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President Obama joins in assailing Limbaugh slur of student

NEW YORK -- Stepping into an emerging culture clash over women, President Barack Obama made a supportive phone call Friday to a law student who testified before Congress about the need for birth control coverage, only to be called a "slut" by Rush Limbaugh.

For Obama, it was an emphatic plunge into the latest flare-up on social issues. Democratic officeholders and liberal advocacy have accused Republicans of waging a "war on women" because of GOP stances on contraception and abortion rights, and Limbaugh's tirade on his radio talk show was seen as an escalation.

In addition to her call from the president, the third-year Georgetown University law student, Sandra Fluke, was backed by members of Congress, women's groups, and the administration and faculty at her Roman Catholic university.

Demands for Limbaugh's sponsors to pull their ads rocketed through cyberspace, and at least three companies, Quicken Loans and bedding retailers Sleep Train and Sleep Number, bowed to the pressure.

Obama considers Limbaugh's remarks "reprehensible," according to White House spokesman Jay Carney. He said the president called Fluke to "express his disappointment that she has been the subject of inappropriate personal attacks" and to thank her for speaking out.

"The fact that our political discourse has become debased in many ways is bad enough," Carney said. "It is worse when it's directed at a private citizen who was simply expressing her views."

Obama reached Fluke by phone as she was waiting to go on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports."

"What was really personal for me was that he said to tell my parents that they should be proud," a choked-up Fluke told Mitchell. "And that meant a lot because Rush Limbaugh questioned whether or not my family would be proud of me."