Rush Limbaugh's 'Slut' Comment Controversy Proves It Has Staying Power

ABC News
Rush Limbaugh's 'Slut' Comment Controversy Proves It Has Staying Power
.

View photo

Rush Limbaugh's 'Slut' Comment Controversy Proves It Has Staying Power (ABC News)

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

It has been nearly two weeks since Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a "slut" and in the age of the 24-hour news cycle, that is virtually an eternity.

Yet the outrage over the conservative talk radio host's remarks is still making headlines, spawning activist attacks and causing headaches for advertisers.

Premiere Networks, the radio group that syndicates the Rush Limbaugh Radio Show, pulled all of its barter ads - which run at all hours, not just during Premiere Network programming- from the group's affiliated stations.

The company would not say whether the suspension, which runs from March 12 through March 23, was in response to the Limbaugh backlash,  but the only two companies whose ads are exempted from the hiatus are LifeLock and Lear Financial, both of which have publicly said they will not pull their ads from Limbaugh's show.

Premiere Networks spokeswoman Rachel Nelson said the memo was "part of Premiere's overall strategy to update our processes and services to better meet our clients' needs."

ABC has confirmed more than three dozen companies that have pulled their ads from Limbaugh's three-hour time slot, many of which, such as Geico and JC Penny, issued statements saying their ads - presumably barter ads - were not specifically bought during Limbaugh's time slot and were mistakenly run there.

Premiere issued a memo last week that lists almost 100 companies, including Geico and JC Penny, that have requested that their ads not run during programs that may contain "offensive or controversial" content that is "likely to stir negative sentiment from a very small percentage of the listening public."

Limbaugh, along with Sean Hannity, Glen Beck and other talk radio programs were listed as examples of such off-limits programs.

Nelson said the memo was a "routine communication" that is distributed on a "quarterly basis."  

She sought to dispel any rumors that Limbaugh's show could be canceled.

"There is no truth to that rumor," Nelson said in an email to ABC News.  

Advertising time that was bought specifically during Limbaugh's show will still air as usual and it is unlikely that listeners will notice the change, said Tom Taylor, the editor of Chicago-based Radio-Info.com.

"I believe that Premiere wants the whole thing to have a chance to cool down," Taylor said. "Right now the temperature sure is pretty high, it sure is, and I think that's what Premiere wants to do is get that down below 212 degrees, below the boiling point."

Taylor said the two-week barter ad holiday "probably puts a dent" in Premiere's finances temporarily, but that it will not affect local stations' revenue, which may have been hurt by the local advertisers pulling out of Limbaugh's airtime.

Limbaugh's inflammatory comments have made their way into presidential politics as well. The progressive activist group MoveOn.org released a web video Tuesday quoting Limbaugh and declaring that Republicans were waging a "war on women."

"Judging from their comments, the GOP must have a serious problem with women," a women in the ad says. "And until the Republicans get over their issues, we women have got a serious problem with the Republican Party."

In another web video, the women's rights group Ultraviolet went specifically after Mitt Romney for his tepid response to Limbaugh's rant. Romney merely said "it's not the language I would have used."

"Tell Mitt Romney to stand up to Rush and stand up for women," the group's ad says.

But it's not just Republicans who have come under attack in light of the Limbaugh controversy.

Rick Santorum said Monday that "the left" has an "absolute double standard" because while they condemn Limbaugh's comments, similarly offensive statements from comedian Bill Maher, who donated $1 million to the pro-Obama Super PAC, have not been similarly scorned.

The women's rights group Concerned Women for America said Maher was a "vile misogynist" and called for Priorities USA to return Maher's $1 million donation.

Maher found himself in an advertiser boycott similar, although smaller, than Limbaugh's after he called Sarah Palin offensive names.

"Hate to defend #RushLimbaugh but he apologized, liberals looking bad not accepting," Maher tweeted last week. "Also hate intimidation by sponsor pullout."

On his show Tuesday, Limbaugh declared the "slut" controversy all-but-over, claiming victory against Democrats and the "Obama media." The Republican kingpin pointed to the latest CBS/New York Times poll that shows Obama's approval rating at 41 percent, its lowest point in his presidency, as proof that the uproar over his comments had "backfired" against the left.

"He has 41 percent approval one week after they were all doing handstands, one week after they were all celebrating the 'Rush Limbaugh comment,'" Limbaugh said. "So they've lost. Not only did it backfire, it backfired so bad that Obama lost tremendous, humongous ground in approval numbers."

Obama's approval rating is down 7 points from the Times' poll one month ago. Gallup's daily polling found the president's approval rating at 47 percent, the exact same as it was on Feb. 28, the day before Limbaugh's controversial comments.

Fluke, the 30-year-old law student that Limbaugh verbally attacked, is also claiming a victory. In a Tuesday op-ed posted on CNN.com, Fluke said the attempts of Limbaugh and others to "silence women" have "clearly failed."

"Attacking me and women who use contraception by calling us prostitutes and worse cannot silence us," Fluke wrote.

View Comments (7824)