Jeff Jacoby

As if this misogynistic dredge through the gutter wasn't reprehensible enough, Limbaugh compounded his offense with an apology that reeked of insincerity. In a 12-sentence statement posted on his website Saturday, Limbaugh praised himself as a hardworking master of the absurd who never intended to launch "a personal attack on Ms. Fluke." Most of his statement was devoted to rehashing his contraception argument. Not until the last sentence did he "sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke" – and even then, it was only "the insulting word choice" he was sorry for.

On Monday, with seven sponsors having pulled their advertising from his program, Limbaugh tried again. "The apology was heartfelt," he claimed. "The apology was sincere." He didn't believe that Fluke was "either of those two words," and he regretted having "acted too much like the leftists who despise me.... I descended to their level when I used those two words.... That was my error." He insisted again that his apology "was for simply using inappropriate words." And he complained of a double standard -- that there is "never an apology" from the "leftists that call me and other conservatives the most rude and explicit names."

It won't do, Rush.

I'm no Limbaugh-hater. Far from it. I'm a conservative who shares most of El Rushbo's political views and appreciates his sense of humor. I have defended him when he's been the target of scurrilous attacks from the left. And I fully agree -- and have written -- about the double standard on liberal hate speech.

This is different. Limbaugh's verbal assault on Fluke was no off-the-cuff blooper. It was boorish and deliberate. And the way to apologize is not by harping on left-wing misogyny. It's by apologizing -- full stop.

Limbaugh -- and the rest of us -- could take a lesson from the liberal radio host Ed Schultz, who in the heat of an on-air moment referred to Laura Ingraham as a "right-wing slut" last May. Just one day later, Schultz apologized.

"On my radio show yesterday, I used vile and inappropriate language when talking about talk show host Laura Ingraham," he began. "I am deeply sorry, and I apologize. It was wrong, uncalled for, and I recognize the severity of what I said." He didn't restate the argument he had been making. On the contrary, he said, "it doesn't matter what the circumstances were. It doesn't matter that it was on radio and I was ad-libbing…. What matters is what I said was terribly vile and not of the standards that I or any other person should adhere to."

Schultz's words that day were ashamed, humble, and seemingly heartfelt -- nothing like Limbaugh's grudging words of regret.

On the left they're gleefully milking this incident for all it's worth, eager to take down the man National Review once dubbed "the leader of the opposition." I would hate to see Limbaugh, who has often been falsely smeared, give his enemies a victory they don't deserve. But this time he is guilty as charged. His lapse in judgment and taste was egregious. And his sullen "apology" is only making things worse.

Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby is an Op-Ed writer for the Boston Globe, a radio political commentator, and a contributing columnist for