Is This the End of Rush Limbaugh? Advertisers Flee Show

Rush Limbaugh learns the hard way after his “slut” comment that in today’s social-media world, negative reactions are swift.

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Rush Limbaugh

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Rush Limbaugh is paying the price for his latest misogynistic comment. In today’s social-media world, where everything is on immediate public display, advertisers are fleeing his show.

Limbaugh has made racist, homophobic and anti-women comments before without major repercussions. But this time, after he called Georgetown University student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” for advocating for women’s reproductive rights, the public outcry has been immediate and intense, thanks to Facebook and Twitter. He apologized, but the damage has been done, as eight major advertisers have pulled the plug. These include: Quicken Loans, Sleep Train, Sleep Number, Citrix Systems, Carbonite, LegalZoom, ProFlowers and, most recently, AOL.

Social Media: Viral & Unforgiving 

Similar to our recent news analysis of Lowe’s Muslim publicity gaffe, Limbaugh’s repercussions all too clearly showcase the unforgiving nature of social media. Social media has evolved in the last few years from an online networking tool to a powerful medium for the viral spread of information, especially corporate and political publicity gaffes.

Social-media users were quick to lobby Limbaugh’s advertisers to pull advertising from the show. A real-time Twitter report shows that Quicken loans received approximately 1,500 tweets and LegalZoom received more than 1,200 tweets within 24 hours, while Facebook had two anti-Limbaugh pages by Saturday with more than 18,000 and 6,000 likes. Additionally, the petition posted on Left Action website’s Boycott Rush page had almost 50,000 signatures within 24 hours.

What’s essential these days is speed of reaction. If someone offends or states something not in line with corporate values, a response must be immediate. Limbaugh’s delayed apology on Saturday (three days after the incident and two days after Fluke’s response on Thursday) did little to quell the viral backlash. ProFlowers said Sunday on its Facebook page that Limbaugh’s remarks “went beyond political discourse to a personal attack and do not reflect our values as a company.”

The radio host has a long history of inappropriate and controversial comments, which can easily be found with a simple Google search. But this is the first time advertisers have deserted him in droves. Here’s a short example of some of his past remarks:

  • [Secretary of State Hillary Clinton] once tried to join the Marines … They didn’t have uniforms or boots big enough to fit that butt and those ankles. (Sept. 23, 2009) 
  • Obama’s got a healthcare logo that’s right out of Adolf Hitler’s playbook … Adolf Hitler, like Barack Obama, also ruled by dictate. (Aug. 6, 2009)  
  • Feminism was established to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream. (April 10, 2009)  
  • Look, let me put it to you this way: the NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it. (Jan. 19, 2007) 

A Lesson in Corporate Values

Limbaugh is neither the first nor the last to experience the repercussions of today’s instant-feedback social media. Here are some of our related examples:

Jeremy Lin & Racism: 3 Ways to Stop Dangerous Stereotypes
Asian basketball star Jeremy Lin has become the subject of jokes and racist comments. What can you do to prevent stereotyping in your organization?

Did Komen’s Lack of Board Diversity Cause Its Crisis?
The nonprofit organization’s board of directors is mostly Texan, homogeneous and wealthy. Here’s how the lack of diversity fueled its misstep over funding to Planned Parenthood.

‘Blacks Should Not Be Satisfied With Food Stamps’: The Dangers of Stereotypes
Dr. Claude Steele, educator and expert on stereotypes, gives advice on the dangers of these kinds of misstatements, their impact on the workplace and how to handle them.

‘I’m Puerto Rican – I’d Be Great at Selling Drugs’; ‘Not Married? She Must Be a Lesbian’
ABC’s comedy “Work It” has offended Latinos, LGBT people, TV critics and viewers. How can a company use its employee-resource groups, diversity councils and clarity of values to prevent multicultural missteps?

Ask the White Guy: Decision Making, Clarity of Values & What to Do When It Goes Horribly Wrong
Are you violating your values? If you are, you can’t hide from the repercussions.

Comments are now closed for this article.

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  • Beth Mollenkamp

    It is about time someone is holding accountable these absolutely unforgivable rantings of an egotistical madman like Limbaugh.

  • Steven Izard

    Theoretically, Rush went too far when he used the word “slut”, but when he used the term “prostitute”, look at the movie ‘Pretty Woman’, since they refer to the woman who has sex for money as a prostitute. So I guess that would make me as a taxpayer a ‘pimp’, because I am paying for women to go out and have sex without a physical condition, and if they do have a medical condition, then why can’t their doctor prescribe the pills to them?

    I have multiple sclerosis, so should the government pay for me to get medical marijuana? The government is involved in too much of our lives and what ever happened to the Constitution’s outlook on limited government? That’s the main problem with our country is the government making too many decisions that are affecting ‘We The People.’

    • Luke Visconti

      No, you are not a “pimp,” but you are on a slippery slope. What if my religion says that medical remedies are forbidden and therefore I should not be forced to pay for medical research (like medical research for MS)? Regardless, I think this is only an issue because women are the only gender that can get pregnant. If men bore 50% of the pregnancies, none of this would even need to be discussed. There would be free contraception hanging from trees.

