In Limbaugh's world, a rape victim is a "ho"

The radio host says that something's fishy about the allegation that students on the Duke lacrosse team gang-raped an exotic dancer.


Farhad Manjoo
April 4, 2006 12:13AM (UTC)

Rush Limbaugh was on the radio on Friday doing his regular show, which means, of course, he said something galactically stupid (to quote Tom Cruise in "A Few Good Men"). According to Media Matters, when a caller asked Limbaugh to speculate on why Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson hadn't become enmeshed in the immigration debate, Limbaugh said that Sharpton was too busy trying to insert himself in the controversy surrounding recent allegations that white Duke University lacrosse players gang-raped a black exotic dancer during a raucous party. Limbaugh put it charmingly: "He's trying to figure out how he can get involved in the deal down there at Duke where the lacrosse team uh, supposedly, you know, raped, some, uh, hos."

The caller didn't object to Limbaugh's characterization of the alleged rape victim as a ho, and the radio host went on to say that Sharpton's involvement could backfire, because the case could turn out to be like the Tawana Brawley incident -- in which Sharpton championed the cause of a 15-year-old black girl who claimed to have been raped by six men, claims that a grand jury later dismissed. Sharpton eventually lost a defamation suit in that case.

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There is no evidence that the woman at the center of the Duke case is making anything up; prosecutors in the case are still investigating the matter. But Limbaugh seems to have come to a conclusion: " I just, I'm looking at this case down there at Duke ... and it's -- there's some things about it, some inconsistencies. You've got some timeline differentiations and matriculations and, and so forth," he said.

When another caller asked him to clarify if he had indeed called the victim a "ho," Limbaugh offered an apology and then something of an explanation. Unfortunately, it made no sense: "Well, because, because I'm running on fumes today, [caller], and I felt terrible about it. And I knew somebody was gonna call and give me a little grief so I'm takin' the occasion of your call to apologize for it. That was, it was a terrible slip of the tongue. I'm sorry." Then Limbaugh added: "But it wasn't the worst one that has been said recently. You want -- do you know who Keanu Reeves is?"

"Yeah, I know who he is. He's an actor," the caller said, clearly confused as to the direction in which Limbaugh was heading.

"He's a wacko," Limbaugh said. "He's, he's an -- an actor and, he -- what was he doing? He was -- the Women Against Domestic Violence group was already in a dither because Keanu Reeves told an interviewer he learned something filming a rape scene with Hilary Swank for a movie called 'The Gift.' And he said was, what he learned was that some of these ladies don't mind it ... He said he learned that in a rape scene but -- so, you know, I'm not the worst offender."

So, let's see if this makes sense. Rush Limbaugh is not sexist and unfeeling, because he'll call a rape victim a "ho" only a) if he is "running on fumes" (but one has to wonder, what kind of fumes?), b) if doing so is less stupid than something Keanu Reeves has done.

Part b) is particularly intriguing. I can't wait for others on the right to begin using the Reeves defense: "Yes, I may have mismanaged the war in Iraq," Donald Rumsfeld ought to say, "but at least I didn't star in 'Johnny Mnemonic.' I'm not the worst offender."

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Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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