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John Boehner, Scott Brown, Rick Santorum (kinda-sorta) criticize Limbaugh remark

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Update: Romney responds, "I'll just say this, which is it's not the language I would have used."

For Republican politicians, Rush Limbaugh is like a father who gives you a pack of cigarettes for Christmas. At first you think, Wow, a pack of cigarettes! Just what I wanted, Pop! But later you're dying from emphysema and wishing you'd never met the bastard.

Earlier this week Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student, "slut" and "prostitute" over her support of contraception coverage. President Obama thanked Fluke for her courage, which put Republicans — including senators, congressmen, and presidential contenders — in an awkward position: defend Fluke against Limbaugh, who crushes perceived apostates, or defend Limbaugh against Obama and alienate a huge number of women?

John Boehner decided on the former. "The speaker obviously believes the use of those words was inappropriate," said his spokesman. And Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, up for reelection, was even more adamant: "Rush Limbaugh's comments are reprehensible. He should apologize."

But Rick Santorum, who needs Limbaugh's support more than Boehner and Brown, tried to downplay the situation. "He's being absurd, but … an entertainer can be absurd," Santorum told CNN. "He's in a very different business than I am." This is either a criticism of Limbaugh ("absurd") or a defense ("an entertainer can be absurd"), depending on your perspective.

Mitt Romney declined to respond to the controversy, possibly because he believes it's undignified, and possibly because he just can't outshine Santorum's masterpiece of having it both ways.