49 Strong: Rush Limbaugh's Advertiser Exodus Over Sandra Fluke Controversy Continues
Advertisers continue to pull away from The Rush Limbaugh Show, over a week since he first began his verbal assault on Georgetown student and birth control advocate Sandra Fluke.
Last Wednesday, Limbaugh called Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute" for wanting to testify in Congress in favor of insurance coverage of contraception, then spent the next two days demanding she post online videos of herself having sex. By Friday, Sleep Number, The Sleep Train, Quicken Loans and Legal Zoom had pulled their ads from his broadcast, signaling a mass exodus that has thus far seen 49 sponsors request their spots to be removed from airing during the show.
The most recent pulls came from The Girl Scouts of Oregon and Southwest Washington, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Aetna, TurboTax, New York Lottery, and American Heart Association, the last of which actually requested that their free public service announcements be stopped.
“It is our practice to be a content-sensitive advertiser, and in light of the current controversy, we will be asking WABC to no longer utilize these unpaid PSAs,” Matthew Bannister, said in an email to Bloomberg News. The news service noted that over half of the ads during Limbaugh's Wednesday broadcast were free, non-profit ads.
Six advertisers pulled out between late Tuesday and Wednesday night; one of them, Reputation Rhino, a reputation management firm, insisted that they bought bulk air time on ABC and would make sure their ads would not run on Limbaugh's show and even used the situation as a subject for their blog. Many different companies have insisted that they had bought bulk air time, without explicitly demanding that their ads air on Limbaugh's show, which is one of Clear Channel's most popular.
Also pulling late Tuesday/Wednesday were Consolidated Credit, Constant Contact, RSVP Discount Beverage, Cunningham Security, Regal Assets, Polycom, home-improvement company Service Magic, life insurance site AccuQuote, Hadeed Carpet and clothing company Bonobos, Freedom Debt Relief, Norway Savings Bank, and Portland Ovations.
Earlier on Tuesday, insurance company Geico, tractor manufacturer John Deere, St. Vincent's Medical Center, Stamps.com, Bethesda Sedation Dentistry, Cascades Dental, Philadelphia Orchestra, Goodwill Industries, Heart & Body Extract, Netflix, Downeast Energy, Capitol One, JC Penny and Matrix Direct jumped ship. Monday saw AOL and Sears, amongst others, pull out.
Limbaugh has played down the losses, saying he has some 18,000 local and national advertisers and calling the exits "losing a couple of french fries in the container when it's delivered to you at the drive thru." It was a defiant tone from a man who had apologized on Saturday, though many found his mea culpa to Fluke to be insincere in the first place.
He has also seen two stations, in Pittsfield, Mass. and Hilo, Hawaii, removed him from their schedules.
Not that he would expect his support, but President Obama has also called out Limbaugh.
"All good folks can agree that the remarks that were made don’t have any place in the public discourse," he said in a news conference on Tuesday. "And you know, the reason I called Ms. Fluke is because I thought about my daughters, and one of the things I want them to do as they get older is to engage in issues they care about, even ones I may not agree with them on. I want them to be able to speak their mind in a civil and thoughtful way.”