The End of Rush Limbaugh? His Radio Syndicator is on the Brink of Bankruptcy

The presidency of Donald Trump is running an obstacle course of speed bumps and potholes. He has failed to achieve anything of note during his first 100 days in office. And that’s according to his own published benchmarks. There is no repeal of ObamaCare, no defeat if ISIS, no tax reform, and no Mexican border wall. The only success he has had is breaking the record for the lowest popularity of any first-quarter president in history.

Rush Limbaugh

Along with Trump’s sagging fortunes, much of the right-wing establishment is similarly floundering. The Republican Party is worried about maintaining their majorities in Congress. And the GOP’s PR division, Fox News, recently lost its CEO (Roger Ailes) and its biggest star (Bill O’Reilly). Both were terminated after scandals involving sexual harassment.

With Trump still driving the public angst, the carnage is far from over. The talk radio empire of Rush Limbaugh is now said to teetering on collapse. Salon’s Matthew Sheffield is reporting that:

“The parent company of iHeartCommunications [formerly Clear Channel], which syndicates programs by conservative talk-show hosts Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, appears to be headed toward bankruptcy.

“In a statement filed last week with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the federal agency charged with regulating companies that offer investments to the public, iHeartCommunications’ parent company, iHeartMedia Inc., said that it had ‘substantial doubt’ that it would be in business by the middle of next year.”

Sheffield noted that the radio industry in general has been under pressure from other advertising platforms including new media. But the problems facing Limbaugh’s syndicator went deeper than that:

“The ad challenge is made worse for iHeartCommunications since many of its stations feature a conservative talk format whose audience is literally dying off. According to industry figures, the age of a talk show listener is about 67. Further complicating things for the company has been that its top host, Limbaugh, has immersed himself in several controversies in recent years, such as the time he called a liberal activist [Sandra Fluke] a ‘slut’ on the air.”

Indeed. Limbaugh’s repulsive and misogynistic insults cost him dearly. A leaked memo from his distributor, Premiere Networks, revealed that he lost more than 140 advertisers as a result of his rancid ranting. And the exodus didn’t end with Limbaugh. The same advertisers also requested that their ads be removed from other right-wing programs including Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and Michael Savage.

Exacerbating these problems, Limbaugh has also lost favor with some of the top affiliates in the country. His show has been dropped from WABC in New York, WRKO in Boston and KFI in Los Angeles. In desperation, he switched to some weaker stations in those and other markets just to have a presence on air.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

It remains to be seen whether iHeartCommunications will manage to stay afloat. But even if it does, they will have to make severe cuts in order to service their crushing debt. That means that Limbaugh, Hannity, et al, will either have to agree to renegotiate their contracts downward or say goodbye to their audience. They may still survive online, but they should ask Glenn Beck whether that’s a viable option. Since losing his Fox News megaphone he has been bleeding cash and his public awareness has shrunk to near irrelevance. So that’s good news all around. And maybe we should send Donald Trump a thank you note.

War On Women: Sandra Fluke’s Possible Bid For Congress Brings Out Fox Nation Misogynists

When Sandra Fluke testified before congress on behalf women being treated equally by health insurance companies, she was viciously attacked by conservatives, and particularly Rush Limbaugh who called her a slut and a prostitute. Her argument that women should have access to contraceptive coverage, for which they would pay, was distorted into a repulsive characterization of her as a tramp who wanted taxpayers to finance her promiscuity.

Today there is a news story that Fluke is considering a run for the California congressional seat being vacated by Henry Waxman. When this story was posted on the Fox News community website, Fox Nation, it unleashed a torrent of misogynistic comments that reflect the mindset of the Fox News audience. Here are just a few (click to enlarge):

[For more tales from the loony side, read Fox Nation vs. Reality]
Fox Nation

Whether or not Fluke decides to enter the race, this demonstration of how the Fox Nationalists regard women who seek to serve their country is revealing. And coming just one day after Fox News and the Republican Party made such a big deal out of a petty tweet that they thought was offensive, you have to wonder where their outrage is over these comments on their own website.

Rush Limbaugh Affiliates Losing Millions As Advertisers Flee

When Rush Limbaugh called law student Sandra Fluke a slut he may not have grasped how expensive his despicable misogyny would be. Yesterday Politico reported that the CEO of Cumulus Media revealed that…

…the advertiser boycott against Rush Limbaugh cost his company millions of dollars in revenue for the first two quarters of the year.

“It hit us pretty hard,” [Lew} Dickey said during a call with financial analysts yesterday. “A couple of million bucks in the first quarter and a couple of million bucks in quarter two.”

