelligence of the American public.Woem already have contraception at the minimal price of $9.00 a month.You mean to tell me Fluke can afford a Georgetown education and spring break in California with her boyfriend…who’s father is a democratic politician….can not afford $9.00 a month for contraceptive? Nothing is for free! If we the tax payers have to pay for others sex lives….where does it end? It ends with higher health premiums…diminished quality care [ because the government takes control]and no competition for quality care….higher taxes…added national debt…. a larger government….with a corresponding loss in individual freedoms and liberties.

  • mccauley

    Get rid of Rush…? What, are you an idiot. He laughs at the thought of advertisers leaving. Good ridence. More will get in line to ad on his show. You just dont get it do you ? He continues to confound you libs because he speaks the truth. Just listen for more than 5 minutes…I dare you. Think you are mad and confused now. Wait till the 6th minute. Ha ha ha…

  • http://facebook Spencer

    This is a diversion from the real issue? It is a political ploy by the Socialist Democrats.Fluke was used as a pawn to distract the American public to gain womens votes,to appear to be sympathetic to womens health…especially after the failure of trying to force Catholics to go against their core beliefs and violate their principles and deny them of the religious liberties.Not to mention the failed policies of the administration.That is how dirty they are.Frankly i am angry the way they insult the intelligence of the American public.Women already have contraception at the minimal price of $9.00 a month.You mean to tell me Fluke can afford a Georgetown education and spring break in California with her boyfriend…who’s father is a democratic politician….can not afford $9.00 a month for contraceptive? Nothing is for free! If we the tax payers have to pay for others sex lives….where does it end? It ends with higher health premiums…diminished quality care [ because the government takes control]and no competition for quality care….higher taxes…added national debt…. a larger government….with a corresponding loss in individual freedoms and liberties.

  • A

    Yeah Ms. Fluke, you should pay for your birth control fair and square… like Rush and his oxycodone.

  • jack

    limbaugh has always been a big mouth his nickname should be the mouth. his mouth keeps moving and his brain is in neutral he does not know how to shift gears. he will keep on ranting as long as idiots listen to him

  • kahnabbis

    Rush is right, she is a slut, and it’s a shame that her being a slut is news. All just a cover up for what is real news. Gas is costing both my testicles, Obama refuses to build a pipeline or drill, and all you lefties are a bunch of douchebags.

  • James Ricker

    I believe the advertisers who pulled their advertising from Rush are shooting themselves in the foot. The people who listen to Rush are supporters. I don’t listen to Bill Maher or any leftwing socialist so what is advertised on their shows will never affect me but if you pull your ads from Rush I will not purchase your product for two reasons. One just because you are so narrow minded and two because it is not being presented to me for consideration.

    • Mixed Emotions

      Excellent POINT.

      And it was Saturday Night Live that heavily used the phrase “Jane you ignorant slut”. So how can liberals get panties in a wad this time?

  • Frankjak

    Whether she is a slut or not…has little bearing on the poor status of our economy and the unemployed…why don’t we talk about something relavant.

  • jim

    This is from a guy that can’t keep a wife, needs hundreds of viagra to get it up, is a drug addict and why did he lose sooo much weight. Drug addicts and people with aids lose weight, wonder if this is his problem????

  • Teresa

    I am a faithful listener to Rush and was listening to the program where he made these comments. Yes the use of the words he used was in poor taste( but probably aren’t anything new to anyone) but the point he was trying to make was great. We as Americans should not have to pay for anyone’s birth control I for one think we pay for to much as it is. And yes I am one of the 46% who does pay taxes on April 15th every year. Rush’s show is entertainment and is not manadatory for anyone to listen to. Enough already!!!

  • speeddydan

    Rush is not having his rights stomped by his employer, his regulators, or by lawyers. He has rights, his listeners who are offended have rights, his sponsors have the right to stay or go (free market at play, then conservatives don’t like it?) Ms. Fluke said that women in her survey have lots of sex. 25 y/o women have lots of sex most often with their husbands. Nothing in Ms Fluke’s statement said that women were having sex all over town. Mr Rush inferred that by his comment. That was belittling and degrading to all women.
    When you do a bad thing a work, you could be given a no-pay suspension or a firing. Rush bad; his employer (listeners who spend money with sponsors) have handed him a disciplinary write-up. Free market you know.