      Finally, equating having contraception as being part of a medical plan with prostitution tells me you may have a problem with women. Just like Rush, who has a history a mile long of saying horrible misogynistic things – and a history of being caught having erectile dysfunction medicine without a prescription (his second illegal drug arrest).
      Luke Visconti, CEO of DiversityInc

  • The question is asked, “Is this the End of Rush Limbaugh?”. The answer is no. He may lose his contract with the current company he is with but there will be another one who picks him up down the line. In this country, we unfortunately have a lot of idiots who can’t think for themselves and grasp on to any and all of the ridicoulous claims being spewed to them by the likes of individuals like Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. They are to lazy to take the time out to research these claims and get the actual facts on them so they hold individuals like Limbaugh as their source for what is a false reality. Limbaugh statements no longer surprise me starting when he was bold enough to make the claim about Dononvan McNabb getting praise for his performance as an elite NFL Quarterback only cause he was black(And not because the multiple Pro Bowl selections his peers in the NFL voted him to be). Rush may lose his current show, but business is business and he has a huge market out there that hold, in high regard, every word that comes out of his mouth. And as long as that market is huge, he will have ears that listen and corporations will want those ears to listen to what their advertising.

  • Barbara K. Viadella

    Rush Limbaugh has stepped over the bounds of civility with his recent comment about Ms. Sandra Fluke’s defense of birth control and refering to her as a “slut” and that she should make “sex tapes” and post them for all to see if “we” are paying for her birth control.

    Where do I start????????

    First, a lot of women use birth control for other medical reasons then for what it is commonly referred to. Birth control pills alleviate other medical conditions extremely successfully.

    Second, who is the “we” that Mr. Limbaugh refers to as to paying for the medication and wants to watch the sex tapes that he has requested Ms. Fluke make. Is this another hobby of Mr. Limbaugh’s in addition to his use of oxycodone? Certainly, I (that is if he is including me in the “we”) don’t mind my tax dollars paying for birth control. But please don’t include me in the “we” as demanding Ms. Fluke make sex tapes that Mr. Limbaugh assumes I would want to watch!

    Third, why has the public not demanded that Mr. Limbaugh apologize to Ms. Fluke “ON AIR” instead of a press release that some PR person wrote three days later? At least verbally, we could hear if there was “ANY” remorse/sincerity in his voice. I doubt that there is or would be any.

    Fourth, Mr. Limbaugh claims to be a conservative, moral (Christian), and up-standing person. How are his remarks in any way moral or Christian?

    Fifth, I am not saying I condoned what Don Imus stated on the radio a few years back referring to the Rutger’s Women’s Basketball Team – calling them “nappy headed ho’s” – and he was forced off the air (rightly so in my opinion) and is now in oblivion. Why has Mr. Limbaugh been allowed to stay on his radio show? Yes, a few courageous sponsors pulled their ads, but what about the rest of the sponsors? Are they not outraged if Mr. Limbaugh was referring to their daughters, sisters or mothers with his remarks?

    Sixth, why do these radio personalities degrade women and get away with it as “humor”? These remarks go beyond disgust!

    Seventh, why didn’t the FCC censor the remark in the delayed transmission? Or why doesn’t the FCC fine Mr. Limbaugh as they did with the TV Networks during the infamous Super Bowl Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction”?

    Yes, I believe in the First Amendment, but there should also be some code of civility that is mandated with the First Amendment. In my opinion, Mr. Limbaugh, crossed that line and deserves NOT TO BE HEARD FROM AGAIN on the radio waves. Don’t my tax dollars support the FCC and therfore, Mr. Limbaugh? I WANT MY MONEY BACK!

    Thank you.

    • Unfortunately, Don Imus has not been cast off to oblivion. After being dropped by CBS in April of 2007, he was picked back up by Citadel Broadcasting in November of 2007. Hence the reason I said Rush Limbaugh is not going anywhere. He may(and that’s a big may)duck out of dodge for a few months but once this is no longer a “National Current Event”, the overall public won’t care and or discuss it anymore and another broadcast company will give him another contract because there are enough idiotic American’s out there who use him as their only source of information. Limbaugh has the ear of a whole generation of those uninformed/misinformed individuals in the palm of his hands. In Radio/TV: Ears to Radio/Eyes to Television=Money to Pockets

  • Bonnie Olson

    Thanks for using the term misogynist! That is what hurts the most. Not only is he this way, I now believe that the folks that support this man are also misogynists. How sad for their wives, daughters, nieces and female co-workers. It is a terrible disease.

