Big-$ suit vs. Rush possible

Sandra Fluke (center), a Georgetown law student, activist and Rush Limbaugh target, rejected his apology yesterday on "The View," with Joy Behar (left) and Sherri Shepherd.
Sandra Fluke (center), a Georgetown law student, activist and Rush Limbaugh target, rejected his apology yesterday on "The View," with Joy Behar (left) and Sherri Shepherd. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Posted: March 06, 2012

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

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

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

"I'd like to see her take him to court," Hoyer told the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser 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."

The Daily News was unable to reach Fluke, who reportedly is considering it, 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 to provide preventive services, including contraception.

"What does it say about the college coed . . . who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex?" Limbaugh said last Wednesday. "It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex."

He dug in a day later, refusing to give ground.

"If we're going to have to pay for this, then we want something in return, Ms. Fluke," Limbaugh said. "And that would be the videos of all this sex posted online so we can see what we're getting for our money."

Limbaugh offered a written apology Saturday, before apologizing on the air yesterday.

"I've always tried to maintain a very high degree of integrity and independence in the program," Limbaugh told his listeners. "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."

Fluke said on the TV show "The View" yesterday that the apology wasn't good enough.

"I don't think that a statement like this issued, saying that his choice of words was not the best, changes anything, and especially when that statement is issued when he's under significant pressure from his sponsors who have begun to pull their support," Fluke said.

Max Kennerly, a lawyer with the Beasley Firm, in Center City, thinks that 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 that the statements would be seen as so outlandish that nobody would believe that they were true.

But Kennerly said that Limbaugh's comments "embedded false statements of fact," that they 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.

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

Meanwhile, callers to Limbaugh's show yesterday pushed him to stand his ground. Limbaugh blamed the media for the pressure.

"Talk about a double standard," Limbaugh said. "Rappers can say anything they want about women. It's called art. And they win awards."

- Daily News wire services

contributed to this report.

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