Rush Limbaugh's rampant sexism became a national story earlier this year when he repeatedly attacked Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke as a “slut” and a “prostitute.” Of course, sexism has been part of Limbaugh's show for decades. While (comparatively) not as overt as his attacks on Fluke, for years Limbaugh has labeled various women in politics and media with dismissive, sexist terms.
Female professors are “professorettes.” Sen. Claire McCaskill is a “senatorette.” Female reporters and news anchors are “anchorettes” and, much more frequently, “infobabes.” In fact, calling women “babe” has become something of a calling card for Limbaugh.
Not only does he use the term to describe countless women in media and politics, but he also uses it for female listeners; his online store sells “Rush Babe On Board” stickers for cars. But not all listeners appreciate his penchant for labeling women “babes.”
In 2009, Limbaugh convened the “first ever Rush Limbaugh Female Summit” to address a huge gender gap in his approval ratings. For an hour Limbaugh only took female callers, one of whom explained to Limbaugh that while she agrees with his politics, she doesn't “routinely listen to your show because of certain things you say.”
The caller explained that one of the first times she listened to his show, Limbaugh was attacking a female liberal blogger, then dismissed the writer as a “babe.” According to the caller, “in my mind and maybe in the mind of many other women listening, you totally diminished what you had said previously about her column” because "[the female writer] probably worked very hard."
Limbaugh defended his use of the term -- and his repeated use of “infobabe” -- as, among other things, a “signature term” that is both “creative and artistic.” (Full transcript of the call is at the bottom of this post.)
Indeed, Limbaugh has labeled dozens of women “babe,” ranging from Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan ( “this babe is hot for socialism” ) to numerous female reporters and TV news anchors to the women who accused former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain of sexual harassment ( “sexual harassment babes” ).
His kneejerk use of the “babe” label led to Limbaugh making a fool of himself in 2010 when he called male Salon.com reporter Sasha Abramsky a “stupid babe.”
Below is an incomplete list of the many women Limbaugh has called “babe” since 2006.
Government / Political Figures
- Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan
- Former Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin
- DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz ( “Chairbabe Debbie Blabbermouth Schultz” )
- Congresswoman Kathy Hochul
- Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee ( “Congress babe” )
- Congresswoman Maxine Waters
- Senate Candidate Elizabeth Warren
- Former GOP Congressional Candidate Dede Scozzafava
- DC Councilmember Mary Cheh
- Argentine President Cristina Fernandez
- Former USDA Employee Shirley Sherrod ( “US Department of Agriculture babe” )
- Hillary Clinton's Deputy Chief of Staff Huma Abedin (whom he called “Huma Abdingon” )
- Former Director Of Communications For WH Office Of Health Reform Linda Douglass ( “health care communications babe” )
- French First Lady Carla Bruni ( “French babe” )
- White House Official Buffy Wicks
- Former White House Intelligence Advisor Rita Hauser
- Bucks County Commissioner Diane Marseglia
Reporters / Writers / Television Figures
- ABC Reporter Bianna Golodryga
- The Hosts Of ABC's The View
- BBC America Correspondent Katty Kay
- Bloomberg Television Anchor Betty Liu
- Former CBS News Anchor Katie Couric
- CBS News Reporter Lara Logan
- CNBC Anchor Amanda Drury
- CNN Meteorologist Jacqui Jeras ( “weather babe” )
- CNN Anchor Erin Burnett
- CNN Anchor Christine Romans
- CNN Anchor Heidi Collins
- CNN Anchor Suzanne Malveaux ( “Commie babe” )
- CNN Reporter Mary Snow
- CNN Anchor Soledad O'Brien (or Sally Quinn - he's not sure because he confuses all “these Drive-By info babes” )
- Former MSNBC Anchor Contessa Brewer
- NBC Reporter Rehema Ellis
- NBC Chief Legal Correspondent Savanna Guthrie
- NPR Host Melissa Block ( “NPR babe” )
- NPR Host Michele Norris
- NPR Host Terry Gross ( “NPR babe” )
- Orlando TV Anchor Barbara West
- Detroit TV News Reporter Kam Carman
- Trainer Jillian Michaels ("Biggest Loser babe")
- The Atlantic Reporter Megan McArdle
- TheGrio.com Editor Joy-Ann Reid
- Unnamed Fox News Employee ( “the makeup babe” )
- Author Tracie McMillan
- Slate Reporter Dahlia Lithwick
- Former New York Times Contributor Natasha Lennard
- Canada Free Press Editor/Owner Judi Mcleod
- Author/Director Nora Ephron
- College Reporter Lily Lamboy
- Blogger Ana Marie Cox
Interest Group / Think Tank / Academic Figures
Women In The News
- Georgetown Law Student Sandra Fluke
- Former JFK Intern Mimi Alford ( “Kennedy babe” )
- The Women Who Accused Herman Cain Of Sexual Harassment ( “sexual harassment babes” )
- Gennifer Flowers
- Former NASA Astronaut Lisa Nowak (when she was arrested for attempted kidnapping)
Full transcript of Limbaugh's conversation with the female caller that objected to his repeated use of the term “babe” from the February 25, 2009 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show (transcript via RushLimbaugh.com):
CALLER: Hi, Rush!
