The Associated Press reported that Clear Channel has lifted the ban they previously imposed on ads for a women's health clinic for its stations in Wichita, Kansas.
Media Matters reported on July 26 that the Trust Women Foundation (TWF), which runs the South Wind Women's Center in Wichita, confirmed that two radio ads for the clinic were pulled from local Clear Channel FM stations one day after their initial broadcast. TWF was reportedly told that the ads had been pulled due to complaints to the station, but at least four other radio and print outlets in Wichita ran similar ads for the Center with no report of complaints.
The Center operates in the same location where Dr. George Tiller had operated his own clinic. Tiller, who was the target of both an intense campaign of demagoguery by conservative media and a campaign of terrorist violence by anti-abortion extremists for his willingness to perform abortions in a state where such services are scarce, was shot to death in a Wichita church in May 2009.
In response to the ban, non-profit group Women, Action and The Media posted a statement reportedly issued by Wichita Clear Channel's General Manager Rob Burton which said, "KZSN has a responsibility to use our best judgment to ensure that advertising topics and content are as non-divisive as possible for our local audience." Burton's statement was surprising given that Clear Channel's affiliate syndicates Rush Limbaugh, who has a long history of divisive and hateful rhetoric on women's health.
The AP's August 27 report noted that Clear Channel "reversed course as supporters of the South Wind Women's Center prepared to deliver a petition Wednesday with 68,000 signatures," and that "based on a 'thoughtful discussion' with the clinic, Clear Channel said it made sense to take a closer look at the criteria it uses to determine whether an advertisement should air."
One week after it was first reported that talk radio giant Cumulus Media might cut ties with Rush Limbaugh and pull his show from 40 of its stations nationwide, the end result of the contractual showdown remains unclear. But we do know this: The damage has been done to Limbaugh and his reputation inside the world of AM radio as an untouchable star.
By opting to publicly negotiate its contract and making it clear the broadcast company is willing to walk away from his program, Cumulus has delivered a once unthinkable blow to Limbaugh's industry prestige. (Cumulus is also threatening to drop Sean Hannity's syndicated radio show.)
Even if Limbaugh wins in the end, he loses. Even if Limbaugh manages to stay on Cumulus' enviable rosters of major market talk stations, Limbaugh comes out of the tussle tarnished and somewhat diminished.
Recall that one year after Limbaugh ignited the most severe crisis of his career by insulting law student Sandra Fluke for three days on the air, attacking her as a "slut," the talker's team announced the host was unhappy with Cumulus. Angry that its CEO had been noting in the press how many advertisers Limbaugh had lost over the Fluke firestorm (losses that continue to accumulate), an anonymous Limbaugh source told Politico the host was so angry he might walk away from Cumulus when his contract expired at the end of the year.
Well, last week Cumulus called Limbaugh's bluff, plain and simple. And now the talker's side appears to be scrambling to make sure his show remains with Cumulus. But again, the damage is done. If Limbaugh really were an all-powerful source in AM radio, he would walk away from Cumulus. But he's not, and he can't.
Cumulus is reportedly driving a hard bargain and wants to reduce the costs associated with carrying Limbaugh's show, especially since he's unable to attract the same advertisers he used to. If in the end a deal is struck and Limbaugh stays with Cumulus for a reduced rate, what happens when the talker's contract expires with another large AM station group? Of course they're going to demand the same deal Cumulus got in exchange for keeping Limbaugh's show, or they'll threaten to drop the talker, too. And then on and on the process will repeat itself as broadcasters realize that maybe they can get Limbaugh on the cheap.
By the way, this is the exact opposite of how Limbaugh renewals used to be handled. Year ago, owners and general managers at Limbaugh's host stations lived in fear of getting a phone call from Limbaugh's syndicator, Clear Channel-owned Premier Networks, informing them the host was moving across town to a competitor when his contract was up. But today, Cumulus negotiates its Limbaugh contract via the press, apparently without the slightest concern about ending its association with him.
Of course, Limbaugh and Clear Channel could hold their ground, refuse to budge on Cumulus' demands and walk away from the radio giant with AM stations from coast to coast. That is an option, but it's also an unpleasant one in terms of what it would mean to Limbaugh's once unvarnished reputation as the AM talk gold standard.
