Rush Limbaugh loses advertisers over comments

Radio talk show host and conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh speaks at 'An Evenining With Rush Limbaugh' event May 3, 2007 in Novi, Mich.

Bob Moon: Over the weekend, conservative talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh publicly apologized for the language he's been using to attack a Georgetown law student. On his radio show last week, Limbaugh called the student a "slut" and a "prostitute" after she spoke in favor of President Obama's policy that insurance companies pay for contraceptives when employers won't because of religious beliefs. Limbaugh issued a statement Saturday saying, "I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation." But several major national advertisers have pulled their ads from his show.

With us live this morning to talk about the issue is Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman. Good morning.

Mitchell Hartman: Hi Bob.

Moon: Give us an update -- how many advertisers have pulled out? Have any said they'll come back now that Limbaugh has apologized?

Hartman: Seven advertisers have suspended or pulled out of Limbaugh's noon-to-3 p.m. national show -- which by the way is the most popular on conservative talk radio. According to a list compiled by the New York Times they include: ProFlowers, Sleep Train, Carbonite, and Quicken Loans. And although several of these advertisers criticized his language that he's been using about this young woman before the statement he made this weekend, apparently none has returned since then.

Moon: Is this going to damage or threaten Rush Limbaugh's show or popularity? Or does he thrive on this sort of thing?

Hartman: Well, you know, basically, he can afford to lose some advertisers -- even some of these big national companies that don't apparently want to be associated with him right now. Limbaugh's on a radio network with his syndicated show. It's called Premiere -- the network -- and it's owned by Clear Channel. He's essentially his own boss; it's sort of a $50 million a year cottage industry; he's got his own online subscribers.

Staci Kramer is at PaidContent.org.

Staci Kramer: Rush gets his money from multiple sources. So a boycott and getting advertisers to stand down isn't necessarily a death blow to him the way it might be for some others.

Moon: Yes, but what's the liklihood that these advertisers are ever going to come back?

Hartman: The folks I talked to who follow media and advertising this morning think they will eventually -- at least some of them.

Phillip Swann is president of TVPredictions.com.

Phillip Swann: As long as the advertising money comes in, Limbaugh pretty much sits pretty. He can say and do whatever he wants, and the network he's currently on, if indeed they decided they didn't want to carry him anymore, 17 others would line up to do so.

Still, Swann says given how egregious Limbaugh's behavior has been this time around, he'll probably have to muster some more compassion for this young woman, and say that out loud a few times. And he may lose more advertisers before it's over.

Moon: Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman, thanks.

Hartman: You're welcome.

About the author

Mitchell Hartman is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Entrepreneurship Desk and also covers employment.

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