Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has praised the uproar over radio host Rush Limbaugh's insulting of a young woman as the top diplomat voiced hope that US women can set an example for the world.
In a rare return to commentary on domestic politics, the woman who nearly became the first female US president said she hoped that the United States would engage in debates without resorting to "personal attacks and insults."
Limbaugh caused a storm when he called Georgetown University student Sandra Fluke "a slut" and "a prostitute" after she argued before a congressional panel in favor of health insurance coverage for contraceptives.
In an interview with NBC News, Clinton initially declined to comment but then said: "As a woman and as someone who can vaguely remember being a young woman -- and as a mother of a young woman of that age and generation -- I thought the response was very encouraging."
"I think we need to call people out when they go over the line. They're entitled to their opinion, but no one is entitled to engage in that kind of verbal assault," she said, according to a transcript released Monday.
Clinton, interviewed Sunday in Istanbul where she was taking part in a conference on the Syria crisis, praised the response of the public and advertisers, a number of whom withdrew from Limbaugh's program.
Limbaugh, an influential conservative whose show is the highest rated on US talk radio, apologized for his remarks about Fluke, saying that his choice of words was "inappropriate."
Clinton's daughter Chelsea recently appeared at a forum with Fluke and voiced solidarity, recalling how Limbaugh had made insulting remarks about her appearance when she was a 13-year-old in the White House.
Hillary Clinton, speaking before she was asked about Limbaugh, said that US women had the power to set an example for other countries where women are marginalized.
"There's been no place better to be a woman than in 21st-century America. So we cannot allow any voices to be given credibility that would undermine the advances that women have made in our country," she said.
Clinton narrowly lost the Democratic Party's presidential nomination to Barack Obama in 2008. Polls have repeatedly ranked her among the most popular US politicians since she became his secretary of state.
In the NBC News interview, Clinton -- who has been continuously in the public eye for three decades -- again said she had "no desire or intention" to make another run for the White House and that she would take time off after her grueling current job's term ends in early 2013.
"I want to do the best job I can as the secretary of state for this president. I want to then take some time to get reconnected to the stuff that makes life worth living -- family, friends, the sort of activities that I enjoy," she said.