Clear Channel Media and Entertainment, the media conglomerate whose affiliate syndicates Rush Limbaugh's radio show, pulled two supposedly "divisive" radio ads for a Kansas women's health clinic because of complaints, a hypocritical move given Limbaugh's history of vicious and divisive attacks, including on women's health.
The Trust Women Foundation (TWF), which runs a women's health clinic in Wichita, Kansas, has confirmed that two radio ads for its clinic were removed from local stations owned by Clear Channel earlier this month. According to TWF's communications director, the ads were pulled due to complaints, and the nonprofit group Women, Action and The Media posted a statement from Witchita's Clear Channel General Manager Rob Burton saying that Clear Channel-owned station KZSN "has a responsibility to use our best judgment to ensure that advertising topics and content are as non-divisive as possible for our local audience."
Clear Channel's move to pull the ads is unusual given that two other radio stations and two print publications in Wichita have run the ads without complaint. It is especially ironic in light of Rush Limbaugh's vehemently divisive attacks, including on women's health, run regularly on Clear Channel-owned stations.
The most notorious target of Limbaugh's derision is Sandra Fluke, who testified before Congress as a Georgetown Law student in February 2012 about women's health care and the benefits of insurance coverage for contraceptives. Limbaugh launched at least 46 attacks on Fluke over two days, including calling her a "slut" and a "prostitute," claiming "she must be paid to have sex." He also accused Fluke of "having so much sex she can't afford her own birth control pills," and claimed that women with contraceptive coverage should be required to post sex videos online "so we can all watch." He also called her a "babe" who "goes before Congress and wants thousands of dollars to pay for her sex," and said that "this is more than just one woman wanting us to pay for her to have sex all the time."
Limbaugh's attacks against Fluke triggered a nationwide call for advertisers to pull their ads from the show, a campaign that was so effective that Lew Dickey, CEO of Cumulus Media, which owns many radio stations that air Limbaugh's show, said in March that Limbaugh's actions were still negatively affecting his radio business more than one year later. Dickey's statements came amid the cold reality that Limbaugh's tirade against Fluke not only caused a mass exodus of advertisers, but a multi-million dollar loss in revenue for Cumulus as well.
Sandra Fluke and women's health, however, have not been the only targets of Limbaugh's divisive comments; he regularly engages in offensive racial commentary as well. In 2004, Limbaugh used gang-centric language to describe the NBA, calling it the "Thug Basketball Association," telling listeners to "call 'em gangs" instead of teams. He criticized the Obama administration's efforts to rescue GM and Chrysler in 2009 by saying that "[P]eople in the private sector are getting raped by this administration," and in 2011, he asked if the CDC had ever "published a story about the dangers of catching diseases when you sleep with illegal aliens." Most recently, Limbaugh claimed that he could now say the word "Nigga' with an a" because "it's not racist."
Amid the space it provides for Limbaugh's irrefutably divisive comments, Clear Channel's move to pull two 30-second radio ads promoting women's health resources seems unfounded.
Several media outlets in Wichita, Kansas, say they have no problem running ads for a local women's clinic that performs abortions whose radio ads were rejected by Clear Channel Radio for their supposed "divisive" content.
At least four radio and print outlets in Wichita have run similar ads for the South Wind Women's Center with no report of complaints, according to those overseeing the outlets.
Sarah Anderson, communications director for the Trust Women Foundation, which runs the Wichita clinic, confirmed that two ads were removed from three local Clear Channel FM radio stations on July 2, one day after first being broadcast.
The ads, which can be heard HERE and HERE, employ innocuous content about the facility, including that it "was founded to reestablish full access to reproductive healthcare," provides "high-quality medical care" and features board-certified physicians with "over 50 years of experience and dedication."
According to Anderson, the foundation was informed that the ads had been pulled due to complaints to the station. Women, Action and The Media, a non-profit group that promotes women's rights and first reported the ads had been pulled, posted a statement reportedly issued by Wichita's Clear Channel General Manager Rob Burton this morning, which said: "As members of the Wichita community, KZSN has a responsibility to use our best judgment to ensure that advertising topics and content are as non-divisive as possible for our local audience."