  • frank brown

    but its ok for the Ptresidents Chief Policy Advisor named Axelrod to call Ms Calfornia a dog? the President hasnt called her to apologizeand Press just doesnt think it should be brought up…amazing how Press just calls out some and not others isnt it.

  • http://webpronews writestuffpdx

    how does a boycott infringe on someones rights??????!!! People are idiots. If someone wants to protest—- a true “right”==== by not buying a product, then they should be able to do so. Period end of story. It is the most non violent form of exercising and expressing an opinion— another, you got, legitimate right! Limbaughs or anyone else’s rights are not impinged by someone else saying don’t buy a product he endorses. Limbaugh, Maur, all of them are just worried about their money. Jeez, where are the intelligent people on this planet? Oh, yeah. If you’re listen to Limbaugh in the first place, that answers that question. What a great nickname to have- Ditto head. Someone who just blindly, blankly, agrees with whatever is said.

  • johnny

    Wrong, Limbaugh does have freedom of speech rights, then again Ms Fluke as legal rights.

    Advertisers have rights to and they have the right to not promote someone who makes ignorant comments. So they have the right to pull back from supporting RL.

    I dont pay too much attention to what advertisers are doing so while it might not affect how I do business with a company it will eventually have an affect on RLs ability or audience he reaches when he makes ignorant comments.

  • laura

    The point is not, as many claim ” Don’t take him serious, he is a comedian…. Millions hang on his every word….As a comedian, Mr. Limbaugh is a bad example. As a human being I find this pillpopper offensive, to say the least. Not that I care one bit about his politics. If he is indeed the face of the Republican party, than all I can say is “Good Night America, you can’t sink any lower”….

  • John

    It’s interesting how people are irate that a person on the right like Rush called her a slut, but aren’t irate at Bill Maher for caller Palin a slut or cunt numerous times along with her daughters and other right side women. “Oh, I’m a comedian. I’m just kidding.” does not make it right. Where’s your outrage on this?

  • Nimai

    I agree with this article. Well-balanced view.

  • Why Me

    The notion that leftists, who set-up situations to evoke response from right wing radicals without any notion of the consequence of their actions, is incomprehensible. There are synonyms for the work Rush chose but they would have all thinly veiled the scorn that “that woman” raised. The rabid radical media understandably raced to her “damsel Status” protection. We need to set a new standard for expressing one’s self. Eliminate “Political Correctness” as the standard by which opinions are publicly expressed and make these violations come under law’s inspection for determination as to legality and punishment of such umbrages.

  • tyler

    Its not ok for rush to call this girl a slut but its ok for the liberals to all call sara palin a slut?

  • jack jackson

    Free speech is what the Dems want to get rid of….and they’ll use bullying and the legal system to take that right if they need to!!

  • monie

    Rush has every right to speak his tiny, feeble, diseased mind. I have every right to say I will not listen to a crazed drug addict that is self deprecating. That’s why there are channel changers with all radios and TV’s

  • realLy

    He called her what she is,why should i have to pay so she can have sex with out getting pregnet,this is a outrage a skandol more like it, people have said worst things About many Women figures in to day world and never a back lash to this level, She Know it is true so she want to fight back, other women called the same name and many other chose not to say anything cause they new it was not the true

  • James K. Adams

    Limbaugh’s free speech rights aren’t being trampled by an advertiser boycott. How absurd to suggest so. He is free to say anything he wants however silly, bigoted are wrong headed. But, his advertisers are not required to sponsor him. Welcome to capitalism 101. You don’t like it, don’t pay for it.

    • Lu J.

      Well said

  • http://www.jodyroy.blogspot.com/ JodyRoy

    Do none of you know how to use spaces? I see so many posts with no space after any commas, no space after periods? As a former typesetter, I would think the least you would want to do is make your posting readable. Just saying…

  • http://none Sara A. Dollarhite

    True, Mr. Limbaugh can exercise his “freedom of speech”. The criticism I have of him is what he chooses to do with this “freedom”. I don’t think that his radical bashing of what seems to be a decent, normal young lady is worthy of anyone even mentioning anymore…and even better would be that we don’t HAVE to listen to ANYTHING Mr. Limbaugh has to say in the future. He strives for fame using Howard Stern tactics (no offense meant to Howard) and evidently can’t come up with enough interesting stuff to be noticed.