CALLER: First I want to congratulate you on your success in radio and thanks for letting me be a part of your summit. I agree with your politics, but I don't routinely listen to your show because of certain things you say. The first time I listened to your show you were criticizing a liberal woman's blog, and I was fine with your criticism, and at the end of your criticism said something to the effect of, “Well, at the end of the day she's a babe so it doesn't really matter anyways,” and you were referring to the columnist. After you said she was “a babe,” you know, in my mind and maybe in the mind of many other women listening, you totally diminished what you had said previously about her column. And, you know, in this time I think, you know, conservatives, we really need to pull together. And you, Rush, as a great leader and speaker for conservatism, you don't need to dilute your message with who's hot and who's not. You know, leave that to someone else who has nothing better to say.
RUSH: Well, but what if the fact that being a babe is the most notable thing about a particular liberal blogger? I mean, I'm looking for something nice to say after having ripped a liberal blogger for being wrong, because she's a liberal, she can't possibly be right, and so I'm looking for something positive. If she's a babe, she's a babe. What is...? You know men can't help but notice these things. I guess you're saying, “Yeah, go ahead and notice, but don't mention it.”
CALLER: Yeah. I mean, you know, she might not take that as a compliment. I'm not saying I agree with liberals, but she probably worked very hard.
RUSH: Oh, time-out.
RUSH: This is a teachable moment for me. Are you telling me that there are women who do not appreciate...? See, I thought we were past this. When I was in my early twenties, Deborah, in the 1970s in Pittsburgh --
RUSH: -- that was the birth of the modern era of feminism; and I'm telling you; if you complimented a woman on her appearance, it was a negative; because they were trained as, “Oh, is that all you see? Well, what about my brain?” It was frustrating to me. You couldn't open a car door! I'm not making this up. It was a very formative experience to me. Women do not want to be told how good they look because they thought they were being objectified or seen in a lesser stature, but men cannot help this. God created us this way. It's what ends up in there being babies.
CALLER: Yeah, but, you know, talking about it on the radio doesn't make babies.
RUSH: You never know.
CALLER: (giggles) I don't think women appreciate that.
RUSH: The fertility rate of this program has been quoted as being fairly high.
CALLER: (giggles) Well, I think you need to get rid of terms like “infobabe.” I mean, I know you might like being called an “infohunk,” but...
RUSH: I invented the term!
RUSH: It's creative and it's artistic, and it is a signature term.
CALLER: Well, I think it might be a big turnoff for a lot of women. You know, when I hear that term, I --
RUSH: I would say they need to lighten up, for crying out loud! Why do I have to change who I am? Why can't they just lighten up? Infobabe! Why can't they laugh? What is the problem with being light and lovable and just smiling now and then? Why must everything be said through gritted teeth and anger?
CALLER: It doesn't have to be that way, but you don't have to label it as an “infobabe.”
RUSH: (laughs) I'm not going to change that. That is a signature. I mean, that's been picked up. Even if I stop using it, everybody else out there is using it. I guess next I should stop using the term “anchorette.” (sigh) Well, here we go. The Female Summit goes on. Where we going next? This is Rita in Manchester, Ohio. Rita, you're next. It's great to have you here on our Female Summit.