  • Shanta Kamath

    It’s great that he is losing sponsors over this. It makes perfect sense. Others have been paying for him to have a seat at the table and he is not able to engage in civil and respectful conversation with the rest of us, so he is losing his sponsorship. This is the appropriate application of that logic conservative thinkers use to talk about people who receive financial support through government. The major support individuals in the media receive comes through corporate sponsors from our consumer dollars. What our tax dollars finance is much harder to control just by speaking up about it or filling out online petition forms. If we as consumers can give feedback about our values, we will see them sponsoring or not sponsoring voices accordingly. The man is obviously completely off-the-wall and has been granted expensive airtime for far too long.

  • The drama around the fall out should be entertaining theater Shock jocks come in many forms Don Imus recovered Stay tuned

  • I don’t agree with what Rush said but he will be fine. This will be over in a week. I just can’t believe Obamacare can mandate that a religious organization provide a service/product that is against their religious beliefs.

    • Luke Visconti

      What does that have to do with calling a woman a “slut” and a “prostitute?” No sane company would want to be aligned with that kind of nonsense. Luke Visconti, CEO of DiversityInc

  • James Coles III

    As an occasional listener to the Rush show, I agree he did go over the line with ‘sending the video tapes back to him’, however his definition of a lady who is promiscuous which was crude, it was however accurate. And the emphasis was not on women’s reproductive rights, it was however on government overreach and who should be paying for the woman’s ‘life style’. Rush has applogized for his crude comments, but I look at Bill Maher who has also used crude language with no repercussions, but then his political affiliations are different.

    ps. is this website only allowing one voice to be heard?

    • Luke Visconti

      I’m publishing your comment as representative of those that would defend Rush by condemning the woman who testified, and/or attempting to deflect what Rush said by bringing up a third party. (“I’m not so bad, look at that guy over there!”). I’m publishing yours so you can see another “voice” being heard. I’m not publishing all of them because I’m not interested in being gamed like that. The point of this article was about the market reaction to the comment that was made.

      However, I understand that you’re concerned that Rush is being hurt here: I suggest you ask your CEO to put your company’s advertising on Rush’s show.

  • When you represent diversity, I’ll accept your emails again. Where is the noise about Bill Maher?

    • Luke Visconti

      We have taken you off our mailing list.

      It is a personal judgment call in deciding if you are offended by what Rush said – but the point of the article is that enough people were offended and able to express themselves via Twitter and Facebook – which caused eight advertisers to pull their advertising. This is a market-driven response and in my opinion reflects a heightened sense of understanding the connection between advertising environment and market repercussions among advertisers.

      Regarding Bill Maher – that’s a decision for HBO to answer. He has no advertisers and you have to subscribe to HBO to hear him.

      You should ask your CEO if he feels Rush’s environment is a proper place for your company’s advertising. I’ve interviewed him; I think I know what he would say.

      Luke Visconti, CEO of DiversityInc

  • Maude Jennings

    Frankly, it’s about time people realized how sad it is that people like Limbaugh have assisted in the loss of civility in public discourse and the coarsening of our responses to each other. Hee has always displayed vulgarity and vitriop in his comments and it’s about time people called him on it.

  • Wow Luke …. it feels to me like you are attacking (personally) anyone who doesn’t share your viewpoint. How is that encouraging discussion and diverse points of view? I would also say your comment to one of these guys (‘you should ask your CEO if he feels Rush …… I’ve interviewed him ….’) sounded to me like an implied threat.

    • Luke Visconti

      When I get a bunch of comments (and emails) saying the same thing – equating what Rush said to what Bill Maher has said (in this case), then it isn’t random. Several comments even had Bill Maher’s name spelled wrong in the same way. This isn’t unusual; I regularly get attacks that are based on the same talking points from people who are not regular readers (we track IP addresses, so we KNOW who is a regular reader).

      As far as threatening anyone, my response to that person isn’t a threat.
      It’s a rhetorical question – because the person defending Rush knows that there is no rational defense to what Rush said. She knows that suggesting that to her CEO is career suicide. Why? Because supporting Rush using the term “slut” and “prostitute” isn’t good for office productivity because his language is offensive. It’s not good business.

      Finally, “diversity” doesn’t imply equality of opinions. People who feel OK about using the word “slut” and “prostitute” to define someone who is testifying to Congress about birth control and saying that she should be forced to post videos of her sexual activity isn’t right in my opinion.
      You’re not a regular reader and I have no desire to parse what is obviously offensive to encourage your readership. This publication has a point of view and you should stop reading us if our content distresses you.

      Luke Visconti, CEO of DiversityInc

  • Where can I get a list of the show’s advertisers? I would prefer to not do business with any of them! Thanks!

  • RL tends to speak before thinking, he’s been condemned by many, including Imus. The Catholics I know tend to be indifferent about birth control, with some priests saying it’s ok to control or help control medical issues/quality of life. If you want to debate birth control being used for “social” purposes, fair enough. Unfortunately when the name calling lines are crossed, it only creates tension and defensiveness, which are unhealthy for any social debate.

  • It’s sad that “certain” people have to be the target of these types of rants before its decided that he’s gone too far. Before then, it was considered opinion and freedom of speech. These sponsors, and anyone who was brave enough to admit it, knew the type of person this man was long before the slut and prostitute comment!

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