  • smorpo

    Mike,
    a very balanced article…the best I have seen so far. It’s right to let the market decide either way.

  • Doug

    What I don’t understand is, why can’t Sandra Fluke sue him for defamation of character? As I read in wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defamation), the only real requirements are that the statement in question is false (as he himself has admitted), and that it is communicated to someone other than the person being defamed (I think even Limbaugh listeners qualify as people in this sense).

    Since the statement is clearly derogatory, clearly false, and clearly intended to harm her reputation, why can’t she take legal action? If, just once, that turd blossom was made to take responsibility for his mud-slinging, name-calling, vile-spewing form of hatred, I’d be a happy camper for at least a day.

  • Lu J.

    There is a thin line between freedom of speech and slander, and Rush Limbaugh crossed that line. There are many ways to get your point across without resorting to name calling like a little boy in a schoolyard. The sad part about this is that perhaps there were people who may have agreed with him over the issue but the way he went about defending his position may have pushed them to the other side. I believe that this action alone is what prompted advertisers to pull out. He was his own wost enemy in this situation.

  • Kenny

    Every time Rush opens his pie hole nothing comes out but crap. I never listen to his bull crap. He is full of crap as a christmas turkey.

  • MH

    I have been doing all that I can to show my support for Rush. He is right and has the right to speak as he has. It’s not just the 1st ammendment rights that is involved here. It’s that he is right and accurate to call her every name in the book as she is calling herself the same thing when she says that she needs these pills every day of the year. Worse yet she does not care enough for herself to at least have her men use condoms or she would not need the pills so often. She is just what she is and she will always be a slut and the terminology is accurate of someone who cannot control herself enough to stop at least once in a while. A nymphomanic is another term that fits as well. This woman needs the help of a shrink and to learn to keep her knees closed shut tight for a time. Even in my bad days as a kid I never was so fortunate to find a woman or girl to have sex with any where near that amount time. If every woman did this they would be in doctors office a whole lot more often for things besides pills. So give us a break. I do not apporve my tax dollars for her use of the pill. If she can afford to go to college then she can afford to pay for her pills.
    Keep up the great work Rush. Whhooo Raahh. !!

  • CADILLON

    If the young woman would have been black then he would of been kicked off the air , just like Imus. Although I see Imus is working his way back on the air. Not sure why anyone listens to any of the talk radio garbage, it’s just their opinion.

  • Calvin

    Government shouldn’t pay for birth pills unless subscribed by a doctor. The Church’s shouldn’t be forced to cover them either when it goes against their beliefs. Rush has a right to say as he will, this girl lied about her past and is not a trustworthy figure on the matter. And insulting others on their opinions is rather lame, I have my conservative and my liberal tendencies to me, but I still have to agree with Rush and say this girl shouldn’t be asking churches to pay for her sexual activities.

  • rnjane

    you know you’re in trouble when you start invoking your “Freedom of speech rights” .. after your advertisers.. pulled theirs!

  • Mixed Emotions

    THANKS for the article. Thanks Bill Maher for standing up. I’m Mixed. I’m guessing most folks (me included) don’t exactly know what Rush allegedly said. I believe in Freedom of Speech even if I don’t like what is being said. Opinions, when clearly opinions, should be allowed, whether politically correct or not. I think Liberal media has done similar things (called women slut if that is what he did) and have not suffered the same fate. That is wrong. I’m Mixed. I think the controversy is good. Rush continually rubs me raw when he speaks about Hillary Clinton and femi-nazis. Rush is a bloated windbag and a donkey. It is offensive no matter who says it. I think Rush is a Donkey when it comes to women and should keep his flat mouth shut. I find most liberals even more offensive on a number of issues. I never once thought about Rush’s advertisers. I only think about liberal advertisers when an alleged NEWS organization shows extreme bias and disrespect. Rush has always been a Donkey about women. I’m a Republican with a PhD…and Rush is a fat, overpaid, uniformed insensitive windbag. I enjoyed the SNL skit. Do I support advertiser bans. YOU bet. I’m not sure it is warranted in this case..but as a woman..if RUSH tones it down about women that works for me. So thanks everyone. I’m pro choice..and all for personal responsibility and less Government. I could care less whom you sleep with. I think smaller Government and getting Government out of healthcare is a great answer. To me sex change operations like Obama care mandates that we must pay for is crazy. But I’m not offended with birth control as a health care choice. I really think we need to allow insurance across state lines and have personal freedom to choose. I don’t think the same Government that allows MUSLIMS to op out of Obamacare should be able to force Catholic Universities to have Birth control (if that was the issue). I’d rather have an insurance cafeteria plan. Why should I pay for Viagara? So I’m a fiscal conservative and a social moderate.
    I’ll take Rush Limbaugh over Pelosi, Obama, Reid, Joyce Behar, Jesse Jackson, etc. any day. He does not deserve advertiser loss…but it was FINE wake up call.

