Libel lawyer: Fluke ‘definitely’ has reason to sue Limbaugh

Posted: March 05, 2012

Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh issued a second apology today - this time on the air - to the Georgetown Law School student he called a "slut" and a "prostitute" on his show last week.

But a prominent Philadelphia trial lawyer who's been involved in a number of high-profile defamation cases still thinks the conservative talker is vulnerable to a defamation lawsuit.

A number of people have urged the student, Sandra Fluke, to sue Limbaugh, including House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer.

"I'd like to see her take him to court," Hoyer told the Montgomery Advertiser in Alabama yesterday. "She's not a public figure and, for that reason, she should be able to sue for slander, libel or whatever else might be involved."

Fluke, who is reportedly considering it, could not be immediately reached for comment.

Limbaugh made the on-air comments about Fluke in response to her testimony at a congressional hearing in support of the Obama administration's new contraception rule requiring employers - or their insurers, for those with moral objections - to provide preventative services, including contraception, for their employees.

"I've always tried to maintain a very high degree of integrity and independence in the program," Limbaugh told his listeners today. "Nevertheless, those two words were inappropriate, they were uncalled for. They distracted from the point I was trying to make and I again sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for using those words to describe her."

Max Kennerly, a lawyer with The Beasley Firm in Center City, thinks Fluke "definitely" has a defamation case against Limbaugh if she chooses to pursue it.

Limbaugh could argue that he was simply rendering an opinion protected by the First Amendment or, alternatively, that the statements would be seen as so outlandish that nobody would believe they were true.

But Kennerly said Limbaugh's comments that Fluke was a "slut" and "prostitute" "embedded false statements of fact," were thus defamatory and that a judge might allow a jury to decide the case.

"His statements implied facts about somebody's sex life, that she was promiscuous and trading sex for money," Kennerly said.

Kennerly also said that Premiere Networks, Inc., a subsidiary of Clear Channel Communications which syndicates the radio show, could also be liable for "publishing" Limbaugh's words.

Limbaugh's depiction of Fluke incited an outcry from women's groups and others on Twitter and Facebook, calling on Limbaugh's advertisers to pull their sponsorship of the show.

So far, eight companies, including AOL, have said they were suspending advertising on the show.


Contact Michael Hinkelman at mhinkelman@phillynews.com or @mhinkelman on Twitter.

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