Obama Calls Law Student Lambasted By Limbaugh
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And I'm Audie Cornish. President Obama called a Georgetown University law student today to find out how she's doing. Last week, Sandra Fluke testified before lawmakers, arguing that insurers should provide no-cost contraception.
That earned her the wrath of conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh. Over the past few days, he has repeatedly used his program to denounce Fluke, calling her a slut and a prostitute.
As NPR's Brian Naylor reports, Limbaugh's harsh words have, in turn, drawn sharp denunciations from Democrats and Republicans.
BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: It began when Sandra Fluke testified before a panel of congressional Democrats about the need for access to contraceptives. Georgetown University, a Catholic school, does not provide such coverage as part of its health plan. The Obama administration says, if health insurance plans at institutions like Georgetown do not offer such coverage, the insurance companies must provide it for free.
On Wednesday, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh denounced Fluke, using very personal, some would say crude language.
RUSH LIMBAUGH: What does it say about the college coed, Susan Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex. What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? Makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.
NAYLOR: Limbaugh's words caused outrage. A statement from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said the comments were, quote, "outside the circle of civilized discussion and unmasked the strong disrespect for women held by some in this country."
A spokesman said Republican House Speaker John Boehner, quote, "obviously believes the use of those words was inappropriate, as is trying to raise money off the whole debate." More on that in a minute.
Today, President Obama weighed in, phoning Fluke as she was about to appear on a cable TV news show. White House spokesman Jay Carney says the two spoke for several minutes.
JAY CARNEY: He wanted to offer his support to her. He wanted to express his disappointment that she has been the subject of inappropriate personal attacks and to thank her for exercising her rights as a citizen to speak out on an issue of public policy.
NAYLOR: Moments after the phone call, Fluke appeared on MSNBC, where she described her conversation with the president to host Andrea Mitchell.
SANDRA FLUKE: He encouraged me and supported me and thanked me for speaking out about the concerns of American women, 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.
NAYLOR: Limbaugh remains unapologetic. According to a transcript of his show today, he said the Democrats, in his words, are desperate and that all they've got is to go out and try to discredit their critics. And while Limbaugh seems to relish the controversy he's provoked, it's also been a handy political tool for Democrats who are using it to whip up their base.
A fundraising email sent today by the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee urges supporters to sign a petition denouncing Limbaugh and at the bottom of the page is a red button marked: contribute.
Brian Naylor, NPR News, the White House.
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