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.
In a May 21 blog post, Politico's Dylan Byers noted the decline in Rush Limbaugh's ratings:
Rush Limbaugh took a significant ratings hit in some key radio markets last month in the wake of the Sandra Fluke controversy.
The conservative radio host's ratings fell 27 percent in the key 25-54 demo in New York City, 31 percent in Houston-Galveston, 40 percent in Seattle-Tacoma, and 35 percent in Jacksonville, according to a selection of the March 29-April 25 Arbitron ratings provided by an industry source.
Limbaugh's detractors attribute the losses to a rejection of the show following his controversial comments about the Georgetown law student.
"Clearly Sandra Fluke isn't the only one who didn't like Rush calling her a 'slut' given how many viewers that comment incinerated," one radio insider said.
But defenders say that what looks like a decline actually represents a leveling out following increased attention from the controversy. In late March, Limbaugh boasted that his ratings had increased by as much as 60 percent in the month since he had called Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute" on air.
A spokesperson for Limbaugh declined to comment.
Limbaugh, without offering any substantiation, bragged about increased ratings as recently as last Friday's show.
Michelle Malkin and the team at Twitchy.com, a website she founded, are attacking Meghan McCain and Sandra Fluke for showing solidarity with each other over the sexist attacks both have endured.
Yesterday, McCain tweeted a picture of herself and Fluke at an after-party following the White House Correspondents Dinner. McCain said "My fav meeting of the night" and referred to Fluke as "very brave and badass."
McCain later tweeted: "Everyone calm down. I'm a proud pro-life republican but standing up to publicly being called a slut is brave. I've been through it." Fluke tweeted a response to McCain: "thanx 4 support/advice re: public attacks! We girls have each others' backs despite polit differences."
McCain and Fluke have indeed been subjected to sexist attacks for speaking out publicly: Fluke was infamously called a "slut" and a "prostitute" and subjected to a barrage of other sexist attacks by Rush Limbaugh after speaking out about insurance coverage for contraception, and McCain has been subjected to repeated sexist comments after speaking publicly.
Malkin's Twitchy.com was outraged that McCain and Fluke would compare notes on sexism. The website collected some of the tweets on the subject by McCain, Fluke, and others under the headline "Groan: When Meggie Met Fluke-y" and called McCain a "GOP embarrassment" and referred to Fluke as a "Democratic embarrassment."
Georgetown University Law student Sandra Fluke appeared on MSNBC tonight to demand an apology from Fox News' Monica Crowley on behalf of the LGBT community following what Fluke called Crowley's "hate speech." Fluke stated: "Well, you know, where I'm from when someone tells you that they've become engaged, you say, 'Congratulations,' rather than engaging in hate speech." She stated that "the blatant homophobia in the comment" really bothered her.
She went on to say, "I don't want an apology from anyone personally, I think it's possible that she owes an apology to the LGBTQ community." She added: "It's not offensive to me to be gay, to be out in that way, but it was clearly meant as an insult and that is homophobic and offensive."
Reacting to the news of Fluke's engagement to her boyfriend, Crowley wrote on her Twitter feed, "To a man?" Following criticism of her on Twitter, Crowley's first response was, "I love exposing the Left's total lack of a sense of humor." She later added that all she was doing was asking a "Straightforward question" about Fluke.
From the March 19 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Cumulus Media Networks sees the recent controversy surrounding Rush Limbaugh as providing a "real opportunity" for its new Mike Huckabee radio program to succeed.
In a media conference call Monday, Cumulus Media, Inc. President and Chief Executive Officer Lewis Dickey was asked how the firestorm following Limbaugh's misogynistic attacks on Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke would affect the company's earnings. Cumulus currently carries Limbaugh on 35 of its 570 stations.
In response, Dickey acknowledged that the advertiser exodus from Limbaugh's program has caused the company "logistical difficulties" as companies demanded that their ads be pulled from the show. But Dickey went on to say that the controversy would be "very helpful" to subsidiary Cumulus Media Networks in their effort to launch The Mike Huckabee Show, scheduled to debut April 2 in the same time slot as Limbaugh on 110 radio stations.
"There's obviously some pluses and minuses associated with all of this," said Dickey. "But on the plus side, it's going to really be very helpful to us with our new show launch."
Dickey first stated that the scrutiny of Limbaugh for his comments about Fluke - calling her a "slut" and a "prostitute" - had affected Cumulus in a negative way.
The Cumulus CEO said that the company had "had some logistical issues, primarily in swapping out network spots in the ABC News casts that go in there." He added, "We've been working with our advertising partners on a very constructive basis to accommodate them wherever necessary."
So far, more than 100 advertisers have distanced themselves from Limbaugh and at least two radio stations have dropped his program since he first made the comments, despite two widely-criticized attempts at apologies.
Dickey, however, also seemed optimistic that Limbaugh's problems could be an opportunity for Cumulus's new Huckabee program, which he said was intended to compete directly with the radio giant.
"[W]e've also seen a real opportunity with this in the marketplace to talk about our new show that will compete head to head with Rush, which is the Mike Huckabee show," Dickey said. "And we're launching that next month and it will be positioned again with our affiliates as 'more conversation and less confrontation.'"
From the February 8 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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