Thirty-eight Cumulus-owned radio stations currently carry Limbaugh’s show. The public admission that the cost of the advertiser exodus has reached into the millions directly contradicts Limbaugh’s transparently phony assertions that the defections have had no effect on him. Limbaugh is broadcast on about 600 stations nationwide. If the loss at 38 stations runs into the millions, extrapolate what the losses must be across the whole Limbaugh network of 600 stations.

Coincidentally, the same day that news broke of the costly repercussions of Limbaugh’s beastly behavior, Limbaugh announced the launch of his response to the controversy. In an attempt to prove that he does not hate and disparage women, he created “Rush Babes for America.” That’s right, Limbaugh’s way of demonstrating his respect for women is to start a self-promotional campaign that disparages women right in the name. Perhaps we should be thankful he didn’t call it FemiNazis for America.

Not So Breitbart: Branding Sandra Fluke A Retroactive Public Figure

The legacy of Andrew Breitbart is safe in the hands of those who have assumed control of his Internet enterprise. It’s that legacy of lies, defamation, and ignorance, that endures in articles like the one posted yesterday that asserts that Sandra Fluke was a public figure when Rush Limbaugh broadcast a vile commentary that referred to her as a slut and a prostitute. And thus, she is fair game for libelous attacks.

It is rather dumbfounding that even after Limbaugh made an (insincere and weak) expression of regret, even after his advertisers have abandoned him in droves, apologists like the Breitbrats are still defending his boorish misogyny.

The column by William Bigelow begins by mocking President Obama for advocating public discourse “that doesn’t involve you being demeaned and insulted. Particularly when you’re a private citizen.” Bigelow then makes the argument that there is a legal basis for Fluke to be considered a public figure. He cites a Supreme Court opinion in the case of Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., which addressed the standards of libel for defamatory statements. In refuting the representation of Fluke as a private citizen, Bigelow wrote…

“According to the Supreme Court in Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc. (1974), public figures include those who ‘have thrust themselves into the forefront of particular public controversies in order to influence the resolution of the issues involved … they invite attention and comment.'”

Consistent with the Breitbartian proclivity for misrepresentation and taking edited content out of context, Bigelow deliberately quoted a brief portion of the opinion that described a commonly held view of what might constitute a public figure, but he left out the conclusive language that found that the plaintiff was not, in fact, a public person:

“We would not lightly assume that a citizen’s participation in community and professional affairs rendered him a public figure for all purposes. Absent clear evidence of general fame or notoriety in the community, and pervasive involvement in the affairs of society, an individual should not be deemed a public personality for all aspects of his life.”

The court found definitively that Gertz, was not a public figure. Nevertheless, Bigelow cites this case to try to prove that Fluke, who was unknown to the public when she was prohibited from appearing before a congressional committee hearing that almost nobody would have seen anyway, was a public figure.

It is not the least bit surprising that Bigelow chose this particular case with which to deceive his readers. The plaintiff, Elmer Gertz, was an attorney who had represented the family of man who was murdered by a Chicago police officer. The respondent, Robert Welch, Inc., is better known as the John Birch Society, a virulently racist and McCarthyesque anti-communist organization. I’m sure that the Breitbrats have a great affinity for the Birchers.

Next Bigelow makes a bold attempt to assert that Sarah Palin is not a public figure. Seriously! Sarah Palin, who was governor of Alaska and a candidate for Vice-President of the United States. Sarah Palin who is currently a Fox News political analyst and still floats hints of running for office. Bigelow contends that “Palin was just as much a private citizen as Fluke,” because she is no longer a governor. Sometimes the addled logic of these cretins is physically painful.

What apparently set Bigelow off on all of this is a statement Fluke made at a forum in Washington, D.C., where she said…

“Numerous American women have actually written to me in the last few weeks saying that I should run for office, and maybe someday I will.”

To which Bigelow sarcastically added, “Sandra Fluke. Private citizen. Yeah, right.” So it was that statement on which Bigelow based the entire premise of his article, as well as his assertion that Fluke was a public figure, even at the time that Limbaugh broadcast his attack. And that was all that was necessary for him to jump to the absurd conclusion that Fluke was somehow retroactively a public figure because weeks afterwards she would speculate that “someday” she “might” run for office.

What is really amazing about this is that anyone actually regards the Breitbrats as having any credibility whatsoever. After their promotion of deceitfully edited videos about ACORN, Shirley Sherrod, etc.; after their embarrassing episode with Hug-Gate, the Derrick Bell non-scandal; and now this incoherent excuse to prop up their hero Rush Limbaugh despite nearly universal condemnation of his abhorrent behavior, the fact that there are still some people who pay any attention at all to the Breitbrats is a sad commentary on a certain sector of the human race.

