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Republicans vs. Rush Limbaugh over ‘slut’ remark

Rush Limbaugh (Photo: CNN)

(CNN) — A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner on Friday said the top Republican condemns a controversial comment made by conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh but also disagrees with those who launched fundraising efforts over the remark.

“The speaker obviously believes the use of those words was inappropriate, as is trying to raise money off the situation,” Michael Steel, Boehner’s spokesman, told CNN.

His response comes after House Democrats called on Boehner to repudiate Limbaugh’s remark, in which the talk show host called a young woman who appeared before a congressional panel a ‘slut’ and a ‘prostitute.’

The woman, Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke, testified in the House last week, advocating for women to have access to contraceptives.

On Wednesday, the radio host disparaged Fluke, saying the law student wants ‘”taxpayers to pay her to have sex.”

“What does it say about the college co-ed [Sandra] Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says she must be paid to have sex?” Limbaugh asked. “What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.”

House Democrats, led by New York Rep. Louise Slaughter, had rallied Thursday in response to Limbaugh’s remarks and sent a letter to Boehner urging him to condemn the comments. As of Friday afternoon, the letter had 80 signatures.

In addition, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has tried to fundraise off of the controversy, an act Boehner also rebuked.

On Friday, President Barack Obama called Fluke to offer his support to the law student, according to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

“The president was expressing his support for her and his disappointment in the kind of attacks that have been leveled at her and to her and his appreciation for her willingness to stand tall and express her opinion,” Carney said at the White House press briefing.

Also coming to her defense, Georgetown’s president John J. DeGioia described Limbaugh’s behavior as “misogynistic, vitriolic and a misrepresentation” of Fluke’s position at the Congressional hearing.

“She was respectful, sincere, and spoke with conviction,” DeGioia said in a statement. “This expression of conscience was in the tradition of the deepest values we share as a people. One need not agree with her substantive position to support her right to respectful free expression.”

Georgetown is a Jesuit university that does not cover contraceptives in its health insurance plans.

Republican presidential candidate and devout Catholic Rick Santorum criticized Limbaugh on Friday, calling the talk show host’s comments “absurd.”

“He’s being absurd, but that’s you know, an entertainer can be absurd,” Santorum told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Friday. “He’s in a very different business than I am.”

On the campaign trail, the other three Republican presidential candidates have not commented on the issue.

Some Republican groups, meanwhile, have also responded to Limbaugh’s comments.

Rae Chornenky, president of the National Federation of Republican Women, told CNN the controversy has become “a sideshow, turning attention from the main issue.”

Asked if she would repudiate the talk show host’s remarks, Chornenky said: “I don’t want to discuss that. We are working hard on keeping our Constitutional rights protected.”

Frances Rice, chairwoman of the National Black Republican Association, also declined to comment directly on Limbaugh when contacted by CNN.

The chairwoman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly, Alci Maldonado, argued the issue was about freedom of religion from government interference.

“This is really not about contraception, a private matter,” Maldonado said. “Liberals are confusing the issue.”

CNN also contacted the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, but did not receive a response.

CNN’s Dana Bash, Deirdre Walsh, Paul Courson and Ashley Killough contributed to this report.