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.

Photo by Getty Images


Photo: George Gojkovic/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

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.

Russians Leveraged Fear of Blacks, Non-Christians, LGBT, Etc. to Excite Trump's Base of Haters

Russian-paid pro-Trump Facebook ads show a remarkably competent grasp of American right-wing culture, clearly mapping the soul of the Trump campaign.

Facebook's failure to prevent Russian operatives from using its technology for election meddling resulted in at least 3,000 U.S. political ads and 80,000 Facebook posts, which were seen by as many as 126 million Americans over two years.

Read More Show Less

Black Lawmakers Slam Facebook For Ads Targeting BLM, Lack of Board Diversity

"These ads caused harm and additional resentment to young people who unselfishly fight for justice and equality for African Americans," said Rep. Cedric L. Richmond.

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, and Vice President of global communications, marketing and public policy Elliot Schrage, on Capitol Hill, Oct. 12, 2017 / REUTERS

Facebook has come under fire by the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) for absence of diversity in the boardroom — none of its eight board members are people of color — and for having allowed the Russian government to systematically use its platform to exploit the Black community.

Read More Show Less

Russians Reportedly Weaponized Black Activism in U.S. During Presidential Election

From fake Black activist social media accounts to a Facebook ad of a Black woman ready to fire a gun, Russian trolls attempted to manipulate Americans.

A "Blacktivist" campaign on social media reportedly linked to the Russian government was created to exacerbate racial tensions during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In essence, the trolls used U.S.-based technology to exploit African American pain for political gain and to stoke the fears of white Americans.

Read More Show Less

Firefighter Resigns After Saying He'd Save a Dog Before a Black Person

In a Facebook post, an Ohio firefighter used a racial slur saying the lives of Blacks are less important than animals.

Tyler Roysdon / FACEBOOK

A volunteer firefighter in Ohio has resigned after racist statements he made on Facebook were exposed.

Read More Show Less

Sheriff Says 'All Lives Splatter' Facebook Post was Accidental

A meme posted on the Chelan County Emergency Management page encouraging killing protesters receives backlash on social media.

"All Lives Splatter" is the title of a meme that a Chelan County Emergency Management employee shared on the department's Facebook page on Monday — the 16th anniversary of 9/11 — and three weeks after a vehicular murder took place at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. The image features an SUV running over three protesters and includes the text: "Nobody Cares About Your Protest."

Read More Show Less

Black Judge Asked to Recuse Himself from Police Shooting Case

"I live in the 'hood. Should I recuse myself from every criminal case that has happened on the west side?" said Judge Greg Griffin.

Left: Judge Greg Griffin (photo via LinkedIn); Right: Gregory Gunn

A Black judge in Alabama has claimed that defense lawyers want him to remove himself from a case due to the color of his skin.

Read More Show Less

FaceApp Fail: 'Racist' Ethnic Filters Removed After Backlash

Social media users slammed the "Black," "Caucasian," "Asian" and "Indian" filters.

Photos by TechCrunch writer Lucas Matney / TWITTER

Using face-altering apps on photos is common nowadays, but FaceApp continues to miss the mark with its filters. The app just launched in January and is again under fire for producing tone-deaf technology deemed racist by users.

Read More Show Less