But other media outlets in Wichita apparently believe that the center's ads are "non-divisive." Two music stations not owned by Clear Channel -- KFBZ, The Buzz 105.3; and KDGS, Power 93.5 - confirmed to Media Matters that they have agreed to run the ads.
Mark Yearout, sales manager for KFBZ and KDGS, stated: "They started in June on 105.3 and one will be on in August on 93.9, to my knowledge."
Both Yearout and KFBZ and KDGS General Manager Jackie Wise said the ads had drawn no complaints from listeners. "There has been none," Wise said.
Print ads for the clinic have also been published in the Liberty Press, a local lesbian and gay monthly newspaper, and the Wichita State University campus newspaper, The Sunflower, without complaints, according to staffers at both publications.
"We have been fine," said Liberty Press Editor Kristi Parker, who confirmed that the clinic's ad has been in the past two monthly issues and will be in the upcoming August issue. "I am kind of upset" at the Clear Channel stations, she later added. "I realize they have the right to do business with whomever they want, but it doesn't seem fair to single them out."
Former Obama administration official Cass Sunstein writes that he received death threats and hate mail at his unlisted home address after Fox News launched a smear campaign against him. After Sunstein's nomination and confirmation in 2009, then-Fox host Glenn Beck attacked him and his work for years, invoking mass murderers, totalitarianism and conspiracy theories in conjunction with his name.
Sunstein served as Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the first Obama administration from September 2009 to August 2012.
As Mother Jones notes, Sunstein writes in his upcoming book, Simpler: The Future of Government, that Beck "developed what appeared to be a kind of an obsession with me." Sunstein compares Beck's attacks to the "Two Minutes Hate" from the classic novel 1984, where citizens were forced to watch films depicting enemies of the totalitarian party.
Sunstein also notes that he "began to receive a lot of hate mail, including death threats, at my unlisted home address. One of them stated, 'If I were you I would resign immediately. A well-paid individual, who is armed, knows where you live.'"
It's been one year since Rush Limbaugh's invective-filled tirade against then-Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke. With hundreds of advertisers and millions of dollars lost, the business of right-wing radio is suffering, but Rush Limbaugh continues to act as if it were business as usual, which is why Limbaugh is still bad for business.
On February 29, 2012, Rush Limbaugh initiated a three-day smear campaign against Sandra Fluke, launching 46 personal attacks against her. This moment and Limbaugh's subsequent refusal to apologize for, or even acknowledge, all but two of those attacks put the spotlight on the right-wing talk business model that Limbaugh helped construct.
During the following weeks, headlines tracked in near real-time the names of advertisers exiting Limbaugh's show as pundits and natterers speculated about Limbaugh's future. As so often happens, the buzz faded and the news cycle rolled on. But the consequences didn't fade, they intensified. This is due in large part to scores of independent organizers, like the Flush Rush and the #StopRush community.
Rush Limbaugh's recklessness damaged the radio industry and the business of conservative talk.
When advertisers began fleeing from his program, Limbaugh dismissed the losses as akin to losing a "couple of French fries" and insisted that "nobody is losing any money here." This position seemed less tenable after Limbaugh employed the services of a crisis manager to handle the fallout, and the right-wing talker's protestations were proven false once financial reports started rolling in.
A May 13 Crain's New York article reported that a spokeswoman for Premiere Radio Networks, which syndicates The Rush Limbaugh Show, declined to say whether advertisers that had dropped the program following Limbaugh's misogynistic attacks on Sandra Fluke had returned to the program. From Crain's:
Last week, Cumulus Media CEO Lew Dickey told analysts that the advertiser boycott--which began after Mr. Limbaugh called Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke a slut--has cost the company "a couple million bucks."
The Rush Limbaugh Show airs on 38 Cumulus-owned stations, including WABC-AM in New York, and altogether on some 600 stations around the country.
"[The show] is not back to normal," said Angelo Carusone, campaign director for Media Matters, the liberal group that has led the boycott. The organization monitors over-the-air broadcasts of the Limbaugh show in 15 markets, including New York. It has found ads from U.S. government agencies and show stalwarts like identity-protection service LifeLock making up for the decline in national advertising. There's also a lot of repetition, showing "a reduction in the range of advertisers," Mr. Carusone added.
