WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – As GOP presidential hopefuls continue to vie for their party’s nomination, the words and actions of conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh have forced the front-runners to weigh in on a rather touchy subject.
Limbaugh called Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” after she argued before Congress that all private health insurance plans should cover contraception, including those from religious institutions.
Comments from Republican presidential candidates have run the gamut from Ron Paul’s critique of the apology to Newt Gingrich’s ire at the media.
“I don’t think he’s very apologetic,” Paul said on CBS’ “Face of the Nation.” “He’s [apologizing] because some people had taken his advertisements off his program. It was his bottom line that he got concerned about.”
Gingrich lashed out at the media when asked about Limbaugh’s comments.
“… I am astonished at the desperation of the elite media to avoid rising gas prices, to avoid the president’s apology to religious fanatics in Afghanistan, to avoid a trillion-dollar deficit, to avoid the longest period of unemployment since the Great Depression and to suddenly decide that Rush Limbaugh is the great national crisis of this week,” Gingrich stated on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Reactions from Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum were considerably more measured, with Romney simply admitting Limbaugh’s phrasing was not what he would have personally chosen, and Santorum dismissing his actions as those of an entertainer.
National debate on the matter continues, but a representative from the Republican National Convention told CBSDC that there is not much that is new for anyone to contribute, candidate or otherwise.
“Obviously the words used last week were inappropriate,” the representative said. “And he’s apologized for that.”
Rae Chornenky, president of the National Association of Republican Women, said that the candidates are not avoiding the situation, but rather, trying to shift focus back where they feel it belongs.
“In our opinion, it derailed the [contraception] debate,” she told CBSDC. “Candidates and organizations worked very hard not to let it pick up more steam and have us spend more time on that than on very, very serious issues.”
Chornenky added that she wants the nation to put the debate back on track toward discussing the fact that, in her opinion, such mandates would be unconstitutional.
“It’s truly affecting our First Amendment rights,” she added. “Let’s focus on that debate, and not on the inappropriate words Limbaugh had used.”