WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.— A high-profile attorney is calling for Rush Limbaugh to be prosecuted on a defamation charge, saying an obscure Florida law can be used to punish him for calling a college student a “slut” and a “prostitute” on the air.
Gloria Allred, the famed celebrity lawyer, sent a letter to the Palm Beach County Attorney’s Office on Thursday saying prosecutors should consider a charge under an 1883 law making it a misdemeanor to question a woman’s chastity.
“He has personally targeted her and vilified her, and he should have to bear the consequences of his extremely outrageous, tasteless and damaging conduct,” Allred said in a phone interview Friday.
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Limbaugh had no immediate comment on the letter and didn’t address it in his radio show Friday. Rachel Nelson, a spokeswoman for Clear Channel’s Premiere Radio Networks Inc., said the network had nothing further to add.
Denise Nieman, the county attorney, said she forwarded the letter to the state attorney’s office, which handles criminal matters. The state attorney’s office had no immediate comment.
Allred focused her efforts on Palm Beach because Limbaugh both lives and broadcasts his show from the county. She cited a state law that says, “Whoever speaks of and concerning any woman, married or unmarried, falsely and maliciously imputing to her a want of chastity, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree.”
Allred has a long history of taking on high-profile cases, most recently representing a woman who claimed to have been sexually harassed by former presidential candidate Herman Cain, and a woman who received lewd messages from former Rep. Anthony Weiner.
Whether prosecutors will take the request seriously and whether such a case could pose First Amendment issues remained to be seen. But the law should be used because it’s still on the books, Allred said.
“I’m sure he has an army of highly paid attorneys in his entourage to advise him about how he should defend himself,” she said. “I’m concerned about the impact that he has had and that he wished to have had on women who choose to speak out and exercise their free speech.”
The tumult began last week when Limbaugh discounted the appearance of a Georgetown law student, Sandra Fluke, on Capitol Hill. Fluke testified to congressional Democrats in support of their national health care policy that would compel her Catholic college’s health plan to cover her birth control, a comment Limbaugh seized on.
He said last Wednesday: “What does it say about the college coed … who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.”
After an outcry — and the decision by numerous businesses to pull their ads from his show — he apologized, saying “I should not have used the language I did, and it was wrong.”
Allred called that apology “meaningless.”