The backlash against ultra-conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh for his "misogynistic tirades" against a Georgetown University law student has been swift and fierce. At the center of the controversy are comments Limbaugh made about Sandra Fluke, who testified at a congressional hearing earlier this week in support of mandatory health insurance for contraception. Limbaugh branded Fluke a "slut" whose argument "makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She's having so much sex she can't afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex." House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called the comments "inappropriate," while National Republican Senatorial Committee Vice Chair Carly Fiorina said Limbaugh's language was "incendiary." Mattress retailer Sleep Train has already pulled its advertising from Limbaugh's show, while campaigns are being launched imploring ProFlowers, eHarmony, and other major advertisers to follow suit. Has the famously incendiary host finally gone too far?
Yes. This could end his show: "Targeting advertisers to bolt conservative programming" has been successful in the past, says Noah Rothman at Ology. After Don Imus disparaged Rutgers women basketball players as "nappy-headed hos" in 2007, an advertiser boycott contributed to his firing. When Glenn Beck accused President Obama of having a "deep-seated hatred for white people," advertisers fled, and now the conservative talking head "is relegated to some nameless corner of the internet." It will be trickier to achieve the same results with Limbaugh, but with one advertiser already dropping out, it just might work.
"And they came for Rush Limbaugh"
No. This won't bring Rush down: Limbaugh "makes his living saying outrageous things," says Peter Grier at The Christian Science Monitor. That's what his 20 million listeners like most about him. Even an advertiser boycott "probably won't faze him." And remember, so far, only one company has caved to popular pressure by yanking its ads.
"Has Rush Limbaugh finally gone too far?"
Forget Rush. What about the GOP? Limbaugh's comments could do more than hurt his radio show, says Steve Benen at MSNBC. They could also undermine the GOP in an election year. An "aggressive culture-war agenda" is dominating politics, and by opposing birth control and abortion, "Republicans have made themselves vulnerable to criticism as an anti-woman party." You can bet GOP leaders would like Rush to quiet down. "Unfortunately for the party, the power seems to run in the other direction — Limbaugh gives orders to Republicans, not the other way around."
"Hitting Limbaugh where it hurts"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Scottish independence is another financial crisis waiting to happen
- 7 things the world's happiest people do every day
- Fall movie guide: All the films you should see in September
- 10 things you need to know today: September 1, 2014
- The 10 best networking tips for people who hate networking
- Why the West should let Russia have eastern Ukraine
- The next pandemic
- The elusive 'It factor' in presidential politics
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
Subscribe to the Week