More than a week after Rush Limbaugh proffered a weak apology for his repeated misogynistic comments on-air about Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke, his show is left with virtually no national advertisers, but he remains mostly unrepentant.
On Monday word broke that Limbaugh’s syndicator, Clear Channel-owned Premiere Radio Networks, is suspending all national advertising on his program for the next two weeks. As it is Limbaugh is left with only two national advertisers, Lifelock and online gold peddler Lear Financial. Think Progress counts a total of 140 local and national advertisers who have pulled their support for Limbaugh’s program, while Media Matters is keeping a daily tally of the ads heard on the program’s flagship station WABC in New York.
Predictably, Limbaugh himself isn’t backing down during his program. On Tuesday’s show he bragged that despite the outrage and criticism of his treatment of Fluke, for his political opponents “it wasn’t a big winner for them. Didn’t work out the way they had all envisioned.”
Whether or not Rush is reigned in, Sandra Fluke isn’t backing away from her vocal support in favor of private health insurance coverage for contraception. On Tuesday CNN.com published an Op-Ed piece from Fluke in which she calls out the “smears” against her and other women as an attempt to silence her and others who support the same cause.
She also counters the deceptive claims made by Limbaugh and others that she and other advocates are asking for government-supported contraception. Fluke writes,
despite the misinformation being spread, the regulation under discussion has absolutely nothing to do with government funding: It is all about the insurance policies provided by private employers and universities that are financed by individual workers, students and their families — not taxpayers.
Despite the advertiser exodus, I’m not surprised that ol’ Rushbo is still there. While I’m certain the bleeding will hurt in the short run, since that’s how Premiere makes a good portion of its money from the program, it will take more than a few weeks without national ads to give either Limbaugh or Premiere a reason to change strategy. Apparently Rush even refused to take back a sponsor this week which was amongst the first to pull its ads when the backlash hit.
However, if the big stations, like WABC, start losing more of their own advertisers, then they might be pressed to find a less risky alternative. Former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s new program is the one being cited most often.
It does appear that watchdogs like Think Progress and Media Matters will be helping to keep up pressure on Limbaugh advertisers for the moment. Whether that will last long enough to have any lasting impact on Limbaugh’s program is an open question. I daresay there will be quite a few new, perhaps less prominent advertisers lining up once the smoke clears. I’m doubtful that Rush will lose a substantial number of stations, nevermind lose his show altogether.
I suspect the lasting impact will be a bit more subtle. Limbaugh may be a bit more cautious about attacking women who are not established political actors. The program may also be less able to rely on big-name national advertisers for a longer time. But in the end, I doubt it is likely to add up to more than a few percentage points difference in Limbaugh’s already substantial yearly salary.
However, if he slips up this royally again any time soon, I do think he’ll be in a bit more jeopardy.