Even if Rush Limbaugh's personal brand survives the uproar over his sexist remarks — which is looking perilous as even Republicans back away from him — advertisers are continuing to pull out and boycott his radio show, with AOL becoming the ninth sponsor to withdraw its advertising today.
For those just catching up, the polarizing conservative pundit's attack last week on a law student named Sandra Fluke over the red-hot contraception issue has caused a political, consumer and advertising firestorm, even after Limbaugh issued a formal apology to his listeners and advertisers.
Commenting today that his apology was "sincere," Limbaugh also said on-air today that the advertisers who dropped out made a "business decision" and will be replaced, so his listeners shouldn't "worry."
"They decided they don't want you or your business," Limbaugh stated about the advertiser protests. "This show is about you, not advertisers."
Fluke, a 30-year-old Georgetown University student, had asked to be included in the all-male panel testifying before Congress about President Obama’s new policy requiring institutions run by religious organizations to provide insurance coverage for birth control. Limbaugh’s on-air response to Fluke’s comments included such choice words as “slut,” “prostitute,” and “feminazi.” He also suggested she produce sex tapes for the Internet “so we can all watch,” and that women should clamp aspirin between their knees for contraception.
Aside from stirring the political pot, advertisers on Limbaugh’s syndicated radio show began jumping ship and social media leveraged the firestorm at warp speed. By Saturday morning, Quicken Loans, Sleep Train and Sleep Number, Citrix Systems Inc., LegalZoom, ProFlowers, Heart and Body Extract, AutoZone, Oreck and Carbonite pulled their ads from Limbaugh’s show. On Monday, AOL had joined the list.
Two Facebook pages calling for advertisers boycotts quickly gathered 18,000 and 6,000 Likes; Twitter users rallied at hashtag #BoycottRush; Reddit user jaybercrow posted on r/politics a list of companies that sponsor the Limbaugh along with a petition for them to end their partnerships; and Website Left Action set up a Boycott Rush page with a petition that garnered 50,000 signatures in less than 24 hours.
UltraViolet, “a community of women and men, fighting to expand women's rights and combat sexism everywhere,” are continuing to pressure remaining Limbaugh advertisers. "Rush's apology wasn't actually an apology," commented UltraViolet co-founder Shaunna Thomas, formerly of MoveOn.org, to Huffington Post. "He did little more than continue to expose himself as the anti-woman and offensive media personality that he is. Our campaign to pressure advertisers to drop their sponsorship of his show will continue next week. No radio show that attacks women should be rewarded with advertising dollars. And more than 84,000 of our members who signed a petition in the last day agree."
Despite a highly publicized pull-out on Saturday, Carbonite appears to have been back on Limbaugh's show today, even though CEO David Friend posted an outraged message on Saturday on the company's blog that noted:
“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.”
Fluke, meanwhile, made her first public comments about the attack with an appearance on ABC's The View today. The furor continues.