Bill Maher Defends Limbaugh's Apology to Sandra Fluke

HBO/Janet Van Ham

The left-leaning host of HBO's "Real Time" critiqued liberals for refusing to accept Limbaugh's apology even as advertisers abandon the conservative radio pundit.

Support for Rush Limbaugh came from an unexpected place Tuesday when Bill Maher took to Twitter to castigate liberals for their continued criticism of the conservative radio host.

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Maher, who hosts the left-leaning HBO series Real Time, posted a comment on his Twitter account just after 4 pm, saying, "Hate to defend #RushLimbaugh but he apologized, liberals looking bad not accepting. Also hate intimidation by sponsor pullout."

As of press time, 34 sponsors pulled their advertising from Limbaugh’s show after he drew criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike for calling Georgetown student Sandra Fluke "slut" and "prostitute." Following the denial of her testimony at a hearing on infringement of religious liberty and contraceptive mandates, Limbaugh spent three days last week suggesting that her case for the availability of birth control via insurance companies was in fact a campaign to "be paid to have sex." Limbaugh apologized Saturday for his choice of words, even as he continued to defend his position.

Following Limbaugh’s apology, Fluke said that his statement was meaningless, particularly in the context of the pressure he was under from advertisers by Saturday. "I don't think that a statement like this issued, saying that his choice of words was not the best, changes anything," she said. "And especially when that statement is issued when he's under significant pressure from his sponsors who have begun to pull their support."

Meanwhile, conservative pundits have hurried to Limbaugh’s defense, even as they have suggested that commentators like Maher should be similarly excoriated for their statements about conservative politicians like Sarah Palin. But Maher’s statements come as a particular surprise given the significant divide between the two public figures’ political leanings, even as the Real Time host has already received a deluge of angry responses from his followers.

Interfaith minister Reverend Sue Clark tweeted to him late Tuesday afternoon, "you're not much better than Limbaugh if you truly think that was an apology. You're just furthering the #waronwomen. #women."

On Wednesday, former Seinfeld star Jason Alexander offered a lengthy rebuttal to the criticism mounted by Limbaugh’s supporters and other conservatives who have called for boycotts or other punishments of talk show hosts like Maher and David Letterman, who have in the past made disparaging or insulting comments about public figures within the conservative community. He contended that not only is Limbaugh a "little man" for choosing to publicly insult a private citizen after misrepresenting her testimony on his show, but he is more susceptible than Maher or Letterman for these criticisms because "he projects himself as a leading thinker and kingmaker among conservatives and Republicans."

Although Premiere Networks, Clear Channel’s syndication arm, continues to support Limbaugh, the impact of his statements – including his apology – will continue to be discussed in terms both immediate and far-reaching. But this recent controversy marks the most significant incident in which the talk show host’s polarizing comments have resulted in tangible negative repercussions, although it remains to be see whether Limbaugh’s long-term career will be adversely affected, or even boosted by the incident.

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