Radio host Rush Limbaugh has apologized to a Georgetown University law student for calling her insulting names.
He had come under intense criticism from womens' groups, politicians from both political parties and some of the advertisers on his talk show.
Friday, President Obama joined the rising chorus of voices repudiating comments made by the conservative radio host, who asserted on air that a Georgetown University law student is a "slut" and a "prostitute" because she spoke out as a proponent of Obama's contraception mandate.
Obama called Sandra Fluke, 30, Friday to offer his support and "express his disappointment that she has been the subject of inappropriate personal attacks, and to thank her for exercising her rights as a citizen to speak out on an issue of public policy," White House press secretary Jay Carney said.
Limbaugh said Saturday on his website that he had chosen the wrong words in his comments about law student Sandra Fluke. He said he "did not intend a personal attack" on her.
Fluke told CBS that the president also wanted to make sure she was doing okay after having been degraded so publicly by Limbaugh, whose shows are heard by millions.
California Republican Carly Fiorina blasted Limbaugh's language as "insulting" and "incendiary."
House Speaker John Boehner issued a statement through his spokesman condemning the remarks.
"The speaker obviously believes the use of those words was inappropriate," Boehner's spokesman Michael Steel said.
Boehner's statement came after 75 Democratic members of Congress sent a letter to the speaker urging House Republicans to speak out against the "atrocious and hurtful words spoken by Mr. Limbaugh."
Using the airwaves to launch a "direct attack on a private citizen is unacceptable," said the letter, written by New York Rep. Louise Slaughter and signed by her colleagues.
"Mr. Limbaugh repeatedly used sexually charged, patently offensive, and obscene language to malign the character of this courageous young woman who has chosen to be the voice for many of her peers," the letter said, referring to Sandra Fluke, the student activist.
GOP candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum soft-footed around Limbaugh's comments, both saying they disagreed with his language, but not elaborating beyond that.
"I'll just say...it's not the language I would have used," Romney told a crowd in Ohio, before diving into a speech about jobs.
"He's being absurd, but that's...an entertainer can be absurd. He's in a very different business than I am," Santorum told CNN's Wolf Blitzer in an interview Friday.
Fluke testified in a mock hearing in front of Democrats last week after she was not allowed to attend a Republican-run hearing on contraception the week prior. Republican Darrell Issa, who was in charge of the hearing, rejected Fluke as a witness on grounds that she wasn't qualified.
The lead panel included five men and no women. Two women, both favoring the GOP position, were allowed to testify in the second panel.
Fluke's testimony, first leaked after the Republican hearing, barely mentioned sex. She said a year's worth of contraception costs up to $3,000 over the course of law school, and for many women, birth control is used to treat medical issues, including polycystic ovary syndrome.
Limbaugh pounced on the dollar number Fluke used.
"That's a thousand dollars a year of sex -- and, she wants us to pay for it," Limbaugh said on his radio show Wednesday.
Limbaugh also said about Fluke: "What does it say about the college co-ed Sandra Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her?"
"It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute."
"She wants to be paid to have sex," Limbaugh continued. "She's having so much sex she can't afford the contraception."
He doubled down on the comments Thursday, saying he thought it was "hilarious" that the "left has been thrown into an outright conniption fit" as a result of the remarks.
"The reaction that they are having to what I said yesterday about Susan Fluke -- or Sandra Fluke, whatever her name is -- the Georgetown student who went before a congressional committee and said she's having so much sex, she's going broke buying contraceptives and wants us to buy them," Limbaugh said on his show. "I said, 'Well, what would you call someone who wants us to pay for her to have sex? What would you call that woman? You'd call 'em a slut, a prostitute or whatever.'"
Limbaugh then went even further, saying that if taxpayers were going to fund women's sexual activities, then women needed to provide a service in return, by posting videos of themselves having sex so that everyone can see.
Limbaugh's continuing insistence that it's the amount of sex Fluke is allegedly having that's making contraception so expensive for her--that if she had less sex, she would need less contraceptives--has led a number of people to wonder if Limbaugh actually understands how birth control works.
Despite the backlash, Limbaugh has refused to back down from his comments, laughing incredulously when he learned on air Friday about the president's phone call.
"Oh that's touching, Obama just called Sandra Fluke to make sure she's all right," Limbaugh said. "That is so compassionate, what a great guy."
He continued to defend his comments from Wednesday, arguing that it was "insulting" that Fluke and other women's health advocates would ask taxpayers to fund for contraception for "people who want to have sex without consequences."
"All of the sudden we're told that people who want to have sex without consequences, we have to pay for it. And if we object, we're somehow Neanderthal," Limbaugh said. "Out of nowhere this comes up, and to me this is insulting."
Fluke says she believes the radio star misunderstood her testimony.
"For starters, I didn't say that I should be paid for anything. What we were talking about is private insurance covering a medical need. It has nothing to do with the government paying for anything, or taxpayers, or anything like that," she told CNN.
Fluke argued that she would have been a legitimate witness had Republicans allowed her to testify in the original hearing.
"I'm an American woman who uses contraception, so let's start right there. That makes me qualified to talk to my elected officials about my health care needs," she said.
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