We tried. We really tried. We wanted to ignore Rush Limbaugh, the right-wing talk show buffoon, when he called college student Sandra Fluke a prostitute and a slut for arguing that health insurance should cover birth control. We suppressed the urge to snipe even at the forced non-apology he offered after advertisers started fleeing his show like johns from a sheriff’s raid on a whorehouse. It was just Rush, after all, and nobody really defended him.

Until this week. Leave it to the gang at Fox News.

The accusation advanced by Eric Bolling on Tuesday’s “The Five,” and given credence by most others in the Fox discussion, is this: President Barack Obama put Fluke up to creating a controversy over the all-male congressional committee’s failure to let her speak at a hearing on birth control. It was an insidious plot to distract attention from the economy — wait, isn’t the economy improving? — and to shore up Obama’s flagging support among women. Naturally, they will be flocking to the party that conducts all-male hearings on birth control.

Oh, come on. The Democrats aren’t that clever. Only people used to concocting crap themselves would come up with a theory like this.

In fact, political rhetoric would be far more fair and balanced, not to mention entertaining, if liberals were better at the game of “make up stuff and repeat it so often that it takes on a life of its own” — like Obama’s AWOL birth certificate or George W. Bush’s having staged the Sept. 11 attacks. (No, that wasn’t a liberal canard; it was the wing-nut conspiracy theory crowd.)

Obama called Fluke after the hearing to apologize for how she was treated. But instead of the usual buck-up, don’t give up your civic spirit, Kid, yadda yadda advice, maybe the president should have concocted his own explanation. He could have told her the guys didn’t let her speak because the hearing was actually a satanic male-bonding ritual. Or he could have planted the suggestion that Fluke was actually Limbaugh’s love child? by a cross-dresser he thought was a man.

Go ahead, fill in your own. We won’t hog all the fun.

If women wind up gravitating toward the Republican Party this year, it will be fascinating to learn why. Who would have thought that in this century, birth control would resurface as a public policy debate? Or that a young woman speaking out on a public policy issue could be labeled a slut — hearkening back to the day of Susan B. Anthony?

It’s barely a stretch to say that Limbaugh has labeled millions of American women, married and not, as sluts and prostitutes. His bizarre premise for vilifying Fluke was that if insurance pays for birth control, you’re getting paid to have sex. As it turns out, more than half the states already require insurers’ drug plans to cover birth control. That’s a lot of sluts cashing in.

If tossing around words like “slut” is discomfiting — well, we’re taking Rush’s point that, in labeling the Georgetown law student, he was only engaging in harmless “parody.” Heck, he probably calls his wife a slut from time to time in affectionate ribbing. Or the previous wife. Or — are we on number four here? Ah, conservative family values.

Just one more way Obama is falling short.

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