Hillsdale College said it would continue advertising on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show, following a controversy over Limbaugh’s comments about a Georgetown Law student.
“Mr. Limbaugh made remarks of a kind that are destructive to reasonable political discourse and that we would not tolerate on our campus,” said Vice President of Administration Rich Péwé in a March 6 statement. “We hope deeply that he, his audience, and the American people will resume talking seriously about the ongoing assault on religious freedom and on other basic rights under our Constitution.”
Limbaugh called the woman, Sandra Fluke, a “slut” and a “prostitute.” He also said she should post a sex tape online so that those who would help pay for her sexual exploits can get something in return. Fluke had appeared before a group of representatives on Capitol Hill to argue for the HHS mandate that would require insurance providers to provide contraception even if it goes against their religious beliefs.
Numerous companies, including Sears, AOL, and AllState, stopped advertising on Limbaugh’s show because of his comments. The talk show host apologized for his words on March 5.
“Against my own instincts, against my own knowledge, against everything I know to be right and wrong, I descended to their level (the political left) when I used those two words to describe Sandra Fluke,” he said on his show on March 5.
The administration issued its statement this week in response to phone calls and emails, including a message sent to faculty members by a woman calling herself Hesh Hepplewhite.
“I would assume the vast majority of both MALE and FEMALE employees and students at Hillsdale have used some form of birth control … Therefore by continuing to sponsor Mr. Limbaugh, Hillsdale has decided to label their female employees and students SLUTS,” her email said.
Professor of English Michael Jordan said he thought the college’s response to the controversy was “sensible and temperate.” Don Westblade, assistant professor of religion, also said the college’s response was appropriate.
Others, however, said the school should have handled the situation differently.
Katya Cavallaro, a junior history and art major, said Hillsdale should stop advertising on Limbaugh’s show because of his comments, which she called “extremely offensive.”
“I think his comments are certainly enough to justify pulling advertising,” she said. “I think they should definitely be reconsidering it right now. In my opinion, there’s no question.”
Josephine Burns, an alumnus who graduated in 2011, said the school should reexamine its relationship with the pundit.
“I don’t necessarily think that Hillsdale should pull their advertising from his show,” she said, “but I think they need to think really carefully about the image that it sends people who are uneducated about Hillsdale, or maybe who don’t understand Hillsdale’s mission, because I think in that sense, it creates a negative picture of Hillsdale as condoning his outbursts.”
Paul Rahe, professor of history, said conservative pundits, including Limbaugh, are held to higher standards than their liberal counterparts.
“If he were a liberal, he’d have less trouble,” Rahe said. “You can call Laura Ingraham a slut and keep your job. But conservatives expect decorum –– a measure of it, at least. And obviously he slipped across the line. And he did what a gentleman does when he crosses the line. He apologized.”
Rahe said Limbaugh failed to meet his audience’s expectations.
“The people who listen to Limbaugh are people who think there should be higher standards,” he said. “I know he knows that, that’s why he apologized.”
Official Administration Statement
Yesterday, a number of faculty and staff received an abusive email from one “Hesh Hepplewhite.” The message was a clumsy and crude attempt to distract the College in light of contemporary media disputes. In order to address any questions raised by these events, the College issues the statement below. Finally, should you receive an inquiry or correspondence similar in vein to that sent yesterday, please simply forward it to Bill Gray, firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for all the good work in pursuit of the daily task of teaching those in our charge.
“Hillsdale College advertises on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show because he and his large audience have proved themselves friendly to the College’s 168-year-old mission: to provide “sound learning” of a kind essential to maintaining “civil and religious liberty” and “intelligent piety.” Last week, Mr. Limbaugh made remarks of a kind that are destructive to reasonable political discourse and that we would not tolerate on our campus. We welcomed his apologies over the weekend and on his Monday radio show, and accept them as honest. We hope deeply that he, his audience, and the American people will resume talking seriously about the ongoing assault on religious freedom and on other basic rights under our Constitution.”
— Vice President of Administration Rich Péwé