When enough is enough
Some 20 years ago an animal rights activist dressed like a pig walked up to a young woman who wore the crown of Iowa Pork Queen that year and shoved a whipped cream pie in her face. The intent was to protest the killing of millions of hogs to “feed America’s meat addiction.”
The young woman was not hurt. The pork producers called the protest staged by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) “a childish act.”
Until the pie-in-the-face incident, PETA’s message had been gaining some traction among Iowa audiences. Their demonstrations had been outrageous but amusing: barbecuing a ‘human’ made out of tofu, “naked” women holding PETA messages parading on downtown streets. Crowds gathered, took pictures, talked, absorbed some of the activist message.
But then they shoved a pie in a girl’s face. Public outrage was immediate and loud. Even people who supported PETA’s message, could not countenance an attack on an innocent 19-year-old. PETA stepped over the line. They were forced to step back and back down.
We’re seeing the modern day equivalent of that attack with Rush Limbaugh calling Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and “prostitute.” Over and over again. For three straight days.
Only when advertisers began to jump ship did he issue a half-hearted apology, saying he “did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke” and his words were an “attempt to be humorous.”
Not personal? Really? Humorous? Really? Limbaugh makes a very good living making over the top statements about people. But this time he stepped over the line. Possibly into legal defamation.
As a public relations professional most of my life, I’m all in favor of an apology, when you’ve truly messed up – which Limbaugh did – and when the apology is truly meant. But the truth is that Limbaugh is not sorry – except that he’s losing advertisers. And putting pretty words on it won’t fix this problem.
Limbaugh stepped over the line. And the public and advertisers are saying, enough is enough. Finally.