Rush Limbaugh has never shied away from being provocative, to rile liberals, to give his fans red meat to chew on about the issues of the day.
On the other side, liberal groups have spent years denigrating him and seeking ways to knock him down a peg.
Last week, they saw an opening. What set the maelstrom off? Limbaugh called a law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and “prostitute” relating to her testimony asking Georgetown University to cover contraception for female students. Fluke had testified that some women had to spend up to $1,000 a year on contraception. He jokingly took that to mean Fluke would have had to sleep around a lot to need that much contraception but then took it a step beyond that.
Several of his advertisers started pulling out Friday. On Saturday, he released an apology, citing his poor choice of words. (As of Monday, at least nine advertisers have left the show.)
On Monday, at the top of his show at noon, he apologized again, several times, for the usage of “slut” and “prostitute” (without actually repeating those words) but not the substance of his argument. In fact, he said he had “descended” into the depths of name-calling he feels is more common on the left.
“I became like them,” Limbaugh said. “Against my own instincts, against my own knowledge, against everything I know… I feel badly about that.”
Using those two words, he said, “distracted from the point that I was actually trying to make… I do not think she is either of those two words. The apology to her over the weekend was sincere.”
Rusty Humphries, the Atlanta-based syndicated talk show host who airs a local show right after Limbaugh on 640/WGST-AM from 3 to 6 p.m., agreed that Limbaugh stepped over the line. But he noted that Limbaugh has been on the air 15 hours a week, 45-plus weeks a year over 24 years on national radio. He is bound to say something that even solme supporters would deem problematic.
“Mistakes happen,” said Humphries, who is on six hours a day and has known Limbaugh for 25 years. (He said he wrote the first parody song for Limbaugh in 1989 called “Bomb Iraq” to the Beach Boys song “Barbara Ann.”)
To Humphries , the whole contraception controversy was created by the left to help Pres. Barack Obama’s sagging numbers with women. “It’s a phony issue,” he said. “Rush unfortunately fell into the trap.”
“Abortion doesn’t work as well,” Humphries added. “It doesn’t play as well. Try to get women to worry about their contraception.”
Though Limbaugh has lost several advertisers, Humphries isn’t worred about Limbaugh’s future.
“He brings in a very strong, loyal audience,” Humphries said. (Limbaugh has been the most popular talk show host for the past two decades, drawing at least 15 million regular listeners a week.) “Some of his fans will go the extra mile and buy stuff from advertisers who stay on the show.”
Besides, he noted, “the people who want to punish him don’t listen to Rush anyway.”
Humphries gave Rush props for simply being a nice guy. “When he calls himself a little harmless fuzzball, he really is,” he said. “He’s been called this demon. That’s not the case.”
Limbaugh himself said he uses satire, “absurdity to illustrate the absurd.” In this case, he said he went too far.
After his apologies, Limbaugh during his show attacked Pres. Obama‘s “socialist agenda.” “Barack Obama wants his government making moral decisions on what treatment, what prescriptions, what pills you pay for… he isn’t willing to let you make that decision yourself.” He said he felt Fluke wants to “force religious institutions to follow her agenda.”
He also addressed the advertising issue. “I’ve rejected millions of dollars in advertising a year,” he said, “much to the chagrin of my hardworking sales staff.” He cited General Motors, given that the government bailed them out.
He said the only reason advertisers want to be on his show is because of his fans. “Those that no longer want access to you, those advertisers who no longer want your business, fine, we’ll replace them. It’s simple. Advertising and business decisions are not social ones. Only the leftists try to use extortion, pressure and threats to silence opposing viewers.”
He also noted that when he is verbally insulted in the most nasty ways, he never hears apologies from the left. He told his listeners that “self reliance, rugged individualism, the things that make this country great, things that define the institutions and traditions that made this country great, they are under assault by people who actually hold you in contempt.”
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk