Patricia Heaton: Twitter woes recall past Rush Limbaugh firestorm


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Patricia Heaton’s current woes are like deja vu all over again.

The sitcom star is at the center of a media firestorm after she apologized this week to Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student and contraception advocate whom radio host Rush Limbaugh infamously denounced as a ‘slut’ and ‘a prostitute.’ Heaton, star of ABC’s ‘The Middle,’ was forced to backpedal -- and temporarily suspend her Twitter account -- after a series of tweets gleefully ridiculing Fluke.


But as it happens, both Heaton, a devout Catholic never shy about airing her devotion to conservative causes, and Limbaugh have been in this type of political jam before. Together.

In 2006, Heaton agreed to do a commercial against a proposed Missouri constitutional amendment that would legalize some forms of embryonic stem-cell research in that state. Conservatives -- upset that stem-cell researchers had harvested tissue from aborted fetuses or in-vitro embryos -- turned the issue into a rallying cry. After Michael J. Fox spoke out for the amendment, reasoning that it could lead to gains in research against Parkinsonism and other diseases, Limbaugh suggested that the actor was deliberately exaggerating his Parkinson’s symptoms in a ploy for sympathy.

Heaton’s ad was widely ridiculed online, and its coincidence with Limbaugh’s attack on Fox made the whole thing look like a mean-spirited, coordinated campaign. (The pair had also been on the same side in 2005, outspokenly criticizing the decision to remove life support for Terri Schiavo, a woman who had been in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years.)

As Heaton later told the New York Times as she rued her decision to appear in the ad: ‘Oh my God, it was a disaster.’

So when it comes to Limbaugh, Heaton might want to write a note to herself for future reference: Do not stand next to this man.

What do you think? Should Heaton be forgiven for her occasional lapses or is she a serial apologizer who can’t take what she dishes out?



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-- Scott Collins