RUSH LIMBAUGH (AP Photo)
by Dean Obeidallah
NEW YORK (CNN) — Is Rush Limbaugh becoming a relic, a human version of “Mad Men,” except without the style or cool clothes? Has Limbaugh become as dated as Jazzercise or “Macarena?”
All you need to do is look at the bottom line to see that Limbaugh is in trouble. Limbaugh once raked in the big bucks for his radio syndicator, Cumulus. But last week, Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey made it clear those days are over. Dickey reported that Cumulus had lost millions of dollars in ad sales because many advertisers no longer want to be associated with Limbaugh.
According to Dickey, advertisers began to pull away from Limbaugh after his February 2012 comments in which he infamously called law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” after she testified before Congress advocating birth control be covered by health insurance. Limbaugh’s despicable comments were met with an avalanche of outrage and calls for corporations to stop advertising on Rush’s show.
How badly did this advertising boycott hurt Limbaugh’s show?
Well, according to the radio industry magazine “Radio Ink,” 48 of the 50 network advertisers for Cumulus radio have excluded Limbaugh’s show from their ad orders. I’m no media expert, but that sounds really bad for Rush.
What was Limbaugh’s response? Was he contrite or remorseful? Nope. Instead Limbaugh lashed out last week at young women again by asserting that the reason ad sales fell off was because: “The media buyers at advertising agencies are young women, fresh out of college-liberal feminists who hate conservatism.” Not only is this comment sexist on its face, remarkably Limbaugh apparently doesn’t believe that his past antics have contributed to Cumulus’ lost ad sales.
In fact, a close associate of Limbaugh voiced similar sentiments to Politico last week, arguing that the loss of ad sales is not because of Limbaugh, but because the Cumulus owned radio stations are underperforming when compared with other talk radio stations.
How did Limbaugh get to this place? Times have changed.
Call it being PC or being more sensitive, no one can dispute that what was once acceptable in our society as humor and commentary is no longer.
Sure Rush has a big audience and remains ahead of other talk radio hosts, but the advertisers who abandoned Rush appear to be on to something.
Let’s take a quick stroll down memory lane of Limbaugh’s remarks — all of which I wish I could have surgically removed from my memory:
1. “NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons,” a comment Limbaugh made while sharing his “insight” on professional football.
2. “He is exaggerating the effects of the disease … It’s purely an act.” — Limbaugh mocking actor Michael J. Fox’s struggles with Parkinson’s.
3. Limbaugh claimed that President Barack Obama was disappointed that Hurricane Irene, which killed 40 people, wasn’t worse: “Obama was hoping this was going to be a disaster as another excuse for his failing economy.”
4. “Forget calling them the NAACP. They are now the R-A-C-I-S-M. NAACP equals racism,” Limbaugh’s comments defending the smear of Shirley Sherrod by right-wing media.
There are many, many more examples of these “Limbaughisms” through the years. Looking at these comments makes you wonder why it took so long for advertisers to wake up and smell the bigotry.
So what happens if Limbaugh is booted from his current syndication deal?
Limbaugh will probably find a new home on a lesser terrestrial network or possibly SiriusXM radio. My hope is that Limbaugh ends up as the in-store deejay at a Virgin megastore in a strip mall in the middle of nowhere. But then again, why should those shoppers be subjected to Rush’s rants?
Regardless where he turns up, Limbaugh will likely not be as relevant to the national media as he is now. All you have to do is look at the career of radio host Don Imus.
Imus was fired from CBS radio in 2007 after a national furor erupted over his comments regarding the Rutgers women’s basketball team that were almost universally considered racist and sexist. While Imus later found a new radio home, he was no longer the same media mover and shaker. And while Imus is still on five days a week, when is the last time you heard the national media quote Imus?
Imus may just be Limbaugh’s “ghost of Christmas future.”
Editor’s note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the editor of the politics blog The Dean’s Report and co-host of a new CNN podcast “The Big Three” that looks at the top three stories of the week. Follow him on Twitter @deanofcomedy.
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