US & Canada

Rush Limbaugh loses more advertisers over 'slut' remarks

US radio host Rush Limbaugh has again apologised for calling a law student a "slut" over her views on contraception, as more advertisers deserted his show.

Sandra Fluke, whose testimony to lawmakers prompted Limbaugh's outburst, dismissed his latest apology.

On Friday, President Barack Obama called Ms Fluke to offer his support.

The row has stoked an election-year ideological battle over the president's plan to require health insurers to cover contraception.

On Monday, AOL and Tax Resolution Services became the latest firms to withdraw their advertisements from Limbaugh's popular weekday show, taking the number of sponsors who have deserted him to nine.

'Leftists despise me'

Last week, he called the student "a slut" and "a prostitute" after she testified to lawmakers that Catholic-affiliated Georgetown University, where she is a third-year law student, ought to pay for contraception.

As criticism mounted over his comments, Limbaugh apologised to the 30-year-old in a written statement over the weekend.

Image caption Rush Limbaugh's conservative weekday show airs on 600 radio stations

He took to the air waves on Monday to express his regret again, albeit defiantly.

"Those two words were inappropriate," he said. "They were uncalled for... I again sincerely apologise to Ms Fluke for using those two words to describe her."

But he also accused her of trying to "force a religious institution to abandon its principles to meet hers".

And in a swipe at his critics, he said: "I acted too much like the leftists who despise me. I descended to their level, using names and exaggerations. It's what we've come to expect from them, but it's way beneath me."

Ms Fluke rejected his latest apology.

"I don't think that a statement like this, issued saying that his choice of words was not the best, changes anything," she told ABC News' The View on Monday.

"Especially when that statement is issued when he's under significant pressure from his sponsors, who have begun to pull support from his show."

She said: "I think any woman who has ever been called these types of names is [shocked] at first."

"But then I tried to see this for what it is, and I believe that what it is, is an attempt to silence me, to silence the millions of women and the men who support them who have been speaking out about this issue and conveying that contraception is an important healthcare need that they need to have met in an affordable, accessible way."

Republican lawmakers had declined to accept Ms Fluke's testimony last month, but she was invited to speak to Democratic lawmakers at an unofficial session.

Anxious to distance themselves from rhetoric that could alienate women voters in an election year, Republicans have joined in the chorus of criticism against Limbaugh.

Senator John McCain, the party's 2008 White House nominee, said on Monday that the radio host's remarks were unacceptable.

Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said it was "silly" to suggest that Limbaugh's views in any way represented those of the Republican Party.

The row stems from President Obama's 2010 healthcare law that originally required all employers to provide health insurance to cover contraceptives.

Following outrage from Catholic leaders and conservatives, President Obama amended the policy so it would exempt religiously affiliated employers such as hospitals, universities and charities.

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