Hoyer hammers Limbaugh over 'slut' attack

Hoyer noted that he has three daughters, "and if he had treated one of my daughters that way I would be even more outraged than I am for Sandra Fluke."

Fluke emerged from obscurity last month to become the unwitting symbol of Obama's new birth-control mandate — which requires employers' insurance providers to make contraception available to employees without a co-pay — after Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform panel refused to let her testify in support of the policy. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the committee, argued that the hearing was focused on religious freedom, while Fluke intended to discuss women's reproductive health.

ADVERTISEMENT
Democrats howled at the exclusion, and invited Fluke to the Capitol a week later to make her case before the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee — testimony that led Limbaugh to charge that Fluke "wants to be paid to have sex."

"She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception," Limbaugh said on his Feb. 29 radio show. "She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex."

Hoyer noted that the attack was misdirected, because Fluke's testimony dealt primarily with the case of a gay student who uses contraception to treat a medical condition, not to avoid pregnancy.

"Factually he was dead wrong," Hoyer said of Limbaugh. "If our nation is going to meet and solve the difficult challenges that confront us … it needs to do so in a rational, temperate way with honest discussion promoted, not attacked."

Facing pushback from Republicans and abandonment from advertisers, Limbaugh apologized Saturday in a statement posted on his website – an apology he repeated on his radio show Monday.

"Those two words [slut and prostitute] were inappropriate, they were uncalled for," Limbaugh said Monday. "They distracted from the point I was trying to make and I again sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for using those words to describe her."

The apology did little to appease Democrats on Capitol Hill, however, who are hoping to use the episode to portray Limbaugh's Republican supporters as out-of-touch with women's healthcare needs.

"Time will not redeem Rush Limbaugh," Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) said Monday, "and there is no acceptable apology given his history of hateful and hurtful speech."

A part of the Democrats' healthcare reform law, the administration's new birth-control rule requires most employers to absorb the cost of contraceptives for female workers. The White House exempted churches and other places of worship that object on religious grounds, but faith-based institutions like Catholic hospitals are still required to cover those services, to be paid by  third-party insurers.

The administration has not yet deciphered how its third-party "accommodation" will work for faith-based institutions that are self-insured.

Republicans and some centrist Democrats argue that the requirement infringes on the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) accused the administration of "using the strong arm of government" to force employers to cover services "that may violate their ethics and their conscience rights."

"These providers and other Americans are left with a choice: Follow your deeply held beliefs and convictions, or obey President Obama," he said.

Hoyer on Tuesday rejected that reasoning outright, saying Obama's modification alleviates the constitutional concerns.

"I don't think the argument has anything to do with religious freedom," Hoyer said. "This deals with women's health."

More in Health reform implementation

ObamaCare fines loom for uninsured

Read more »