The Free Market Speaks: 98 Advertisers Ditch Rush Limbaugh – And More

The fallout from Rush Limbaugh’s attacks on Sandra Fluke is growing exponentially. Reports to date have shown that advertisers are responding to the public revulsion of a political heavyweight battering a private citizen who was exercising her right to free speech. The latest accounting of bailing advertisers was reported by Radio-Info via an internal memo they acquired from Limbaugh’s syndicator:

“Premiere Networks is circulating a list of 98 advertisers who want to avoid ‘environments likely to stir negative sentiments.’ The list includes carmakers (Ford, GM, Toyota), insurance companies (Allstate, Geico, Prudential, State Farm) and restaurants (McDonald’s, Subway).”

However, the memo made news of a different sort when it addressed specifics regarding which programs represent the negative environments to which it alluded. The memo continues:

“To all Traffic Managers: The information below applies to your Premiere Radio Networks commercial inventory. More than 350 different advertisers sponsor the programs and services provided to your station on a barter basis. Like advertisers that purchase commercials on your radio station from your sales staff, our sponsors communicate specific rotations, daypart preferences and advertising environments they prefer… They’ve specifically asked that you schedule their commercials in dayparts or programs free of content that you know are deemed to be offensive or controversial (for example, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Tom Leykis, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity).”

What this means is that the advertiser exodus will not be limited to just Limbaugh. Equally offensive radio bloviators like Beck and Hannity and Savage are going to see their ad placements, and revenue, decline.

In anticipation of the professional apologists and distracters, I would like to note that nobody’s First Amendment rights are being violated here. The government is not mandating any restriction of speech. Advertisers are freely deciding what is in the best interests of their businesses.

Conservatives are supposed to support free markets. Well, here’s their chance. If Limbaugh et al want their advertisers back, all they have to do is refrain from their overt incivility and slander. They don’t have to change their political beliefs or prejudices. And if that’s too much to ask, they can take their programs to venues that will support them without a dependence on commercial markets that must answer to their customers.

And for those who think that there is a moral equivalence between Limbaugh and Bill Maher, I would like to note that Maher is a comedian. He has a history of harsh satire directed at people across the political spectrum, including President Obama. That said, I personally don’t approve of racism or misogyny, even as a joke. But I do recognize the difference between a comedian and a political operative. Limbaugh has been an avowed advocate for Republicans and conservatism for decades. Maher has been an equal opportunity basher and satirist. While I would like to see the political discourse in this country become more civil and substantive, I would not impose those same standards for civility on people like Maher or George Carlin or Dennis Miller. Or for that matter John Rich or the Dixie Chicks. The arts have a unique role in expressing a broad range of opinion from a personal, creative perspective. Artists are expected to inspire, challenge, and even shock from time to time. Politicians and pundits are expected to inform, persuade and, hopefully unite.

It is also important to recognize that Maher’s offenses were always directed at public figures who had the resources and media access to defend themselves (i.e. Sarah Palin), while Limbaugh takes aim at people without such advantages. Where could Sandra Fluke ever reach 20 million people a day the way Limbaugh does? On MSNBC?

The beating that Limbaugh is taking at the hands of his advertisers is entirely deserved. And if conservatives want to cancel their subscriptions to HBO to protest Maher, then by all means go for it. If the final result is a more elevated discussion of the issues that impact us all as citizens, then it will have been worth it.

Bill O’Reilly’s Crackpot Conspiracy Zone: Sandra Fluke Edition

Bill O'ReillySensing that his O’Reilly Factor was losing the competition for most ludicrous punditry to his old nemesis Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly has just uncovered the conspiracy of the century. It’s a convoluted scheme that has confounded all other pundit participants. O’Reilly laid out the basics in his Talking Points Memo segment tonight.

O’Reilly: “As we reported last night, the Factor believes the Sandra Fluke contraception controversy was manufactured to divert attention away from the Obama administration’s disastrous decision to force Catholic non-profit organizations to provide insurance coverage for birth control and the morning after pill.”

Did you catch it? The Factor (Bill’s pet name for himself) believes that Fluke was sent (by Obama? Soros? Fidel?) to divert attention away from the perilous issue of health insurance coverage for contraceptives by – get this – talking about health insurance coverage for contraceptives. What could be more devious? It was a brilliant subterfuge, but not brilliant enough to fool O’Reilly. The Obama team should never have tried to outsmart the Factor. Especially with lame antics like this one.

