Editor’s Note: This story was supported by The American Independent Institute.
For years, women’s groups have bristled at Rush Limbaugh and his litany of inflammatory, sexist statements on women. The conservative radio host has referred to feminists as “feminazis,” Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke as a “slut” and a “prostitute” and female cabinet members as “Sex-cretary of State” and “Sex-cretary of [Health and Human Services].”
But Limbaugh’s comments rarely cross the line for the Independent Women’s Forum, a group that time and again has staunchly defended the talk radio powerhouse. There may be a reason, other than a shared ideology, why the IWF has so often come to Limbaugh’s defense when other women’s groups have cringed at his utterances: money.
According to previously undisclosed tax documents acquired by the American Independent, Limbaugh cut a check in 2007 to the IWF for just over $273,000. Though I studied the past decade’s worth of tax records, it was impossible to determine how much more Limbaugh may have given in recent years. Since 2009, donors to the IWF began cloaking its contributions by running them through the right-wing’s biggest donor-advised fund, DonorsTrust.
That money may have been used to pay for IWF dinners honoring Nancy Brinker of the Susan Komen Women’s Foundation and Condoleezza Rice according to comments made by former IWF CEO Michele Bernard in March 2012. Bernard, appearing on MSNBC’s Up with Chris Hayes, said that Limbaugh has paid “several hundred thousand dollars out of his own pocket” to underwrite these dinners.
Limbaugh did not respond to requests for comment about the intended use of his contribution.
Since Limbaugh’s contribution, the IWF has loyally defended him on a range of issues after he’s made highly offensive remarks that few others supported. In 2007, Limbaugh waded into controversy by appearing to refer to Iraq war veterans critical of the war as “phony soldiers.” Limbaugh contended that he was only referring to persons falsely claiming to be veterans. IWF had his back. “[Democrats’] push for an immediate pullout of Iraq has been stalled. Tarring Rush Limbaugh as anti-American soldier [sic] helps with both problems: it satisfies their base, who has [sic] been disappointed with Congress’s inability to exit Iraq, and gives them an opportunity to say that they support the military in spite of the attacks on General Patraeus [sic],” wrote Carrie Lukas, the IWF’s managing director.
“Certainly someone needs to apologize—but it isn’t Rush Limbaugh,” Lukas wrote.
The IWF found itself in a difficult position in August 2011, when Bernard went on C-Span’s Washington Journal and criticized a 2009 statement from Limbaugh in which he stated, “I hope Obama fails.”