A spokeswoman for the show's distributor, Premiere Networks, declined to say if advertisers have come back, but insisted that "many of the same national sponsors who have had great success with the program" can still be heard. She added that "several new national sponsors have signed on."
When the Sandra Fluke controversy first broke at the beginning of the month and Rush Limbaugh was under siege for his creepy and inappropriate sexual taunts targeting the Georgetown University law student, his syndicator, Premiere Radio Networks, put out of statement reiterating the right of all sides to express their opinions.
The Clear Channel-owned company, which pays Limbaugh $400 million, insisted Limbaugh's ugly misogynistic rants were simply part of the free marketplace of ideas.
From the Associated Press, March 5 [emphasis added]:
"The contraception debate is one that sparks strong emotion and opinions on both sides of the issue," Premiere Networks said in a statement on Sunday. "We respect the right of Mr. Limbaugh, as well as the rights of those who disagree with him, to express those opinions."
According to Clear Channel, everyone has a right to their opinion, and everyone has a right to disagree with Limbaugh and to "express those opinions."
But now, three weeks into the radio debacle and after more than 50 previous Limbaugh advertisers have bolted from his show, Clear Channel's tune has changed and suddenly it's most definitely not okay for Limbaugh's opponents to express their disagreement with the talker:
"This is not about women," said Rachel Nelson, Premiere spokeswoman. "It's not about ethics and it's not about the nature of our public discourse. It's a direct attack on America's guaranteed First Amendment right to free speech. It's essentially a call for censorship masquerading as high-minded indignation."
According to an agitated Clear Channel spokesperson, Limbaugh's opponents have attacked his "First Amendment right to free speech." How? By contacting his affiliates and complaining about the insanely hateful and sexist comments he made about Sandra Fluke.
In the span of two weeks, Clear Channel has embraced two very different views about the freedom to express opinions. What will next week bring?
There was something very telling, and even morose, about the commercial break Rush Limbaugh took deep into his third hour of broadcasting on Tuesday's show. Still at the center of an advertising firestorm that rages around his program as corporate America turns its back on the AM talker in the wake of his ugly, invasive, three-day smear campaign against Sandra Fluke, Limbaugh boasted he had thwarted the left-wing attack and they were the ones "shell shocked" at the turn of events.
But the truth was that for days on his flagship station, WABC in New York, Limbaugh's show had been stripped of key advertisers. Instead, the once robust revenue-generating program had turned into a feel-good forum where during commercial breaks WABC ran nonpaid public service announcements on behalf of the United Negro College Fund and New York Office of Emergency Management. That's because WABC didn't feel comfortable putting lots of advertisers on Limbaugh's show, which up and down Madison Avenue had become poisonous in this wake of his misogynistic Fluke debacle.
So towards the end of his show on Tuesday, the nine-figure salary talk show host went to commercial break and a paid advertiser did pop up. And it was a new advertiser, a sponsor who apparently had signed on amidst the controversy. The sponsor's name? The Holy Name Cemetery in New Jersey, which was advertising a "pre-planning open house weekend."
Whether Limbaugh's show is in the midst of the death throes, only time will tell. But one thing is clear, the radio industry has never seen anything like the sponsorship controversy surrounding Limbaugh's once-untouchable program. And it's certainly never seen anything like the wholesale decision by his syndicator, Premier Radio Networks, to suspend barter ads for two weeks in an apparent effort to ride out the controversy. That was soon followed by news that advertisers are requesting Limbaugh's affiliated stations provide "Rush-free programming grids" so sponsors can verify that their brands aren't appearing on his show.
"It's unprecedented," Holland Cooke, a talk radio consultant, tells Media Matters. He says Premiere's startling advertising move "suggests things are worse than we know."
The question is: How long will stations be able to sustain the ad losses on Limbaugh's show, and how does the host justify his $400 million pay in the face of the advertiser revolt?
John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou, hosts of Los Angeles radio show The John & Ken Show, were suspended by KFI-AM on Thursday after referring to the late Whitney Houston as a "crack ho" and wondering why her death "took this long" during their February 14 broadcast. Listen:
During the January 30 broadcast of The John and Ken Show, hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou discussed California Gov. Jerry Brown's defense of a proposed ballot initiative that would raise tax revenue through additional levies on the wealthy and a temporary one cent increase of the state sales tax, which Brown delivered during an interview on Los Angeles ABC affiliate's Eyewitness Newsmakers.
