Axelrod: Romney gave ‘cowardly answer’ on Limbaugh controversy

Top Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod on Monday blasted Mitt Romney, accusing him of failing to appropriately criticize radio host Rush Limbaugh for his attacks on a college student who testified before Congress.

"I was kind of shocked, Anderson, when Gov. Romney, all he had, all he had to say about the thing was, 'Well, that isn't language I would have used.' What about the spirit of what was said? I thought that was a cowardly answer and it was a test of leadership, and one that he failed," said Axelrod on CNN to host Anderson Cooper.

Last week on his show, Limbaugh called Georgetown Law Center student Sandra Fluke, who testified before Congress in support of President Obama's contraception mandate, a "slut" and a "prostitute."

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Democrats have launched an aggressive push, calling on GOP leaders to publicly disavow Limbaugh's comments. 

Asked about the comments at a campaign stop on Saturday, Romney said that was "not the language" he would have used.

"I thought it was unusual that so many leaders on the other side of this debate, in terms of the political debate, took a pass on this whole thing — a powder on this whole thing," said Axelrod on Monday. "Everyone should have stood up and said this was inappropriate as apparently many of Rush's advertisers now have said it was inappropriate."

Limbaugh over the weekend issued an apology for using "inappropriate" language in his comments about Fluke and the contraception mandate and repeated that apology on air Monday.


But the controversy shows little sign of disappearing — many advertisers have dropped his radio show and Democratic leaders have urged more sponsors to do so.

Axelrod also responded to Limbaugh's claims on his show Monday that Democrats were using the issue to boost the president’s approval numbers among female voters, calling the suggestion "ridiculous."

President Obama called Fluke last Friday and told her he condemned the "personal attacks" directed against her.

"If Rush has any concerns about this, he ought to look in the mirror because ... this was an event of his own making," said Axelrod.

"The president sought to comfort a young woman who had been vilified nationally for speaking her mind on a matter of importance to her," he added. "Rush distorted what she was saying and he called her horrible names, and in so doing he slandered not just her but all women of America, so I think it was entirely appropriate for the president to offer support for that young woman even if Rush doesn't like it."