ISU Headlines

Idaho State University professors identify similar forms of persuasive attacks against Rush Limbaugh and Senate candidate Todd Akin

Posted August 22, 2012

In a soon to be published article, four Idaho State University researchers examined the persuasive attacks used to discredit Rush Limbaugh during the Sandra Fluke controversy. Persuasive attacks are a common form of communication used to cast blame on others or discredit their actions.

In late-February, Fluke testified before an informal Senate panel regarding the importance of contraception coverage in insurance programs. In response, Rush Limbaugh launched a three-day attack on Fluke, wherein he referred to her as a "slut" and a "prostitute."

According to Nancy Legge, the lead author of the study, the most effective persuasive attacks against Limbaugh explained how his insults of Fluke applied to virtually all adult women in America. The attacks also attached pejorative labels to his comments increasing their offensiveness. Finally, and most damaging, the attacks linked Limbaugh's values with Republican Party values.  

"In the latter strategy of persuasive attack," said Legge, "Limbaugh was portrayed as the face of the Republican Party, which was personified as anti-abortion, anti-contraception, anti-female autonomy, and generally misogynistic. Although our analysis suggested that these lines of attack were successful in the short-run, their long term effect is less certain."  

However, the same persuasive attacks used against Limbaugh are now playing out more strongly and more successfully in the controversy created by Missouri Representative Todd Akin. According to Jim DiSanza, one of the study’s co-authors, "Because Akin is a member of the House of Representatives running for a Senate seat, and close to presumptive Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan, it's even easier for Democrats and other opponents to inextricably tie Akin to the Republican Party."

The article titled: "'He sounded like a vile, disgusting pervert. . .' An Analysis of Persuasive Attacks on Rush Limbaugh During the Sandra Fluke Controversy," is authored by Nancy J. Legge, James R. DiSanza, John Gribas, and Aubrey Shiffler, all from the ISU Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies. It will appear in the November issue of the Journal of Radio & Audio Media.   

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