While Limbaugh Sheds Advertisers, Taxpayers Pay to Broadcast His Toxic Sludge to the Troops
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Rush Limbaugh's defiant, halfhearted apology didn't convince anyone that he'd mended his ways.
As of Tuesday evening, Limbaugh's program had shed 35 advertisers, according to ThinkProgress. The count includes AOL, Sears, Allstate Insurance, Geico, and John Deere. As advertisers increasingly respond to pressure, online and off, from angry customers, other activists are turning their anger directly against the radio outlets that broadcast Limbaugh's show.
So far this week, two stations have dropped the program. WBEC in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and KPUA in Hilo, Hawaii, were the first, and if the pressure continues, they may not be the last. WBEC's general manager, Peter Barry, said in a statement, “The nature of Rush's programming has always presented challenges for us and he's always pushed the envelope. But this time he's taken it too far."
Iraq war veterans Miranda Norman, Kayla Williams and Robin Eckstein, and Katherine Scheirman, the former chief of medical operations for the U.S. Air Force, all with the organization VoteVets, released a statement calling for Limbaugh's show to be removed from taxpayer-funded American Forces Network, which is heard by troops serving overseas. They wrote:
Rush Limbaugh has a freedom of speech and can say what he wants, but in light of his horribly misogynistic comments, American Forces Radio should no longer give him a platform. Our entire military depends on troops respecting each other – women and men. There simply can be no place on military airwaves for sentiments that would undermine that respect. When many of our female troops use birth control, for Limbaugh to say they are “sluts” and “prostitutes” is beyond the pale. It isn’t just disrespectful to our women serving our country, but it’s language that goes against everything that makes our military work. Again, we swore to uphold our Constitution, including the freedom of speech, and would not take that away from anyone – even Limbaugh. But that does not mean AFN should broadcast him. In fact, it shouldn’t.
The Pentagon, though, doesn't seem interested in dropping Limbaugh yet. A spokesman told the AP it would continue to air a variety of programming. But VoteVets has a petition to remove Rush, and other sites have more information on who to contact to stop spending taxpayer dollars on Limbaugh.
But the real test is how Clear Channel, the mega-conglomerate that distributes Limbaugh's show, will react. A petitioner at MoveOn's SignOn.org Web site is asking for Clear Channel to drop Limbaugh's show, and 200,939 people had signed it as of press time. Curt Hopkins at the Christian Science Monitor pointed out that, “unlike Limbaugh, the San Antonio-based company has quarterly revenue targets to meet and has to be concerned about the immediate reaction of shareholders. Clear Channel operates 866 stations in 150 markets in the United States.”
Clear Channel has been the largest owner of radio stations in the U.S. since telecom ownership rules were relaxed by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The company has faced charges of censorship, and has consolidated its hold over radio in part by getting rid of local hosts and programs and syndicating national shows instead. It was bought out in 2008 and taken private by Bain Capital (founded by presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who still rakes in the cash from Bain and who has remained mostly quiet on the Limbaugh issue) and Thomas H. Lee Partners.
Limbaugh's 2008 contract with Clear Channel goes through 2016, and was worth $400 million in total. Limbaugh broadcasts his show from a 24,000-square-foot mansion in Florida, and has a private jet that alone is worth $54 million.