In the wake of Rush Limbaugh calling a Georgetown law student a "slut," CNN hosted the president of the liberal National Organization for Women who called for Limbaugh to be fired, on Monday morning's 10 a.m. hour of Newsroom. They did not give such a voice to supporters of conservative women last year when those women were under attack from liberals.
When liberal radio host Ed Schultz called Laura Ingraham a slut last May, CNN did not host the president of NOW to call for his termination at MSNBC. In fact, the network covered the outrage over Limbaugh's smear of Sandra Fluke far more than Ed Schultz's rant last May. A Nexis search revealed 35 hits for CNN's coverage of Limbaugh's "slut" remark since March 1, versus just four reports on Schultz in the week following his comment.
And amidst the Schultz coverage, CNN's female news anchor Randi Kaye even questioned the virulence of Schultz's smear, saying that there are "mixed interpretations" of the word "slut."
Last year when comedian Bill Maher used an obscene term to describe Sarah Palin, he was a welcome guest four days later on CNN's prime-time show In the Arena to bash the Tea Party. Host Eliot Spitzer even lauded Maher's HBO program as "brilliant."
Costello's interview with NOW president Terry O'Neill was largely soft. She even began by telling O'Toole "we rarely hear Rush Limbaugh apologize for anything," and admitted later that "maybe Rush Limbaugh is waging a war against women."
Costello did offer two half-hearted questions in defense of conservatives, arguing that Limbaugh is an "entertainer" and doesn't get politicians elected. But she also teed up O'Toole by flatly asking her "do you still want the guy fired?"
"Sure. Yes. Yes," the NOW head answered in the affirmative.
A transcript of the segment, which aired on March 5 on Newsroom at 10:19 a.m. EST, is as follows:
CAROL COSTELLO: Seven advertisers have now bailed on Rush Limbaugh's radio show, and the National Organization for Women or NOW – they want him fired. This all started last week when the conservative talk show host called a Georgetown law student, Sandra Fluke, a slut because she told Congress insurance companies should cover birth control. Listen.
COSTELLO: So many people were mad, including those seven advertisers. Limbaugh released a written apology over the weekend. Here is part of it.
COSTELLO: But that is not enough for NOW. Its President Terry O'Neill joins me. Welcome.
TERRY O'NEILL, president, National Organization for Women: Hi, Carol.
COSTELLO: I mean, we rarely hear Rush Limbaugh apologize for anything.
O'NEILL: (Laughter) That is a first. You know, taking Rush Limbaugh off the air, I'm under no illusions. It's not going to end the war against women, but he went so far over the line in attacking an individual, ordinary citizen who all she did wrong was to testify before Congress about the importance of birth control to women's basic health.
And the way he attacked her personally was so far over the line that really, he doesn't belong in part of this conversation. And meanwhile, we are trying to stop the overall war against women, and taking him off the air will abate a little part of that, but certainly not all of it.
COSTELLO: Well, maybe Rush Limbaugh is waging a war against women, but you know, other conservatives and – who talk about this birth control issue say it is a religious liber – and they have a point, right? But you're focusing –
COSTELLO: Well – they would say they have a point.
O'NEILL: I do hear where they are coming from. The problem is that the First Amendment both says that there shall be no abridgement of the freedom of religion, but it also says there shall be no establishment of religion.
And, what's going on with this whole religious conversation about putting birth control in ordinary health insurance plans is this. The Catholic bishops and the fundamentalist Evangelicals have not succeeded in convincing women not to use birth control. They have a First Amendment right to rail against birth control.
O'NEILL: They don't have a right to use government to do what they can't do. Which is to take birth control away from women.
COSTELLO: Right. But it's a conversation that we should be having intelligently in this country, right? So going back to Rush Limbaugh, do you still want the guy fired?
O'NEILL: Sure. Yes. Yes. Because having that conversation about – about women's health care and the importance of birth control to ordinary health care is not advanced. It is not – we are not able to have a civilized conversation when one of the leading commentators for the conservative Republican Party, right, is out there using this vicious language against an ordinary young woman who simply wanted to testify before Congress. That goes so far beyond the pale that it prevents us from having that intelligent and thoughtful conversation, you know, that we need to have about these issues.
COSTELLO: I know that this isn't the first sexist comment that Rush Limbaugh has made because I've been a victim of Rush Limbaugh myself in that instance. But I figure he's an entertainer and of course, he might be a voice of the conservative Republican Party in this country, but he doesn't get political figures elected, he's an entertainer. Who cares?
O'NEILL: You know Carol, a lot of people say he does get political figures elected. There are a lot of people who believe he wields an enormous amount of power. And now his so called apology where he says, basically, oh I was just joking, that's all. That's really not what he was doing. In fact, when I – I first read his comments before I actually heard them and I read them and I thought, I haven't seen that kind of language since I was in seventh grade.
It seemed very juvenile and not that big a deal, but when a grown man is saying those things about this law student, really had a very ominous impact, to tell you the truth.
COSTELLO: Just a last question for you, because Rush Limbaugh's listeners say that the left isn't being very fair because when MSNBC's Ed Schultz called the radio talk show host Laura Ingram a slut, nobody said fire Ed Schultz.
O'NEILL: Oh there was a big flap about that. I mean, that's really not true. In fact, one of the things that puzzled me when Rush Limbaugh first came out and said what he said, was where are the conservative commentators? Now they have come out. George Will has come out and George Will has questioned some politicians, some very conservative politicians, for not coming out strongly against Rush Limbaugh. So I think we do come out sometimes.
Sometimes it's a little slow for both sides accuse each other of that. But, yeah, no, Ed Schultz got in a lot of trouble for doing that and appropriately so. My organization has repeatedly come – we have repeatedly criticized those who use inappropriate language against Sarah Palin, against Michele Bachmann, as much as against Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama. So the tone really matters.