President Obama on Friday placed a call to Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University law school student at the heart of the debate over the contraception law, thanking her for speaking out on the issue.
The call came a day after conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh demanded that Fluke release tapes of her having sex in exchange for the contraception that she argued should be covered by employers. Fluke was set to go on MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports when the president rang her on her phone. She took the call while waiting in the green room.
"He encouraged me and supported me and thanked me for speaking out about the concerns of American women," she told Mitchell, who received permission from the White House to discuss the exchange between Fluke and Obama. "What was really personal for me was that he said to tell my parents that they should be proud. And that meant a lot because Rush Limbaugh questioned whether or not my family would be proud of me. So I just appreciated that very much."
Fluke appeared to be choking up a bit while recalling the conversation. But she composed herself and went to discuss how surreal her experience has been. After being declined the opportunity to speak on a congressional panel to debate the president's contraception rule, she was subsequently invited to address Democrats on the topic. For that, she was vilified by Limbaugh, who also compared her to a prostitute. On Friday, several leading Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), condemned the remarks. The call from the president put a capstone on the week.
"He did express his concern for me and wanted to make sure that I was OK, which I am," she said. "I'm OK."
UPDATE: 1:29 p.m. -- At the White House press briefing shortly after the news broke, Press Secretary Jay Carney outlined the reasoning behind the president's decision to call Fluke.
Obama, said Carney, felt that, "the kinds of personal attacks that have been directed her way have been inappropriate."
"The fact that our political discourse has been debased in many ways is bad enough," he added. "It's even worse when it is directed at a private citizen who is simply expressing her views about public policy."
The call was placed by Obama from the Oval Office, Carney relayed. It was also the reason why Friday's press briefing was delayed more than an hour.
UPDATE: As reported by Huffpost Media, Limbaugh responded to Obama's call during his program on Friday.
Limbaugh also reacted to President Obama's call to Fluke. Obama told Fluke that her parents should be "proud" of her. Limbaugh had a different message for them. "I'd be embarrassed," he said. "I'd disconnect the phone. I'd go into hiding."