Yet another casualty in the false equivalency battle in the GOP War on Women. This time, turncoat general Greta Van Susteren defended Rush Limbaugh by targeting yet another comedian who—in an isolated tweeting-while-drinking moment, for which he immediately apologized afterwards—said something unarguably offensive about a female public figure.
As part of the growing backlash to the backlash against Rush Limbaugh for his recent comments regarding Sandra Fluke, the host’s defenders have already latched onto Bill Maher as someone whose own remarks about women are every bit as misogynistic as Limbaugh calling Sandra Fluke a “slut” and “prostitute,” if you just remove them from all context. Now another, even more unlikely comedian is caught in the fray: Louis C.K., who late last week became a symbol of that alleged liberal hypocrisy, after Fox News correspondent Greta Van Susteren took a break from chewing on the day’s salient topics to blast him in a blog post as a “pig” who “denigrates all women”—though specifically Sarah Palin, citing a series of drunken tweets C.K. made in 2010, in which he spent a turbulent flight waxing rum-and-coke-fueled rhapsodic about Palin’s “c**t.” A just-now-highly-offended Van Susteren (long one of Palin’s most ardent champions) concluded by calling for a media boycott of the upcoming Radio And Television Congressional Correspondents dinner, where C.K. was scheduled to perform.
Somewhat surprisingly, she got her wish: Only a day after her post, C.K. pulled out of the gig, his representative saying only, “He just didn’t want to do it anymore”—which naturally gave rise to speculation that his change of heart was because C.K. wished to avoid getting mired any further in this sort of controversy.
These desperate false equivalencies are tiresome. Repeat after me, Greta: Sarah Palin is a PUBLIC figure. Public, as in, she chose to run for public office and thrust herself into the spotlight. Sandra Fluke has not. The standards of defamation are much higher for a public figure (who should be no stranger to criticism; hell, even in this small corner of the blogosphere, I've been subjected to being called the same as well. Get over it).
As a lawyer, you know this, even if your partisanship won't allow you to publicly admit it. This was an isolated incident, immediately regretted, directed at a specific individual. This was not a three plus day sustained attack on someone and EVERYONE who thinks like her. Louis C.K. tweeted his stupid statement (and I'm in no way defending the content of his message) which could only be seen in real time by people who followed both C.K. and Palin (he later deleted the tweets).
Rush Limbaugh abused the public airwaves, with an alleged listenership of 20 million. Airwaves that we taxpayers provide for his hate speech. Nuance is difficult for Fox News talent, I know, but surely even you can see the difference.
Comedian Michael Ian Black chimes in:
The difference between what Louis said, and what Rush said is this: in his apology, Rush made a point of saying that his personal attacks on Ms. Fluke, were not intended “as a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.”
In other words, when he specifically called Sandra Fluke a “slut,” “a prostitute,” and encouraged her to post sex videos of herself online so he could watch, it was not personal. It was, therefore, general. Which I, for one, believe because it fits perfectly within the larger context of Rush Limbaugh’s twenty-plus years of ad hominem attacks on “feminazis” and gratuitous comments about all female journalists as “news babes.”
With Louis, his insult was actually the opposite: it was a highly personal attack. The target of his insult, Sarah Palin, so infuriated him that he felt the need to call her the very worst name he could think of. His insult referred to a specific woman at a specific time and place.
Did Louis cross the line? Yeah. Did Bill Maher? Yeah. Have I at times? Yeah. Has Greta Van Susteren ever crossed the line? Have you, in your personal conversations? Yeah. We all have. The difference is context. Do a Google search of the horrible s**t Rush Limbaugh has said about women. Then do a search on Louis C.K. See if it’s comparable.
Louis did use those words, and opted to drop out of an incestuous Washington dinner party rather than make himself the focus of this recurring debate on language. But the reason more people don’t give a s**t about what Louis C.K. said is not because of a liberal bias – does anybody even know what Louis C.K.’s politics are, aside from hating Sarah Palin (a sentiment shared by many Republicans)? – but because the charge of misogyny just doesn’t hold a lot of water with Louis. With Rush it does. Regular listeners to Rush Limbaugh’s program, as I have been for years, are not surprised when he finds himself lambasted for his petulance, name-calling, and race baiting. It’s what he does.
Considering what the Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner planners consider entertainment ...
... I'm not sure that this is a loss for Louis C.K.