A majority of Americans think radio host Rush Limbaugh should be fired for branding a female law student testifying publicly in favor of employer-covered birth control a “slut” and “prostitute,” according to a new Bloomberg News National Poll.
Sentiments about Limbaugh’s Feb. 29 diatribe against 30-year-old Sandra Fluke, who went to Capitol Hill to side with President Barack Obama on the contraception issue, break down — perhaps not surprisingly — on gender lines.
Men are split over whether the host should be let go from his job based solely on the remarks, with 49 percent saying so, while 47 percent disagree. Women disproportionately want Limbaugh gone for the comments; 56 percent of them support firing him compared with 39 percent who don’t.
Overall, 53 percent of the 1,002 people aged 18 and older interviewed in the March 8-11 poll, conducted by the Des Moines, Iowa-based Selzer & Company, said Limbaugh should go because of his comments about Fluke, including nearly a third of Republicans, more than half of independents and three-quarters of Democrats.
Obama called attention to Limbaugh’s insults by phoning Fluke, and many advertisers have since abandoned the radio host’s broadcast because of the episode. Limbaugh eventually issued an apology for his choice of words, though not the assertions that inspired them.
On the air Tuesday, Limbaugh was defiant about having survived the firestorm, and asserted that Democrats had wrongly concluded that they would gain politically from it.
“They thought I was finished, they thought you were vanquished, and Obama was elevated to heights that would make him unbeatable,” Limbaugh told his listeners.
Instead, he said, “It wasn’t a big winner for them. Didn’t work out the way they had all envisioned, Didn’t and hasn’t worked out the way they had all hoped.”
That remains to be seen. It’s true that despite Democratic cries of a Republican “war on women,” the Bloomberg poll found that Obama is not enjoying the same lopsided support among women as he has in the past.
Still, it also revealed that more than two-thirds of women — along with 62 percent of Americans overall — side with Obama’s contention that requiring employers to provide a way for women to obtain birth-control coverage as part of their insurance plans is a question of health care access. Just one-third said it was a matter of religious liberty, as asserted by Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, along with numerous other opponents of Obama’s policy.
Whether or not Democrats will ultimately be able to capitalize politically on that public-opinion advantage is another question.