O’Reilly: “Nancy Pelosi staged a mock hearing starring Sandra. After which Rush Limbaugh made derogatory comments elevating her to left-wing martyrdom. So it seems there is a powerful presence behind Sandra Fluke.”

Only O’Reilly could have figured out that Rush Limbaugh was one of the conspirators. The plan would never have come so close to success were it not for Limbaugh’s ham-handed incivility toward Fluke, or so it appeared. And it was O’Reilly who recognized that Limbaugh was the powerful presence behind her.

In hindsight it seems obvious that this whole affair was designed to benefit the President, as O’Reilly observed. Somehow the President’s strategists concocted a plot wherein an unknown law student would manage to manipulate the Republican chairman of a congressional committee to refuse to let her participate, and then she would trick the country’s top radio talk show host into verbally assaulting her. What could be simpler?

O’Reilly even nailed down a suspicious connection. Apparently Fluke is now represented by the PR firm of former White House director of communications, Anita Dunn. And even though that relationship began after Fluke had become embroiled in this national controversy, O’Reilly still thinks there is something significant about her hooking up with a Democratic affiliated firm that employs someone who left her job at the White House over two years ago. A lesser mind might have mistakenly thought that Fluke would sign with a GOP PR firm. And it was a stroke of genius for Dunn to wait almost two and a half years before executing this plot so that people might forget about her presidential resume.

You have to hand to O’Reilly for persevering in his quest to pierce the cloak of secrecy surrounding this chicanery. After all these years the old boy still has it.

Fox Nation Whines: Stop Making Offenisve Comments You Pigs!

The outrage over Rush Limbaugh’s despicable attack on Georgetown law student, Sandra Fluke, continues to rage unabated. In just a few days he has lost at least 28 major sponsors. That rash of advertiser responsibility led to a fearful Limbaugh issuing a pitifully insincere “apology” that failed to address his serious infraction of civility.

However, rather than deal directly with the specific abhorrent behavior by Limbaugh, much of the right, and particularly Fox News, has decided to try to redirect the debate and shield their corpulent hero from criticism. Fox Nation’s latest contribution to this public relations crisis management campaign is a bankshot from Limbaugh to comedian Bill Maher that also takes a swipe at President Obama.

Fox Nation - Obama/Maher

The Fox Nationalists have really outdone themselves this time with a propaganda piece rich in targets. First of all, what scandal? There is nothing here that even resembles a scandal, which generally refers to some legal wrongdoing. Secondly, Obama has nothing to do with this. The Fox Nationalists are referring to a donation Maher made to an independent SuperPAC that he does not (and legally can not) control. Finally, Fox has managed to whine about offensive comments in an article that makes an offensive comment in the headline. This particular slur is one that Fox has been repeating for years. Almost every time they publish anything about Maher they substitute the word “Pig” for his first name. I don’t think anyone knows why, other than just to be as childishly insulting as possible.

Fox Nation - Pig Maher

That infantile cheap shot could only be posted on Fox Nation. Could you imagine NBC News or CNN posting such a childish taunt? Fox did the same thing with Sen. Al Franken, repeatedly calling him “Sen. Smalley,” after a character he created a decade ago on Saturday Night Live.

The underlying argument to which Fox is trying to shift is that offensive comments are only objectionable when made by conservatives. This is an empty lament that is being propagated throughout the right-wing media in a coordinated attempt to run interference for Limbaugh. The Fox nationalists ask “why the same outrage doesn’t occur when offensive comments are made by liberals.”

Not only does the same outrage occur, liberals are invariably held to account in material ways. When Keith Olbermann or Ed Schultz or David Shuster made inappropriate comments, MSNBC suspended them from their hosting duties. When was the last time that ever happened to Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh? Liberals have actually been notably conscientious about condemning inappropriate rhetoric, not only in words but in actions. In fact, even the article that Fox cites to make their case that liberals don’t criticize their own was written by Kirsten Powers – a liberal!

Contrary to demanding accountability for misbehavior, rightists seem bent on rewarding it. When Don Imus was bounced from his radio perch for making disparaging, racially charged comments about members of the Rutgers University women’s basketball team, Fox hired him. When Lou Dobbs was released from CNN for his ongoing insults to immigrants, Fox hired him. When Juan Williams lost his NPR gig for admitting that he was afraid of Muslims at airports, Fox hired him.

The management at all of the media companies above are considered to be liberal by conservatives, yet they all took corrective actions against their own employees. Compare that to the right. Limbaugh’s radio syndicator released a statement backing him. Rupert Murdoch publicly stated that he supported Glenn Beck when Beck called the President a racist. The pro-Gingrich SuperPAC, Winning Our Future, just announced that they are buying more time on Limbaugh’s show in the wake of this controversy.

