The apology wasn't good enough. Journalists on Monday's Good Morning America chided the Republican presidential candidates for "equivocating" and not strongly condemning Rush Limbaugh's comments about Sandra Fluke. Analyst Matt Dowd appeared to deride Mitt Romney for "missing a huge opportunity" to slam Limbaugh.
John Berman focused on the fact that the conservative radio host called his own words "insulting" and that his apology went "much further than the words used by the Republican presidential candidates, whose condemnations all came with equivocations or deflections." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
Berman harped on this point, making it twice: "...Because of that language used by Rush Limbaugh, which even Limbaugh now calls insulting, Mitt Romney and all the candidates find themselves caught between a Rush and a hard place."
The reporter closed by making mischief, noting, "Some people have taken notice of the fact that the company that syndicates Limbaugh's show is partly owned by Bain Capital, the company founded by Mitt Romney."
In a follow-up segment Dowd gave some odd advice. He urged Republican front-runner Romney to take on a man loved by many Republican voters: "I think Mitt Romney missed a huge opportunity to show some strength, basically take on Rush Limbaugh. Say this is not the kind of thing we want in our political discourse."
Dowd concluded that Romney was simply to "risk adverse" to "make that hurdle."
In contrast, when liberal comedian Bill Maher mocked Tim Tebow's religiosity, GMA reported the incident in a news brief. When news reader Dan Harris repeated Maher's joke, laughter could be heard in the studio.
A transcript of the March 5 Berman segment, which aired at 7:11am EST, follows:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Now to the Super Tuesday showdown. With his fifth straight win in Saturday's Washington caucuses, Mitt Romney is picking up momentum and high-profile support in the ten states voting tomorrow. But as he looks to wrap up this nomination fight, the Rush Limbaugh firestorm is complicating life for all the GOP candidates. That's where we begin this morning. Your voice, your vote with ABC's John Berman. Hey, John.
JOHN BERMAN: Good morning, George. You know, this morning, because of that language used by Rush Limbaugh, which even Limbaugh now calls insulting, Mitt Romney and all the candidates find themselves caught between a Rush and a hard place. Rush Limbaugh's words have now cost him seven advertisers. Pro Flowers, the latest big money company to flee his show, saying his language "went beyond political discourse to a personal attack and do not reflect our thoughts as a company." This is what they're talking about, his comments on 30-year-old student Sandra Fluke, who testified to Congress in support of requiring employer-funded contraceptive.
ABC GRAPHIC: Rush Revolt? Super Tuesday Fallout
RUSH LIMBAUGH: She must be paid to have sex. What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute.
BERMAN: This weekend, in the face of advertiser uproar, Limbaugh apologized. "My choice of words was not the best and in an attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices." Insulting. Limbaugh's own words and much further than the words used by the Republican presidential candidates, whose condemnations all came with equivocations or deflections.
RICK SANTORUM: He's being absurd. But that's that's-You know, an entertainer can be absurd.
NEWT GINGRICH: I think he was right to apologize. But, let's talk about apologies for a second. I think the President was totally wrong as commander in chief to apologize to religious fanatics while our young men and women are being killed in Afghanistan.
MITT ROMNEY: That's not the language I would have used. I'm focusing on the issues that I think is significant in the country today and that's why I'm here talking about jobs in Ohio.
BERMAN: In no rush to judge Rush, a conservative icon. Romney would love to be talking about Ohio. Polls show him closing there on Rick Santorum.
GINGRICH: Get out and vote on Tuesday!
BERMAN: And Romney seems to be consolidating establishment support who would love to see this race end. Now, that establishment support includes a new recorded phone call going out from none other than former First Lady Barbara Bush. And back to Rush Limbaugh for a moment. Some people have taken notice of the fact that the company that syndicates Limbaugh's show is partly owned by Bain Capital, the company founded by Mitt Romney. George?