The president of Georgetown University, John J. DeGioia, has written a letter (see below) to the university community that condemns Rush Limbaugh for his sick, hateful and altogether disturbing comments about Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke. There is an argument that says, “When you pay attention to Limbaugh, you give him just what he wants.” On one level, this is true. He’s a hacky carnival barker whose made millions by trading on racism, sexism and homophobia—and our attendant outrage. But Limbaugh crossed a line this week. He called a private citizen a “slut” because she testified to Congress about a friend who lost an ovary. He rose on top of his reinforced bully pulpit and invited violence and harassment on someone for daring to answer an invitation to speak before members of Congress. This could be his “Don Imus moment.” But that will depend on our level of commitment to get this bigot off of our airwaves and into his basement where he can join Glenn Beck in virtual anonymity. Here is a link to his sponsors.
Also, given the role that Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich’s loud and proud Catholicism has played in the Republican primary race, every candidate should be asked if they agree with President DeGioia and join him in his condemnation of Limbaugh’s misogyny. I can’t wait for to hear both of Mitt Romney’s answers. Without further ado, below is the text of President DeGioia’s letter.
In recent days, a law student of Georgetown, Sandra Fluke, offered her testimony regarding the proposed regulations by the Department of Health and Human Services before a group of members of Congress. She was respectful, sincere, and spoke with conviction. She provided a model of civil discourse. This expression of conscience was in the tradition of the deepest values we share as a people. One need not agree with her substantive position to support her right to respectful free expression. And yet, some of those who disagreed with her position – including Rush Limbaugh and commentators throughout the blogosphere and in various other media channels – responded with behavior that can only be described as misogynistic, vitriolic, and a misrepresentation of the position of our student.
In our vibrant and diverse society, there always are important differences that need to be debated, with strong and legitimate beliefs held on all sides of challenging issues. The greatest contribution of the American project is the recognition that together, we can rely on civil discourse to engage the tensions that characterize these difficult issues, and work towards resolutions that balance deeply held and different perspectives. We have learned through painful experience that we must respect one another and we acknowledge that the best way to confront our differences is through constructive public debate. At times, the exercise of one person’s freedom may conflict with another’s. As Americans, we accept that the only answer to our differences is further engagement.
In an earlier time, St. Augustine captured the sense of what is required in civil discourse: “Let us, on both sides, lay aside all arrogance. Let us not, on either side, claim that we have already discovered the truth. Let us seek it together as something which is known to neither of us. For then only may we seek it, lovingly and tranquilly, if there be no bold presumption that it is already discovered and possessed.”