Rush Limbaugh and the Power of Small Megaphones

Gee. I guess I never considered Rush Limbaugh to be an entertainer, or all that humorous for that matter. Sure, some of what he says is entertaining. But I view Rush as a commentator on social and political issues and as someone who has considerable influence on conservative elected officials, candidates and campaign contributors.

So I’m not blown away with Rush’s apology for his outrageous and uncivil remarks about Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University law student and private citizen (as opposed to public figure) who, according to an Associated Press story, “testified at a congressional hearing in favor of an Obama administration mandate that employee health plans include free contraceptive coverage.”

Here’s Rush’s apology, as posted on the website

For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week.  In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.

I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress. I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities. What happened to personal responsibility and accountability? Where do we draw the line? If this is accepted as the norm, what will follow? Will we be debating if taxpayers should pay for new sneakers for all students that are interested in running to keep fit?In my monologue, I posited that it is not our business whatsoever to know what is going on in anyone’s bedroom nor do I think it is a topic that should reach a Presidential level.

My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.

Hmm. Well, I imagine that Republican candidates and members of the so-called conservative establishment were quick to denounce Rush. Well, not really. Here’s George Will via a blog post by George Stephanopoulous following his ABC Sunday morning talkathon:

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh has been inundated with criticism after calling Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University student who testified before a House committee about contraception, a “slut” and a “prostitute.” But while Democrats have fiercely condemned the comments, Republicans’ ire has been significantly more muted.

ABC’s George Will told me Sunday on “This Week” that GOP leaders have steered clear of harshly denouncing Limbaugh’s comments because “Republican leaders are afraid of Rush Limbaugh.”

“[House Speaker John] Boehner comes out and says Rush’s language was inappropriate. Using the salad fork for your entrée, that’s inappropriate. Not this stuff,” Will said. “And it was depressing because what it indicates is that the Republican leaders are afraid of Rush Limbaugh. They want to bomb Iran, but they’re afraid of Rush Limbaugh.”

In fairness, on CNN I heard Santorum say that Limbaugh’s comments were “absurd.” Romney, according to the Associated Press, “distanced” himself from Limbaugh.  Not sure about Newt.

But Ron Paul gets to the heart of the issue, and points to several lessons that we might all take away from this. Here’s from Politico:

Ron Paul said on Sunday that Rush Limbaugh offered an apology for his comments about Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke to keep advertisers on his radio show who were threatening to leave as a result of the controversy.

“I don’t think he’s very apologetic, I think he’s doing it because people were taking their advertisements off his program,” Paul said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Still, Paul said that the underlying issue is important politically.

“I, as an OB doctor, certainly endorse the whole idea of birth control,” Paul said. “But this is something different. This is philosophically and politically important.”

“Does the government have a mandate to tell insurance companies what to give,” Paul continued. “So they’re saying that the insurance companies should give everybody free birth control pills.”

“That strikes me as rather odd,” Paul added.

OK. Lesson one.  Rush, and others, are pointing to an important issue, one that will most likely be settled in the courts. But his rhetoric was so reprehensible that the point he was trying to make got lost. Kathleen Parker has an interesting take on this in WaPo.

Lesson two. Rush has one of the biggest megaphones in the world. But almost everyone now has access to a smaller megaphone via Twitter, Facebook and so on. Hey, look at me, a pajama-clad citizen journalist with an audience worldwide that totals millions thousands a handful. And the cumulative roar of all the small megaphones can and does attract the attention and action of advertisers and others.

Here’s from the NYT, “Limbaugh Advertisers Flee Show Amid Storm“:

Emboldened by Rush Limbaugh’s public apology over the weekend to a law school student whom he had called a “slut” and a “prostitute,” critics of the radio talk show host are intensifying their online campaign against his advertisers.

The apology, they said, was a signal that the campaign was working. On Sunday, a seventh company, ProFlowers, said that it was suspending all of its advertising on “The Rush Limbaugh Show” despite his apologetic statement a day earlier.

For now, the ad boycott is uncomfortable but not crippling for Mr. Limbaugh, who is estimated to make $50 million a year and whose program is a profit center for Premiere Radio Networks, the company that syndicates it. The program makes money both through ads and through fees paid by local radio stations, and while it often has sparked outrage during more than two decades on the air, efforts at ad boycotts in the past have had no measurable effect. Liberal groups and activists, however, hope that this time is different.

Mr. Limbaugh has been roundly criticized for talking at length about the sex life of Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University law student who testified in support of the Obama administration’s requirement that health insurance plans cover contraceptives for women. For three straight days he lambasted her, before saying in a statement Saturday afternoon that he did not intend to attack her personally. “I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation,” he said.

By the time he apologized, online protesters had been organizing for days on social networking Web sites and liberal hubs like Daily Kos. They called on companies like ProFlowers to remove their ads from “The Rush Limbaugh Show” and appeared to be having some success, as companies like Sleep Train said they had suspended advertising.

One such company that had been a longtime sponsor of Mr. Limbaugh’s, Carbonite, said it would reconsider its ad spending; after the apology was issued, it announced that it would suspend its ads anyway. “We hope that our action, along with the other advertisers who have already withdrawn their ads, will ultimately contribute to a more civilized public discourse,” the company’s chief executive, David Friend, said.

Here’s the full statement from David Friend:

“No one with daughters the age of Sandra Fluke, and I have two, could possibly abide the insult and abuse heaped upon this courageous and well-intentioned young lady. Mr. Limbaugh, with his highly personal attacks on Miss Fluke, overstepped any reasonable bounds of decency. Even though Mr. Limbaugh has now issued an apology, we have nonetheless decided to withdraw our advertising from his show. We hope that our action, along with the other advertisers who have already withdrawn their ads, will ultimately contribute to a more civilized public discourse.”

I believe people are getting tired of bullies — in school, in the workplace and in the media. And Rush comes off here as a bully.

And if Rush doesn’t believe he is in some doo-doo, he should call Don Imus.



One response to “Rush Limbaugh and the Power of Small Megaphones

  1. burghthoughts

    Or maybe he should call Ed Schultz and find out what he did on his week off from MSNBC after he called Laura Ingraham a “Right-Wing Slut” last year

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