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General News    H1'ed 3/11/12

DOD says Zero Tolerance for Sexual Assault, but Keeps Limbaugh on Radio

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Decision comes on day when second lawsuit is filed to stop sexual assault and rape in the military


On March 6, eight women in the military filed a lawsuit against Secretaries of Defense Leon Panetta, Robert Gates and Donald Rumsfeld (and others) for their failure to provide a safe environment for women to serve in the US military without fear of being sexually assaulted or raped.

In their press conference announcing the lawsuit, two US Marine officers told of the lack of concern about the criminal conduct of fellow Marines by the leadership of the premier Marine base, the Marine Barracks in Washington, DC. The Marine Barracks provides the Marines who guard the President and the First Family at the White House and Camp David.

This is the second lawsuit filed in just over a year against the Department of Defense concerning sexual assault and rape in the military. The first lawsuit, filed February 15, 2011 and amended in September, 2001, was on behalf of 18 women and three men who had been raped by military personnel. That lawsuit was dismissed in federal court on December 9, 2011, for "failure to state a claim" as military personnel cannot sue the Department of Defense officials for "creating and fostering an atmosphere and environment" that led to the injuries suffered while serving, nor for "failure to punish those individuals guilty of committing these offenses."

One in three women in the military is raped while in the military. Of the military personnel who reported being raped in 2010, 10% were men.

On the day the lawsuit was filed, the US military announced that its worldwide radio station Armed Forces Network (AFN) would continue to air Rush Limbaugh's radio show. AFN is owned and operated by the Department of Defense, funded with taxpayer dollars, and accessible to troops serving overseas. 

Many of Rush Limbaugh's sponsors have dropped his show following his controversial comments in which he called Georgetown Law student, Sandra Fluke, a "prostitute" and "slut" after she testified before the US Congress about her school's health plan's lack of contraceptive coverage.

Despite the controversy, the Pentagon has said it is not going to review its decision to broadcast Limbaugh's program on American Forces Network, its overseas radio stations for the U.S. military. AFN broadcasts the first hour of Limbaugh's weekday show.

Pentagon press secretary George Little said the broadcast during which Limbaugh attacked Ms. Fluke were provided to the overseas stations but local stations decided what radio programming to air. Other military officials said that the overseas stations typically try to balance Limbaugh's broadcast with programming from more liberal radio hosts.

"AFN is one way that our service members have access to news and entertainment that U.S. civilians and military enjoy stateside," Mr. Little said. "The intent is to continue to provide a wide range of programming, and to allow service members to make their own listening and viewing decisions."

Little also said the military's network is not planning on dropping Limbaugh's radio program and is "unaware of any plans to review that decision."

Women Veterans call for AFN to drop Limbaugh's show

A group of women veterans in the coalition of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans called VoteVets authored a letter that called on the American Forces Network (AFN) to drop Rush Limbaugh from its programming.

Miranda Norman, a Senior Advisor; Kayla Williams, and Robin Eckstein, all Iraq War Veterans; and Katherine Scheirman, former chief of medical operations in the U.S. Air Force, wrote:

"Rush Limbaugh has a freedom of speech and can say what he wants, but in light of his horribly misogynistic comments, American Forces Radio should no longer give him a platform. Our entire military depends on troops respecting each other -- women and men. There simply can be no place on military airwaves for sentiments that would undermine that respect. When many of our female troops use birth control, for Limbaugh to say they are "sluts" and "prostitutes" is beyond the pale. It isn't just disrespectful to our women serving our country, but it's language that goes against everything that makes our military work. Again, we swore to uphold our Constitution, including the freedom of speech, and would not take that away from anyone -- even Limbaugh. But that does not mean AFN should broadcast him. In fact, it shouldn't."

Congress members call for AFN and advertisers to drop Limbaugh's show 

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Ann Wright is a 29-year US Army/Army Reserves veteran, a retired United States Army colonel and retired U.S. State Department official, known for her outspoken opposition to the Iraq War. She received the State Department Award for Heroism in 1997, after helping to evacuate several thousand (more...)
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