Rush Limbaugh went too far during too many broadcasts, but last year’s Sandra Fluke controversy stands out as the primary cause of his recent troubles. He can be racist and he can invite terrorists to attack an American city, but the U.S. does not like its college sweethearts being called “sluts” and “prostitutes”. Limbaugh’s parent company, Clear Channel Media reported a $203 million loss yesterday. Today, his relationship with radio station giant, Cumulus Media is in jeopardy. The vitriolic talker threatened not to renew his contract at the end of the year after Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey blamed Limbaugh for $5.5 million in lost advertising revenue. According to a May 5 Politico article, Limbaugh claims that Cumulus Media’s underperforming stations are responsible for the loss.
Politico quoted a source close to Limbaugh’s show who said, “It’s a very serious discussion, because Dickey keeps blaming Rush for his own revenue problems. Dickey’s talk stations underperform talk stations owned by other operators in generating revenue by a substantial margin. It’s not a single show issue… it’s a failure of the entire station. And trying to blame Rush for that is not much of a business partnership.”
Limbaugh can lose his temper and blame others if he wants to, the Sandra Fluke and other controversies cause nationwide advertiser boycotts to flare up. Over time, the boycotts have hit the extremist radio host where it hurts the most.
According to a May 5 Yahoo News report, more than 98 companies have suspended their sponsorship of the Limbaugh show. He claims that others have stepped in to replace the lost sponsors. One major sponsor, Sleep Train allegedly tried to come back, but Limbaugh was still smarting from earlier abandonment. He refused to take Sleep Train back.
Limbaugh still has bargaining power because his show is the most popular talk radio show nationwide. Cumulus Media has 40 major radio stations nationwide. If Limbaugh leaves, he will most likely take his remaining advertisers and revenue to competing radio stations. He will bring his troubles with him when his enemies expose businesses and brands that sponsor him.
Sandra Fluke was a Georgetown law student. She asked congress to make birth control a mandatory health insurance benefit last February. Limbaugh decided the request made Fluke a “slut.” This and many other obnoxious statements brought on a relentless boycott that is now aided by sites like StopRush and ThinkContext. These sites make it easy for the public to know who is sponsoring Limbaugh. Once exposed, many brands and companies find it safer to dump the toxic radio show host.