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Odds are, it was the person he chose for these particular tirades.

If high-profile, take-no-prisoners pundit Laura Ingraham earns immunity from an insult like “slut,” shouldn’t equal protection be enjoyed by Sandra Fluke, a private citizen Limbaugh bullied with unsought attention?

She came to Capitol Hill “intending a brief dip of the toe in the cultural pool,” railed liberal host Keith Olbermann on his Current TV show “Countdown,” only to find herself “dragged into the deep end by day after day of searing deliberate personal and indefensible attacks by Rush Limbaugh.”

There was something familiar about Limbaugh’s gratuitous slurs. They recalled an episode five years ago when shock jock Don Imus slammed a group of women who, like Fluke, were innocent bystanders on the public stage, guilty only of doing yeoman duty that thrust them into the spotlight: the Rutgers University women’s basketball team.

In a shameful exchange in April 2007, Imus and a radio sidekick joked about these young women, who had been contenders for the NCAA national championship. Imus referred to them as “nappy-headed hos.”

Within days he had apologized, but he was fired from his radio show and by MSNBC, which had simulcast him on TV. By year’s end, he was picked up by another syndicator and later returned to TV. But despite what appeared to be sincere repentance on his part, Imus suffered permanent damage to his image and career.

Limbaugh is unlikely to suffer any lasting damage, no matter how his foes might wish otherwise. This week, he smugly likened the impact of defecting advertisers to “losing a couple of French fries in the container when it’s delivered to you at the drive-thru. You don’t even notice it.”

But you sure can’t help noticing the clamorous debate that Limbaugh’s outbursts have ignited: Is a war on women being waged, with Rush the poster boy?

On “The O’Reilly Factor,” Fox News Channel host Bill O’Reilly has conveniently tried to change the subject. He argued that the real issue framed by Limbaugh’s Fluke-bashing wasn’t women being bad-mouthed, but the presidential race: “Do we want to have an entitlement-state culture _ President Obama and the Democrats _ or do we want to go back to self-reliance and smaller government?

“That,” O’Reilly said, “seems to dwarf somebody making a mistake on talk radio.”

Really? Mistakes were made, all right. But with somebody as powerful and raucous as Limbaugh, “dwarf” is a word that never applies.

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EDITOR’S NOTE _ Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at fmoore(at)ap.org and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier