1. 1988: Amy Carter, “the most unattractive presidential daughter in the history of the country”
Limbaugh later recalled:
Amy Carter was protesting everything American while at Brown University. And I didn’t, of course, like that. I didn’t like her protesting everything American, and I made a remark on my show that I’ve now since apologized for and I’ve taken it back; I didn’t mean it. I said, “You know, she may be the most unattractive presidential daughter in the history of the country.”
Well, there was outrage. No, there was. I mean, there was just plenty—my—my mom called me at home that night. She said, “Son, you know, you—if you’re going to be serious about this, you can’t make fun of the way people look. You’re not supposed to—you’re not—you can talk about how you disagree with Amy Carter. You can talk about how you disagree with her politics and you think she’s doing some bad things, but she can’t help the way she looks, and you can’t—you shouldn’t make fun of that. And, besides, you forgot Margaret Truman.”
3. 1992: Chelsea Clinton, the “White House dog”
Limbaugh faux-apologized on the show:
That was a terrible thing … , I apologize again. I—that’s the third time the crew makes a mistake by showing you Millie the dog when I intended to show you Chelsea Clinton, and then I followed with that terrible story. I’m—I hope you’ll forgive me. I’m fatigued. I’m tired. I really don’t—in fact, you know what I’ll do? Let’s pretend this is a daytime talk show and that I’m a guest on, say, Sally, Phil or whatever. How can I make amends to you for what I just did? I can spank myself.
Then apologized again:
My friends, we must apologize for something which happened on this show Friday night. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry.
Let me tell you very quickly what happened last Friday night. There was a new in list and new out list that was published in the newspaper. The writer said, “In, cute kid in the White House. Out, cute dog in the White House.” Could we show the cute dog in the White House who’s out, and they put up a picture of Chelsea Clinton back in the crew.
And many of you people think that we did it on purpose to make a cheap comment on her appearance. And I’m terribly sorry. I don’t, look, that takes no talent whatsoever and I have a lot of talent. I don’t need to get laughs by commenting on people’s looks, especially a young child who’s done nothing wrong. I mean, she can’t control the way she looks. And we really, we do not do that on this kind of show.
5. 1994: Sherrol Miller, “transsexual lesbian”
Limbaugh reportedly confused Miller, who had appeared on television as a victim of bigamy, with someone else in his book.
He settled a libel suit out of court and issued an apology:
Rush Limbaugh has apologized. It’s part of a settlement the talking head made with Sherrol Miller, whom he inaccurately calls a transsexual lesbian in his book “See, I Told You So.” Limbaugh apparently confused Miller — who appeared on TV talk shows as a bigamy victim — with someone else. In a written statement he said: “I am very sorry … that my book and tape contained a statement that was mistaken and that seriously offended you.”
7. 2003: Donovan McNabb, “The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well”
Limbaugh stopped something short of a full apology in a statement announcing his resignation from ESPN:
My comments this past Sunday were directed at the media and were not racially motivated. I offered an opinion. This opinion has caused discomfort to the crew, which I regret.
I love NFL Sunday Countdown and do not want to be a distraction to the great work done by all who work on it.
Therefore, I have decided to resign. I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of the show and wish all the best to those who make it happen.
9. 2006: Michael J. Fox, “Either he didn’t take his medication or he’s acting”
Limbaugh offered a conditional apology for mocking the actor’s Parkinson’s disease:
All I’m saying is I’ve never seen him the way he appears in this commercial for Claire McCaskill. So I will bigly, hugely admit that I was wrong, and I will apologize to Michael J. Fox, if I am wrong in characterizing his behavior on this commercial as an act, especially since people are telling me they have seen him this way on other interviews and in other television appearances.
11. 2008: Barack Obama, “Curious George”
First, he said he didn’t know Curious George is a monkey:
I need to apologize to both Senator Obama and to Senator McCain. We had a caller, the last caller of the hour, her name was Tammy, is that right? We were talking about Hillary and Obama and that race with her, right? Obama’s qualifications. And she told me what her 12 year old’s reaction to Obama was. The little 12 year old thought Obama looked like Curious George, and I chuckled and we went to a break. I’d never heard of Curious George. Only now have staffers sent me little pictures of Curious George. Folks, when I was a kid, the last cartoon I ever watched — no, I didn’t watch Mighty Mouse, this is the whole point. …So I wish to apologize to both Senator Obama and Senator McCain. It was not my intent to bring dishonor and guttural utterances into this campaign. It happened, I laughed about it, was a 12-year-old kid’s reaction to Obama, it was told by his mother. I was laughing because I was being polite, but I’d never heard of Curious George. I still don’t know what the deal is.
Then he blamed the hypersensitive media:
So, at any rate, we have fired the caller, Tammy. We’re not going to put up with this on this program. We’re not going to tolerate this kind of stuff on the program, and I do officially apologize to both Senator Obama and to Senator McCain. Why aren’t you apologizing to Hillary? Well, she’s probably happy it happened. I guess I better apologize for saying that. You see, ladies and gentlemen, I’m doing this as an illustration for you of how really uptight and tense everybody is going to be with any kind of criticism of Barack Obama on the Republican side.
I think we may set a record in this upcoming campaign. If Obama is the nominee, we may set a record for the number of apologies to him and his campaign by various Republicans and so forth. So that’s that. I regret that it happened.
13. 2012: Sandra Fluke, “Slut” and “Prostitute”
For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week. In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.
I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress. I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities. What happened to personal responsibility and accountability? Where do we draw the line? If this is accepted as the norm, what will follow? Will we be debating if taxpayers should pay for new sneakers for all students that are interested in running to keep fit? In my monologue, I posited that it is not our business whatsoever to know what is going on in anyone’s bedroom nor do I think it is a topic that should reach a Presidential level.
My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.