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Rush Lim­baugh made a fool of himself last week when he betrayed the ideals he is sup­posed to stand for and maligned a woman he did not know.

The talk show host smeared Georgetown Uni­versity law student Sandra Fluke’s rep­u­tation  because he dis­agreed with her. That is weak and inex­cusable.

He crit­i­cized her opinion about the federal con­tra­ception mandate by calling her a “slut” and telling her to make a sex tape so the tax­payers who would finance her love life could benefit from it.

That is utterly unac­ceptable.

On Monday, he apol­o­gized for his com­ments.

“Against my own instincts, against my own knowledge, against every­thing I know to be right and wrong I descended to their level when I used those two words to describe Sandra Fluke. That was my error,” he said.

We think his remarks were a little more than just error.

Not only did he single out the rep­u­tation of a college student with offensive, unproven labels that seemed to degrade women every­where, he also managed to dis­tract the nation from the important question of Con­sti­tu­tion­alism and reli­gious liberty that he was sup­posed to be debating.

In his com­ments, he pulled our national dis­course into the mud and pond scum that our founders hoped American political dis­cus­sions would avoid. Hardly excel­lence in broad­casting.

Under­standably, many of his adver­tisers have pulled their funding. Some have called for Hillsdale College to do the same. While we deplored his com­ments, we think that may be pre­mature.

Apart from demeaning the dignity of another human being, Limbaugh’s com­ments were destructive because they dis­tracted from the important dis­course at hand. Hillsdale’s mission, as a cus­todian of America’s exper­iment in self-gov­ernment, is to elevate the national dis­course. That’s the reason we are offering a national course on the Con­sti­tution — to help our fellow cit­izens under­stand first prin­ciples and the ideals of the liberal arts.

Those ideals include rea­soned dis­cussion without ad hominem fal­lacies. Our founders expected vig­orous debate, but the Fed­er­alist Papers also demon­strated a level of civility that they expected to accompany any clash of ideas.

Some of us think that adver­tising with Lim­baugh can con­tinue to promote prin­ciples of the liberal arts into the national con­ver­sation. Pulling our ads now would do nothing to bring the Con­sti­tution and thoughtful argument to the fore­ground.

Rush, we take your apology at face value, but you have done little to bolster your cred­i­bility and much to destroy the cause of Con­sti­tu­tional con­ser­vatism. The essence of Con­sti­tu­tional Repub­li­canism is a fun­da­mental respect for human beings. We hope that by not pulling ad space Hillsdale can con­tribute to the national con­ver­sation by pointing you and the lis­teners who respect your ideas to the prin­ciples that should undergird your thinking.

You have a authority in the realm of con­ser­v­ative ideas; use it more wisely.