President Obama speaks during a news conference in the Brady Press Briefing… (Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images )
President Obama said that when he called Sandra Fluke to express support after the crude comments of Rush Limbaugh, he did so thinking of his own young daughters.
"One of the things I want them to do as they get older is engage in issues they care about, even ones I may not agree with them on. I want them to be able to speak their mind in a civil and thoughtful way. And I don't want them attacked or called horrible names because they're being good citizens," he said at a White House news conference Tuesday.
"I wanted Sandra to know that I thought her parents should be proud of her, and that we want to send a message to all our young people that being part of a democracy involves argument and disagreements and debate. And we want you to be engaged, and there's a way to do it in a way that doesn't involve you being demeaned and insulted."
Obama, in his first solo news conference since November, was asked about the flap that began when Limbaugh referred to Fluke, a Georgetown University law student, as a "slut" and "prostitute" for advocating insurance coverage of contraceptives for women before a congressional panel.
Obama said the conservative radio host's comments "don't have any place in the public discourse," but that he wouldn't speculate as to whether Limbaugh's apology was sincere.
"I don't know what's in Rush Limbaugh's heart," he said.
Asked whether he agreed with other Democrats that Republicans were waging a "war on women," the president said female voters will come to their own decision based on a myriad of issues.
"It's not going to be narrowly focused just on contraception. It's not going to be driven by one statement by one radio announcer. It is going to be driven by their view of what's most likely to make sure they can help support their families, make their mortgage payments, who's got a plan to ensure that middle-class families are secure over the long term, what's most likely to result in their kids being able to get the education they need to compete," he said.
Obama added that he felt Democrats have "got a strong story to tell when it comes to women."