Rising stink over Limbaugh’s trash talk
Two more sponsors pull their advertising over talker's slut rant
March 6, 2012
In addition, a radio station in Hawaii said it would stop carrying Limbaugh’s show following his incendiary comments.
The question now, nearly a week into the controversy, is just how much damage Limbaugh’s reputation will sustain and how many more advertisers will pull out of the controversial program.
It still seems doubtful that Limbaugh will be pushed off the air or anything like it. He’s too valuable to his syndicator, Premiere Networks, which pays him more than $50 million per year.
Though exact ad revenue for his show is not released, he makes hundreds of millions for the syndicator and the nearly 600 local stations that beam his show to some 20 million listeners per week, which explains why Premiere has stood staunchly behind him.
“The contraception debate is one that sparks strong emotion and opinions on both sides of the issue,” Premiere Networks said in a statement Sunday. “We respect the right of Mr. Limbaugh, as well as the rights of those who disagree with him, to express those opinions.”
But the backlash against Limbaugh has been sizeable, with the same liberal groups that somewhat successfully targeted Glenn Beck a few years ago now organizing a boycott, and it could get worse still, partly because the radio host keeps revisiting the debacle.
While repeating his apologies, he continues to justify his behavior at some level.
Yesterday Limbaugh spoke at length about the controversy, which began last week after the host referred to law student Sandra Fluke, who recently testified before Congress about contraception, as a slut and a prostitute who wanted to be paid for having sex.
“This is the mistake I made. In fighting them, I became like them [liberals],” he told listeners. “Against my own instincts, I descended to their level by using those two words. I feel very badly about that.”
He went on to lament what he perceived as a double standard for the usage of words like “slut.”
“Rappers can say anything they want about women. It’s called art. And they win awards,” Limbaugh said.
It won’t be clear for months, when local ratings reports come out, whether Limbaugh has lost any listeners from his gaffe. But advertisers reacted swiftly.
Seven pulled out before Limbaugh issued his apology, including Carbonite, Quicken Loans and Sleep Number, and two more dropped out yesterday.
AOL posted a statement on Facebook saying, “We have monitored the unfolding events and have determined that Mr. Limbaugh’s comments are not in line with our values.”
Another advertiser, Tax Resolution Services, said via Twitter that it had decided to suspend advertising.
Limbaugh was dismissive of the sponsors who had left. He told his listeners “they don’t want your money” and insisted that they will be replaced quickly.
Meanwhile, a station in Hawaii, KPUA-AM, has dropped Limbaugh’s show, citing the comments about Fluke.
The blowup highlights how difficult it’s become in the era of social media to ignore or sidestep such a controversy. The CEO of Tax Resolution told The New York Times that social media reaction was partly responsible for his decision to suspend advertising.
Media buyers say that’s become part of the potential downside of placing ads on talk radio shows, where it’s difficult to monitor content.
They also don’t believe this controversy will blow over quickly, as evidenced by a note Media Life received yesterday regarding Limbaugh.
“Don’t discount the long term damage Rush Limbaugh has done to his brand, to his show’s ad structure, to local affiliates and to more importantly women,” wrote the reader.
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