February 18, 2015

Walker: No Rush to Condemn Rape Joke

I will say one thing for Scott Walker: He’s no fair weather friend — to the far right. But when it comes to women? Last week noted misogynist Rush Limbaugh said on his nationally syndicated radio program that Gov. Walker should explain his failure to earn a degree from Marquette University by saying he left, “because I don’t want to be accused of rape down the road.”

Limbaugh didn’t stop at just that repugnant statement. He went on to warn it wasn’t just Gov. Walker in danger but that, “… any man who goes to college could randomly be accused of committing rape.”

There are plenty of reasons to be dismayed by this incident, beyond the completely predictable misogyny of Rush himself.

It’s disappointing that the Wisconsin media, who has dutifully covered the finer details of Gov. Walker, including his fantastical tale on the origins of his male pattern baldness and love of ham sandwiches, has reportedly mustered only a solitary phone call (not returned), seeking comment.

It’s puzzling that editorial writers quick to denounce U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s characterization of Scott Walker’s policies as showing women the “back of his hand” have not seen fit to opine on this matter. Although to be fair, since their media outlets have largely chosen to ignore this incident, perhaps they aren’t aware of Limbaugh’s nationally broadcast comments.

It might be explained away by a collective decision to ignore Rush and his predictable brand of misogyny… except that the media has covered Rush’s previous praise of Walker, as recently as a month ago.

What’s stomach churning is the base political calculations and stunning hypocrisy of Scott Walker when it comes to speaking out on violence against women.

No doubt Gov. Walker is aware of what Limbaugh has said. Governor Walker has previously done interviews with Rush and, following his speech in Iowa, received considerable praise from the talk radio icon.

But now that Rush’s comments are less appealing and more appalling, Walker has made the political calculation that he must keep any unease with Limbaugh’s comments to himself as he cannot afford to challenge or offend a powerful voice in conservative political circles as visions of the 2016 Republican presidential nomination dance in his head. No matter how outrageous or despicable the comments or the sentiments they embody. No matter if his silence allows Rush’s particular brand of a dangerously cavalier attitude towards violence against women to stand unchallenged.

This is particularly jarring from a candidate who has featured a domestic violence survivor in his TV ads. During his most recent budget address he made special note of funding for domestic violence prevention and invited guests who have survived violence and work every day to prevent more. Walker’s silence now is in stark contrast to his response to Wasserman Schultz’s inflammatory comments, when his campaign immediately expressed outrage on behalf of domestic violence survivors in fundraising appeals.

His silence now turns these brave women into campaign props and his words in his budget address nothing more than empty rhetoric. Women, our lives, and our safety are more than mere campaign props. You cannot care about us when it is convenient during a campaign and ignore our lives and safety when your political aspirations make it inconvenient.

By refusing to speak out now and allowing Limbaugh’s sick comments to stand, be it out of indifference, cowardice or political expediency, Gov. Walker is showing us where he really stands.

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Jenni Dye is the research director of One Wisconsin Now & the Institute, and is the former executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin.

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