Update: Rush Limbaugh took the very rare step — for him — of issuing an apology, if you can call it that, via his website for his word choice regarding Sandra Fluke.
Frankly, though, that doesn't really wash, coming as it does from a guy who has 15 hours a week on air to address issues. In other words, if Limbaugh thinks he can make this kerfuffle go away without addressing the matter on his program, he's got another thing coming. But truth be told, I'm surprised he'd bother. Like I said in the original post, nobody who advertises on his show — or listens to it — can claim they're not familiar with his routine. If he really is doing this because a few sponsors fled, he mostly looks like a wimp.
In the meantime, I was amused to see people taking to Twitter to try to explain to Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly how birth-control pills work, and that they're not like condoms, where you put them on each time you use them. It's a nice try, but at this point, logic has sort of left the building.
Original post: The furor over Rush Limbaugh's incendiary remarks about a Georgetown law student — calling her a "slut" for testifying regarding the importance of birth control — blew up after I filed my latest column, about the moving line pundits are asked to toe. But it's hard to think of a better example of just how arbitrary the rules are when it comes to saying outlandish things, and paying any kind of a penalty for it.
Limbaugh has already lost some sponsors over his remarks, and even been condemned by a few Republicans. But anyone who's falling for that trick — "We're shocked, shocked, to discover intemperate things are being said here" — is a classic media rube.
For years, Limbaugh has been a master of dancing up to "the line" — on subjects like women's rights and race — and occasionally tumbling across it. Rarely has he apologized, and for all the righteous indignation voiced, he's still here, pocketing tens of millions and carried by more than 600 radio stations.
There's no question, moreover, lesser mortals would have been forced to apologize — and perhaps terminated — for some of Limbaugh's utterances, particularly if they came on TV as opposed to talkradio, where the advertisers, frankly, tend to be bottom-feeders anyway. If you doubt this, try listening to a talk station, and take a shot every time someone tries to sell you gold, hair plugs, drunk-driving defense or a miracle cure for diabetes/obesity/insert-your-disease-here. You'll be tanked before you get through the first traffic update.
Ever since Don Imus got himself fired, people have been fascinated with variable standards of what can push a loudmouth over the edge. This has led to a lot of finger-pointing, of the "If Johnny Finnegan got thrown off the Empire State Building for being an idiot, why isn't he getting pushed off?" variety.
The answer's simple: There are no clear rules, because no two situations — or hosts or commentators — are exactly alike, sort of like really irritating snowflakes. And when it comes to having the right to be a jerk and getting away with it, the Limbaugh snowstorm might just be in a class all by itself.