The three network morning shows on Friday continued a left-wing attack on Rush Limbaugh, railing at the "ugly turn" the conservative radio host took when he "eviscerated" an activist college student who testified before Congress on birth control availability.
On NBC's Today, Matt Lauer lectured, "And an ugly turn in the battle over birth control. Rush Limbaugh has ruffled feathers with his choice words for a 23-year-old woman who supports insurance coverage for contraception." Reporter Kelly O'Donnell huffed, "Limbaugh, who called [Sandra] Fluke by the wrong first name, then called her some very ugly things." [See MP3 audio here. Video below.]
Describing Limbaugh's commentaries on Wednesday and Thursday, O'Donnell fretted, "Limbaugh amped up the shock factor." On the previous evening's Nightly News, Anne Thompson adopted liberal talking points, noting that "some" see this as a "war on women."
On Friday's Good Morning America, the segment's graphic used a similar line, describing the issue this way: "Limbaugh Firestorm: Flashpoint Over Women's Rights."
Reporter Jake Tapper recounted, "For two days, Rush Limbaugh has eviscerated Sandra Fluke on the radio."
Framing the debate in a more fair way than NBC, he at least wondered, "Is it a debate about religious liberty? Or is it a debate about a talk radio giant insulting a third year law student?"
Host Robin Roberts could barely contain her contempt. After George Stephanopoulos asserted that Limbaugh "seemed" to call student Fluke a prostitute, Roberts jumped in, "Seemed to? He did!"
CBS This Morning offered the least amount of coverage. In an interview with Carly Fiorini, Erica Hill noted that Limbaugh was being controversial, but "he makes comments which are controversial a lot."
She then asked the Republican, "How does that language affect what Republicans are trying to do and the votes that they are trying to win?"
For a recount of Thursday night's Nightly News coverage, go here. For more on Today's coverage, go here.
A partial transcript of the March 2 Today segment, which aired at 7:10am EST, follows:
MATT LAUER: And an ugly turn in the battle over birth control. Rush Limbaugh has ruffled feathers with his choice words for a 23-year-old woman who supports insurance coverage for contraception, even at religious institutions. This morning she will join us and respond in an exclusive live interview.
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: To politics now. Democrats have narrowly blocked an effort by Senate Republicans to overturn President Obama's policy on contraception insurance coverage. It is a heated issue and it's led to controversial comments by conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell is on Capitol Hill for us this morning. Kelly, good morning to you.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Contraception Controversy; Limbaugh's Choice Words For Birth Control Activist]
KELLY O'DONNELL: Good morning, Savannah. So this all starts with the President's health care law. And then it gets into the fierce debate over some personal issues, like women's health and birth control and religious freedom. Now that can be volatile enough, but then you add Rush Limbaugh and his harsh words toward a 30-year-old woman.
SANDRA FLUKE: I don't believe I am a pawn.
O'DONNELL: Sandra Fluke is a Georgetown University law student and activist for women's reproductive health.
RUSH LIMBAUGH: So, Ms. Fluke and the rest of you femi-Nazis, here's the deal...
O'DONNELL: Rush Limbaugh, the conservative provocateur with 20 million listeners, made Fluke his target after she spoke out on Capitol Hill in favor of a new Obama administration rule that would require health insurance provide free birth control as preventive medical care.
SANDRA FLUKE: Contraception, as you know, can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school. For a lot of students who, like me, are on public interest scholarships, that's practically an entire summer's salary.
O'DONNELL: Limbaugh, who called Fluke by the wrong first name, then called her some very ugly things.
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? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.
O'DONNELL: Limbaugh amped up the shock factor.
LIMBAUGH: If we are going to pay for your contraceptives and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. And I'll tell you what it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.
O'DONNELL: Furious Democrats quickly defended Fluke and fired off a demand that Republican leaders denounce Limbaugh.