So from both a financial and ideological perspective, the right lines up behind the most vile behavior of their advocates, while the left punishes and even fires those on their side who slip below their ethical standards. Yet the right, and Fox News, are now trying to portray the left as being tolerant of offensive rhetoric. If nothing else, this proves how upside-down the world is in the media realm.

If Fox and other conservatives think that Bill Maher’s donations should be returned, then I suppose they would also demand that the Republican Governor’s Association return Rupert Murdoch’s donation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce return Glenn Beck’s donation. After that we can go through the rest of the donor files of every public person and make sure that no one who has ever said something that someone thinks is off-color has ever made a contribution to any political person, party, or program. And if people with objectionable histories are prohibited from making political contributions, then the same should go for corporations, right?

Don’t let the media weasels distract from the issue at hand. This campaign to hold Limbaugh accountable is about fundamental values of fairness and decency, and should continue despite his utterly disingenuous attempt at crisis management. Here are some resources you can visit to keep the fight alive:

ThinkProgress: Stand with Sandra Fluke
Daily Kos: Advertisers: pull your support for Limbaugh
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee: Denounce Rush’s Vile Misogyny
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee: Denounce Rush Limbaugh’s Anti-Women Tirade

Rush Limbaugh’s Syndicator:
Premiere Radio Network
1270 Avenue of the Americas, Fl. 19
New York, NY 10020
(212) 896-5200

Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554

Rush Limbaugh’s ‘Apology’ Just Makes Things Worse

Today Rush Limbaugh issued what he must regard as an apology for having insulted a young woman – actually all women – who are seeking to obtain health care coverage from private insurance companies.

For three days Limbaugh has been defending having called Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” merely because she spoke out on behalf of women’s rights to equal treatment under the law. The firestorm of revulsion that Limbaugh created has resulted in several of his advertisers removing their support for his radio program.

This is the sort of groundswell that developed into a successful campaign to get Glenn Beck booted from Fox News. And Limbaugh knows it. Consequently, after digging in his heels for three days he has capitulated and posted a statement on his web site in an effort to quell the controversy:

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.

If Limbaugh thinks that that mealy squeal is sufficient to get his neck out of this noose he is denser than the skull bone that houses his pea-brain.

First of all, what Limbaugh’s PR flacks have composed for him is not an apology at all. He is expressing regret only for having chosen “the wrong words,” not for the substance of his tirade. In other words, he’s sorry he called Fluke a slut, but not sorry for having and expressing that as his opinion. And there is nothing in his statement that is anything close to a recantation of that opinion. In fact, he reinforces it.

Limbaugh’s continuing and deliberate distortion of the underlying issue is evidence that he has no contrition whatsoever. His so-called apology says that “I do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities.” The activities he is referring to are rampant, unbridled orgies of lust. Or at least that’s how he sees it in his perverted, lecherous, Viagra-fueled brain. But no one else is suggesting that any private sexual behavior be financed by the state. This is about decent women and couples having access to health care products that are legal and necessary through their private insurance policies, not government handouts.

What’s more, these contraceptive products actually have medical uses that transcend pregnancy prevention, including alleviation of menstrual cramps and lowering the risk of ovarian cancers. Although we shouldn’t expect either idiots or misogynists (or both in Limbaugh’s case) to understand this. It’s too bad there is no pill to correct the insensitivity and hostility that has infected Limbaugh’s corpulent soul. If there were, unlike Limbaugh, I would gladly support making it available under his medical insurance.

[Update: Note the difference between the left and the right. When Keith Olbermann or Ed Schultz or David Shuster made inappropriate comments, MSNBC suspended them from their hosting duties. When Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh do so, there are no such consequences. In fact, today Limbaugh’s radio syndicator released a statement backing Limbaugh, saying “The contraception debate is one that sparks strong emotion and opinions on both sides of the issue. We respect the right of Mr. Limbaugh, as well as the rights of those who disagree with him, to express those opinions.” Apparently they also respect Mr. Limbaugh’s right to be a hateful pig.]

The campaign to hold Limbaugh accountable should continue despite his utterly disingenuous attempt at crisis management. Here are some resources you can visit to keep the fight alive:

ThinkProgress: Stand with Sandra Fluke
Daily Kos: Advertisers: pull your support for Limbaugh
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee: Denounce Rush’s Vile Misogyny
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee: Denounce Rush Limbaugh’s Anti-Women Tirade

Rush Limbaugh’s Syndicator:
Premiere Radio Network,
1270 Avenue of the Americas, Fl. 19
New York, NY 10020
(212) 896-5200

Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554