According to Brown, this new revenue would benefit poor children by partially funding schools and various state welfare programs. In response, Kobylt wondered why he was "responsible for everybody's bad decision," claiming that "you don't get a benefit" from government spending on poor children. Kobylt concluded that poor children receiving government assistance were "little Solyndrites." From The John and Ken Show:
CHIAMPOU: Stop having kids if you are low income. Really? Half the kids born--come on. I don't care who you are, why can't you make a decision better than that.
KOBYLT: Why am I responsible for everybody's bad decision? Why do I have to invest in people when their parents don't seem to care? When the parents can't carefully plan a family. I mean really, how hard is it to slip on a condom?
CHIAMPOU: Well eventually that burdens just becomes too great, if it already isn't.
KOBYLT: It is--It's already too great. That's why we are bankrupt. We've got to many poor people. It's clear. We've got almost a third of the nation's welfare cases, just in this one state. A third.
KOBYLT: And you know, you don't seem to get a benefit from it either. These kids are largely dropping out of school. I mean if you look at LA the dropout rates are 60 percent. So we poor in all this medical care, food stamps, all these welfare benefits, then free education, and it goes on for 15 years , and then somewhere in the middle of high school they drop out and they go take a crap job, or not, and then--What did we put that money in for? What did we invest in?
KOBYLT: This is like Solyndra. All these kids are little Solyndrites.
CHIAMPOU: Yeah, they want our half a billion dollars.
KOBYLT: They take the money, and it's billions every year, and we get nothing out of it--
CHIAMPOU: In this case it's a $7 billion tax increase
KOBYLT: And they keep selling the same damn thing that they have been selling us for 50 years. It doesn't go anywhere. You don't get a benefit from investing in kids when they come from families who don't give a crap. And that's really the core of this. A lot of the families don't care. They just don't care. So what am I investing in their kids for? Or investing in them. I'm not interested. I don't have to be forced to pay money for this. It doesn't work.
During the January 16 broadcast of Clear Channel's The John and Ken Show, co-hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou discussed the 69th Golden Globes Awards with news contributor Shannon Farren. While discussing how many of the actresses appeared to be "emaciated," Kobylt claimed that "gay guys control...the whole Hollywood look" and that because "gays like bodies that remind them of 14 year-old boys," actresses have to look like "14 year-old boy stick figures." From The John and Ken Show:
FARREN: I don't watch [awards shows] because every time I do, I just want to feed them a burger, every actress I see. I just want to feed them, they look so emaciated.
KOBYLT: I know they look so--that's not attractive.
CHIAMPOU: But that's the game though. They have to be more emaciated than the other famous actress.
FARREN: Yeah, and this is the time of year.
KOBYLT: That's right. And it's because--
CHIAMPOU: They get jealous and see photos of someone thinner than them.
KOBYLT: Gay guys control the fashion industry and the casting industry and the whole Hollywood look. And gays like bodies that remind them of a 14 year old-boy. Guys like curves. Guys like curves. Absolutely, positively. It's biological, because a woman with curves looks like she can bear your children successfully and that's biologically what a man is looking for. So sexually a guy is much more turned on by a woman with curves than these 14 year old-boy stick figures. And that's how I know for sure, I don't need to do any research or any proof that it's gay guys who control the entire casting industry.
Kobylt's claim that "gays like bodies that remind them of a 14 year-old boy" suggests that gay men are largely attracted to children and invokes the persistent myth that gay people molest children at far higher rates than heterosexuals In a 2010 post the Southern Poverty Law Center debunked this myth:
As attention turns to speculation that May 21, 2011, will be the Biblical day of rapture, Media Matters revisits a litany of fringe right-wing media figures who foretold that President Obama might just be the Antichrist - the latest in a long line of world leaders presaged as "the beast."
In the year leading up to and following the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the right-wing media engaged in a campaign to spread fear about what could happen if health care reform passed. One year after the health care reform was signed into law, Media Matters looks back at the most egregious attempts by the right-wing media to scare the American public into opposing the legislation.