Rush Limbaugh: So, okay, I kinda blew it
Conservative radio talker apologizes for his slut tirade
March 5, 2012
Rush Limbaugh, a man of many words, seldom backs down on any of them.
This time he has. Over the weekend syndicated talk show host apologized for calling a Georgetown University law student a slut and a prostitute after she testified about contraception in front of Congress.
But will that apology be enough enough to stop the fallout?
Some seven advertisers so far have pulled their advertising from Limbaugh’s show, and several liberal groups organizing a boycott against him.
This has arguably built into the biggest controversy of Limbaugh’s long career, and at issue is whether the conservative talker finally went too far.
Even some of his former supporters seem to think that’s the case based on social media chatter over the weekend.
But while more advertisers may yet flee, Limbaugh probably won’t sustain any long-term damage. Advertisers often pull out of a show during the height of a controversy and then crawl back months later, when all is forgotten and essentially forgiven.
And while Limbaugh may have offended some listeners, it’s hard to imagine he’ll lose many of them. They love him because of his bombastic nature, not in spite of it.
Though moving on from this scandal seems hard to fathom right now, one need only look to the example of Don Imus, a shock jock who similarly offended people by using the term “nappy-headed hos” to refer to the Rutgers women’s basketball team some five years ago.
While Imus was fired for his remarks, he returned to radio months later with essentially the same show, and now he’s once again simulcasting on television through a deal with Fox Business Network, that controversy all but a memory.
Here’s how the controversy began: The Georgetown student, Sandra Fluke, appeared last week in front of Congress, where she detailed fellow female students’ struggles to pay for contraceptives that were not covered by their insurance plans.
On Wednesday Limbaugh started in on Fluke. He said that if the health plan had paid Fluke, who made no reference to her own birth control practices, for contraception, she would in essence be paid to have sex.
“What does that make her?” Limbaugh said. “It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute.”
“She wants to be paid to have sex,” he later said. “She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception.”
The blowback was swift. Democrats, women’s groups and even some conservatives condemned Limbaugh’s comments, which only served to amuse him. He addressed the controversy again on Thursday, laughing off calls for him to apologize and reiterating his views on Fluke.
But Limbaugh may have misjudged listeners’ and advertisers’ willingness to let the comments slide. Media Matters and Daily Kos, two liberal groups, called on advertisers to leave Limbaugh’s show.
By the weekend, seven advertisers, including ProFlowers.com, Quicken Loans and LegalZoom, had yanked their commercials.
Hoping to stem the damage, Limbaugh’s syndicator, Premiere Radio Networks, released a statement on Saturday in which the host apologized.
“In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke,” Limbaugh said.
The statement suggested that Limbaugh still doesn’t quite grasp why people are so upset about his comments, the same way Imus seemed confused and out of touch years ago.
To Imus’ credit, though he never quite seemed to understand why his comments were so offensive, he did try to open a dialogue about race relations before being fired by CBS Radio.
At this point, it seems likely that the Limbaugh furor will die down before he is fired, unless he makes anymore ill-advised comments about the controversy this week.
Still, while advertisers often return to shows after a controversy has blown over, Limbaugh may have lost a few for good.
“No one with daughters the age of Sandra Fluke, and I have two, could possibly abide the insult and abuse heaped upon this courageous and well-intentioned young lady. Mr. Limbaugh, with his highly personal attacks on Miss Fluke, overstepped any reasonable bounds of decency,” wrote Carbonite CEO David Friend on the company’s web site Saturday, declaring that his company would not return despite Limbaugh’s apology.
What radio must do to reinvent itself
Young love is totally digital these days
Good start for Friday sitcom ‘Dr. Ken’
NBC’s ‘Tonight Show’ takes premiere week
‘Best Time Ever,’ bit of exaggeration
Programming blog: Latest pickups and cancellations
A night of declines for broadcast
Early takeaways from the TV season
Fact, is, people still trust advertising
‘Dr. Ken,’ a malady with no known cure
Catch the next big wave: Hispanic media
Rachel, I said awful things to a client
Weekend TV: A slew of premieres
- Kelli Robertson becomes managing director of planning at R/GA
- Dave Monk becomes ECD at Publicis London
- Tom Hamling and Tim Eger rise to group creative directors at GSD&M
- John Partilla becomes CEO at Screenvision
- Julian Zilberbrand becomes EVP of audience science at Viacom
- Jennifer Sarlin becomes SVP of marketing at TLC
- John Duff becomes director of business development at beIN SPORTS
- Shelley Zimmerman becomes head of scripted series at AwesomenessTV
This week’s broadcast ratings
This week’s cable ratings
This week’s top movies, songs and books
This week’s daypart ratings
This month’s new media traffic data
This week’s younger viewer ratings
Digital media planner opening in Seattle
Paid social media planner wanted in McLean, Virginia
Assistant OOH strategist position in New York
Media planner wanted in Philadelphia
Media buyer coordinator opening in New Haven