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.
As Election Law blogger Professor Rick Hasen recently reported, last December, the Federal Election Commission deadlocked on whether to continue to pursue charges that Sean Hannity violated the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) by sending out a fundraising email in support of failed Republican congressional candidate John Gomez.
On June 24, 2010, New York state Democratic Committee Chairman Jay Jacobs filed a complaint alleging that Hannity, Gomez, and the companies that run his radio show, Premiere Radio Networks and Clear Channel, violated FECA. Jacobs based the complaint on the fact that Hannity sent out a fundraising pitch for Gomez to all subscribers of Hannity.com using Clear Channel corporate emails with a "DONATE NOW" hyperlink embedded in the email. The complaint alleged that Hannity, Premiere, and Clear Channel "normally charge" for third-parties to send e-mails to Hannity's e-mail list, but did not for the Gomez email. The complaint added that "the provision of the free hyperlink is an illegal corporate contribution to Gomez."
The complaint also alleged that "the email itself was also an illegal contribution."
The FEC has now closed the case without taking action against Hannity, but two Democratic members of the commission, which is equally divided between Republicans and Democrats, voted against a finding that there is "no reason to believe that Sean Hannity violated 2 U.S.C. § 441b(a)" of the Federal Election Campaign Act. The third Democratic member of the commission, Cynthia Bauerly, a former legislative director for New York Sen. Charles Schumer (D), abstained from voting.
The three Republican members of the commission voted to clear Hannity, but it takes a vote of four members of the commission to make such a decision. Therefore, the FEC closed the case without making a final determination about whether Hannity broke the law.
But it now seems that Hannity's activities may also skate close to the edge of what's allowed by federal election law.
Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich recently made news by suggesting that President Obama is engaged in "Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior," but he isn't alone in using the African heritage of Obama's father and grandfather as fuel for ridiculous smears.
Two recently released polls show that an increasing number of Americans believe the falsehood that President Obama is a Muslim. According to the Pew Research Center, 60 percent of people who believe this false claim cite the media as the source of that information -- and, indeed, the right-wing media have incessantly promoted this lie.
From the August 3 edition of Clear Channel's The War Room with Quinn & Rose:
Loading the player ...