This has to be one of the more pitiful segments that I've had the unfortunate circumstance of watching for a while now. Anderson Cooper really should be ashamed of himself for allowing Mary Matalin and Ari Fleischer get away with this ridiculous
March 3, 2012

This has to be one of the more pitiful segments that I've had the unfortunate circumstance of watching for a while now. Anderson Cooper really should be ashamed of himself for allowing Mary Matalin and Ari Fleischer get away with this ridiculous defense of Rush Limbaugh where they decided to start attacking Arianna Huffington for a satirical piece posted at her web site, The Huffington Post.

Here's the offending piece that apparently had Fleischer and Matalin worked into a tizzy -- The Jesus-Eating Cult of Rick Santorum.

And here's his response which was also posted there as well where he explains what he wrote and why he wrote it -- Dear Catholics: I Am Heartily Sorry, etc.:

Actually, I'm not sorry at all, but I suppose an explanation is in order.

Last week, I wrote a piece with the somewhat provocative title "The Jesus-Eating Cult of Rick Santorum." The purpose was to take Santorum to task for his persistent and opportunistic attacks on the faith of others, in particular his dog whistle references to President Obama's "phony ideology" and his assertion that it is impossible to be a Christian and liberal. My criticism took the form of a ridiculously over-the-top broadside against Roman Catholicism, a demonstration of the type of vicious religious ignorance and intolerance I too often see coming from too many so-called Christians, especially Santorum. [...]

I won't say that Catholics need to lighten up or learn to take a joke, because the piece wasn't intended to be light-hearted or funny. It was satire, meaning... well, you can look that up. (It was probably a mistake to put it in the Comedy section; the editors wanted readers to know it was not to be taken literally.)

It's traditional at this point for me to half-apologize, to say that I'm sorry if anybody was offended, but I really don't mind if anybody was offended. I hope they will now think twice before they question the faith of progressive Christians, or Mormons or Muslims. I doubt they will.

Apparently that was completely lost on Matalin and Fleischer as well, or maybe not and they know full well the piece was satire and their only defense of Limbaugh is to distract, attack and lay it on thick with the false equivalencies. And note to Maria Cardona here, the correct answer for Fleischer when he ambushes you with a question about something you haven't read is to say you haven't seen it and won't comment on it until you do and you'd be happy to discuss it later after you look at what he's talking about instead of ceding ground to their attacks.

A writer that most people have not heard of at Huffington's site writing a piece of satire and his response after the fact explaining what he did and why is in no way the same as Rush Limbaugh's nasty, personal attacks on Sandra Fluke and Fleischer and Matalin know it.

And speaking of Ari Fleischer, why is anyone listening to anything this man has to say about women's reproductive rights or contraception after that sage advice he was paid to give the Komen foundation?

And one last note to Cooper and Cardona, someone needs to call Matalin out when she conflates contraception with abortion like her buddy Rove did a little while back.

h/t Digby

Transcript below the fold.

COOPER: More on the raw politics now and its impact on the GOP with Republican strategist, Ari Fleischer and Mary Matalin, and Democratic strategist, Maria Cardona.

Ari, is it appropriate to ask GOP candidates about Rush Limbaugh's comments? A lot of folks say, look, Rush Limbaugh is just an entertainer, but then others say, well, look, he has a role in the Republican Party.

FLEISCHER: Well, look, you know, they are not -- they are not radio people themselves that are running for president. They're doing something more important. So yes, it's appropriate to ask them. I don't think it's the be all and end all of their campaigns.

But, look, what Rush said was reprehensible. It's insulting. He didn't need to say it, he shouldn't have said it. He should apologize for it, but you know, this has been a strange week, Anderson.

You have "The Huffington Post" had somebody published who wrote most virulent anti-Catholic things you've ever read, liken the Catholic mass to a barbaric ritual. That was Larry Doyle writing for Arianna Huffington in "The Huffington Post."

You know, there are all kinds of sideshows in politics. I don't remember the Democrats getting asked to apologize for Arianna Huffington. They should also.

COOPER: But the guy you quoted I think is a former writer for "The Simpsons." Is he on the same par with Rush Limbaugh? Because Rush Limbaugh addresses, you know, we're seeing video of him addressing CPAC and conservative groups.

FLEISCHER: "The Huffington Post" certainly is. "The Huffington Post" has millions of readers identified with the left wing of American politics and they made the conscious decision to publish this.

You know, Rush just speaks extemporaneously. He should not have said, I'm a fan of Rush, but he shouldn't have said it. "Huffington Post" made a conscious decision to publish so millions could read. That's terrible judgment. How come the mainstream media is not making a big deal of "The Huffington Post?"

COOPER: Mary Matalin, what do you think?

MATALIN: I think that there would not be -- the Republicans would not have ascended to the majority in 1994 without Rush Limbaugh. There wouldn't be a moderate conservative movement without Rush Limbaugh.

There would not be a voice for the fly over country, mainstream America without Rush. There will be no victories in the fall without Rush. The problem is here there's nothing more effective than political humor, political satire, nobody does it better than Rush.

