(Updated March 11 at 11:00 am MT)
Last week conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh attacked a young law school student who spoke to a congressional committee about insurance coverage for contraceptives:
What does it say about the college co-ed Susan Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and says that she must be paid to have sex. What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception.
That is the one portion of Limbaugh’s remarks that the media keeps reporting. In fact, as reported in today’s Washington Post, Limbaugh’s repeated attacks on Fluke were spread over a three-day period.
Finally, after he’d lost half a dozen advertisers because of his attacks, Limbaugh “apologized”:
… My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. …
Humorous? Since when is Limbaugh a humorist? Three days of disgusting personal attacks are no accident, cannot be excused as a poor choice of words, and most certainly do not constitute humor in any sense of the word.
This is some of the most reprehensible, contemptible verbiage that’s ever gotten on the air. It tops by a mile Don Imus’s one-time, off-handed remark about “nappy-headed hos.” Limbaugh can’t even claim Fluke is a public figure. She is a private citizen, a young woman he doesn’t know and knows nothing about.
In attacking Fluke and jumping to the unwarranted conclusion that she wants contraceptives just so she can have wanton sex is to insult every women who uses contraceptives. Fluke’s testimony, in fact, centered on the fact that many women need the pills for medical reasons and conditions completely unrelated to sexual activity.
Commendations are due those advertisers who have dropped Limbaugh’s show: Quicken Loans, Sleep Train Mattresses, Sleep Number, LegalZoom, Carbonite, Citrix Systems, ProFlowers, Tax Resolution Services, and AOL.
KPUA, an AM station in Hilo, Hawaii, said it is dropping Limbaugh’s show immediately. The statement by station owner New West said the Limbaugh incident “crossed a line of decency” and didn’t live up to its standards.
See topplebush.com for a continually updated list of advertisers who have bailed on Limbaugh and those that remain. According to the site, Limbaugh’s remaining advertisers are: Amberen, Lear Capital, Polycom Federal, Snell Heating & Air Conditioning, Winning Our Future, IncomeAtHome.com, Exergen Corporation, Stamps.com, Geico Insurance, Capitol One, FixItFast.ServiceMagic.com, Nova Armament LLC, Vitacost, John Deere, Sensa, HotProps, Network Capital Funding Corporation, Department of Veterans Affairs, Right Size Health and Nutrition, Cascades Dental, Insperity, NetFlix, United HealthCare, Ackerman, RealGoldCoins.com, Goodwill Industries International, Merit Financial, Robert Steinberg, Hillsdale College, Mid-West Life Insurance Company of Tennessee, and American Forces Network.
Clear Channel’s Premiere Radio Networks Inc. hosts Limbaugh’s show. His on-air contract, unfortunately, runs through 2016.
Jezebel summed it up:
It may seem like this attention is what Limbaugh was after — he’s a professional troll, after all, making a living throwing tantrums so that the flaccid men tuning in can feel vicariously important and vital. But just because Limbaugh may not believe everything that comes out of his mouth doesn’t mean that he’s not doing real harm. People who listen to him internalize what he says, and as long as advertisers are willing to commit money to advertising on a political program wherein the host calls women “sluts” without consequences, listeners will believe that they, too, should be able to echo what Limbaugh says without consequences. Freedom of speech is not freedom from reaction, and constructive reaction like the kind we’ve seen in response to Limbaugh is what gets national conversation moving in a more positive, constructive direction.
Free speech and the First Amendment don’t allow you to yell “Fire” in a crowded theater, they don’t allow you to distribute pornography, and they don’t, or shouldn’t, allow you to use a national radio program to hurl repeated insults and personal attacks at a private citizen. We have slander laws in this country; Ms. Fluke should hire an attorney and take Limbaugh to the cleaners. Despicable attacks like his should not go unchallenged.
(Update: March 6)
The Huffington Post reported that by late today, the following additional advertisers and another radio station had deserted Limbaugh: Bare Escentuals, SensaWeightLoss, Vitacost, AccuQuote, ServiceMagic, Polycom, Hadeed Carpet, Thompson Creek Windows, stamps.com, Deere & Co., Geico, St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Connecticut, Bethesda Sedation Dentistry, Cascades Dental, Allstate, Sears, and Bonobos.
- Sanctimonious Advertisers Abandon Rush (odwyerpr.com)
- More Advertisers Ditch Limbaugh (lezgetreal.com)
- Hawaii radio station drops Limbaugh (thinkprogress.org)
- Sandra Fluke: Limbaugh Apology Doesn’t Change Anything (abcnews.go.com)
- Rush Limbaugh Continues to Insatiably Screw Self as 12th Sponsor Flees [Updated] [Rush Limbaugh] (jezebel.com)
- Rush Limbaugh Loses Another Advertiser Over ‘Slut’ Comment (inquisitr.com)
- More Limbaugh advertisers jump ship (fox2now.com)
- Limbaugh says his apology to student was sincere – CBS News (cbsnews.com)
- Imus Calls Limbaugh ‘Insincere Pig’ After ‘Slut’ Apology (crooksandliars.com)
- Rush Limbaugh Says Rappers Say Worse And It’s Called Art [Media Watch] (hiphopwired.com)
And more recently (March 11)
- Gloria Allred: Prosecute Limbaugh for ‘Slut’ Remark (newser.com)
- BREAKING: 98 Major Advertisers Dump Rush Limbaugh, Other Right-Wing Hosts (thinkprogress.org)
- SNL Mocks Limbaugh’s New Sponsors Including ‘Depends for Racists’ (newsbusters.org)
- 98 Major Advertisers Dump Rush Limbaugh, Other Right-Wing Hosts (brandtstandard.com)
- Limbaugh Scandal as Tipping Point (redstateprogressive.com)
- Limbaugh Rejects Company That Suspended Ads From Show Over Fluke Remarks (theblaze.com)