  • j

    bill hates rush, as he should being rush is a WORTHLESS loud mouth brain washer pf the .

    bill needs to stop playing all sides just to get media attention and shock value!

    this froma actual fan!

  • lol

    I agree with Rush that the government does not have the legal authority to force employers or insurance companies to subsidize the cost of birth control for women who want to have all the sex they want without the worry of having children. However, I don’t believe the crude and rude remarks he made was the correct way to express his views. Not having sex has always been the best form of birth control.

  • j

    Rush L is literally a mind controller of the desperate & bitter!
    He makes things up as he goes along with his radioshow. some are true more is not, but a DITTO head will falsely belive it is all TRUE!

    THUS HE IS INEED A BRAIN WASHER AND A VERY GOOD ONE AT THAT~

    Bill ENOUGH, stop the freerights BS, and shock value of supporting a man u and i both hate!

    if u dont your only geniune fans will evaporate…

  • Broncomania

    People who attempt to make the excuse that it is okay for Maher to spew his vile obscenities toward Palin and other conservatives simply because the label of comedian is attached are nothing more than illiterate liberal slime. The vile propaganda and free pass that Bill, MSNBC and the liberal media receive is inexcusable. Maher is a political commentator as much as he is a comedian ( And i say the word comedian loosely). So in other words a person has an unrestrained license to trash another person regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation as long as he or she is a comedian. Any thinking person has to see how absolutely absurd and moronic that sounds. Yes, we have intellectually bankrupt liberals on these posts who continue to defend Maher and whose ignorance is so transparent its laughable. One can almost feel sorry for them. But then again its their choice to continue to feed at the trough of illiteracy and ignorance. But if Rush is to be vilified for his comments then the same standard needs to be applied to the Disney character-Bill Maher

  • JOSE JIMENEZ

    OK, I understand where maher is coming from, I’ve been a fan of his since his politically incorrect days at abc. what really bothers me is that the right wing says that their is a bias against their mouthpieces, that is bs. Maher lost his job over @ abc & the right was there with their shit kicker boots kicking him through the door. the prob with the right is that they’re the only ones that think they’re funny now once else does. how many rt wing comedians do u c? Dennis Miller period! Limbaugh was serious when he called Ms. Fluke a slut he was not sincere and was sorry because he lost business not because he really meant it.

  • Steve

    Whats ticks me off is that Obama and this woman see nothing wrong at all in taking 3k of our taxpaying dollars to pay for her birthcontrol. If she can’t afford the pill, buy some condoms and leave the rest of us alone.

  • ChuckD

    Limbaugh has every right to broadcast what he wants. His listeners have every right to turn it off if they wish. What is most revealing about his downright nasty comments about Sandra Fluke is how the Republican leadership reacted. The only one who stepped up to the plate was John McCain. Instead of Romney taking the high ground, he said that he wouldn’t have used those words. Boehner said that Limbaugh’s comments were no worse than those levvied by the Democrats? Really? The lack of Republican leadership resonse is a gift to the Obama campaign.

  • Bobby

    Rush does not have the right to slander or libel that woman. He can give his opinion if he wants. I give mine. I think he is a pig faced liar, a sissy and a traitor to America. Also, people who think he is that have a right to call a boycott for those reasons. The un-Christ like Christian right does it all the time. Some impotent preacher is always calling for a boycott of something. Don’t like it when the shoe is on the other foot huh? Rush Goebbles should be shamed off the air and never heard from again.

  • Bobby

    By the way if I was her father I would slap that fat bastard right in his Koch sucker!

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