The problem is Republicans get all wobbly and respond to Democratic demagoguery and the distortion of Rush's clear meaning and they should pivot to the issue. Rick Santorum could have pivoted right to how atrocious it is for the overreach of the government to be running over encroaching on religious liberty or the government demanding that a private enterprise provide and pay for contraceptives or whatever, abortion-producing drugs.

So I think the Republican response to this is always wrong. After the dust settles and Rush is right, 99.7 percent of the times. Every one of these candidates right now has to go back and reassert the essential rationale for their candidacy. This is a very important Tuesday coming up. They shouldn't allow themselves to be distracted like this.

COOPER: Maria, was this just satire. Bill Maher on the left who said some pretty outrageous things.

CARDONA: The problem is what Rush did was very personal to somebody who was testifying about an issue that she felt was personal. It was an ugly, ugly personal attack and absolutely, he should apologize for it.

I'm glad that Ari thinks that he should. And I don't think that this is someone that we want our young kids listening to, our young men, our daughters listening to. And think that it's OK to use that kind of language, especially when you have the megaphone that he has.

And that's the problem here. He is not just somebody who wrote an article that was posted on the web. To Mary's point, he is a spokesperson for the Republican Party. Republican candidates listen to him. But Republican candidates should also have profiles and courage and know when something is absolutely crossed the line like it has in this instance.


MATALIN: Anderson, can I just ask you, what standing did that young law student have in this pseudo -- it wasn't even a real hearing. She's not a member of the clergy. She doesn't work for an insurance company. She's not really any kind of student leader. What's her point?

It's a tragic case when a young woman with such clear ambition devotes her life to going to a Jesuit university, paying $40,000 a year and takes on her cause, government sponsored, taxpayer funded contraception. There's no problem.

I lived right behind Georgetown when I was in Washington. You can walk to any pharmacy and get birth control anywhere. You can get an abortion anywhere up there. There is no problem.

It's a tragic case that our young people are not exposed to something good satire, but that they take on as their cause, particularly in a Jesuit university where they could be devoting themselves to the great mission and history of the Jesuit enterprise. Why she's doing this is a tragedy. It says more about the young people than the conversation. Yes, it does, Maria.

FLEISCHER: I want to ask Maria something here.

CARDONA: I think a lot of women and a lot of mothers actually think that it's a good thing when young women stand up for what they believe should be equal rights for all women and that's what this is about, equal access to life-saving, preventative services.

That is the gist of the issue. Now, clearly what Rush has done was made it about sluts and prostitutes and that's where it's a problem for the Republican Party because they have not repudiated that.


FLEISCHER: Maria, I've been consistent on this and I said I thought it was inappropriate and should apologize. Would you call on Arianna Huffington to apologize for publishing anti-Catholics creed on wide read by millions web site?

CARDONA: Yes, I don't think that's appropriate either, Ari.

FLEISCHER: And do you think Nancy Pelosi should join you? Should Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama, should they apologize -- ask for Arianna Huffington to apologize?

CARDONA: They don't speak for "The Huffington Post." They don't speak for Arianna Huffington

FLEISCHER: Well, but you're saying Republicans should ask Rush Limbaugh to apologize. So shouldn't Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama ask Arianna Huffington to apologize?

CARDONA: Apologize for what, for running that? For publishing that piece?

FLEISCHER: Absolutely. For publishing an anti-Catholic hate piece.

CARDONA: It's absolutely -- it's not the same issue because, again --

FLEISCHER: What a double standard. That's a double standard.

CARDONA: Rush Limbaugh made a personal attack of this woman calling her a slut, calling her a prostitute.

COOPER: I guess also the question is --

CARDONA: And that is something that should not be accepted by anybody.

COOPER: Ari, I guess also the question is does Rush Limbaugh have -- does Arianna Huffington have the same standing in the Democratic Party that Rush Limbaugh does in the Republican Party.

FLEISCHER: Anderson, the issue isn't how much is your reach. The issue is how wrong were you when you said something? I don't think the standard is how many people heard you. She has millions, Rush has millions.

It's not whether one has more millions that the other. The question is did you cross a line. I guess what Maria is saying it's wrong to insult one person, but it's right to insult billions of people, which is what "The Huffington Post" did in this piece.

CARDONA: No. What I'm saying is it's completely different.

FLEISCHER: It's totally anti-religious.

CARDONA: No. What I'm saying is it's completely different --

FLEISCHER: Why won't you say Barack Obama should call on Arianna Huffington to apologize?

CARDONA: Because it's not -- absolutely not the same thing.

COOPER: Maria, you can respond and we've got to go.

CARDONA: It is absolutely not the same thing. The "Huffington Post" is a publication. Rush Limbaugh is somebody who has his own words and should be responsible for his own words.

These are not Arianna Huffington's words. These are Rush Limbaugh's own words. And by the way, his advertisers are withdrawing their money from the show so clearly it's not something that people agree is OK.

COOPER: We're simply out of time. Maria --

MATALIN: Twenty years trying to take him out and they have not done it yet and are not now, Anderson.

CARDONA: And that's the problem with the Republican Party.

COOPER: Mary Matalin, appreciate it. Ari Fleischer, appreciate it as well.

Can you help us out?

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