- Reuters/Micah Walter
The faucet continues on run on the number of advertisers who are pulling away from Rush Limbaugh's popular daily talk show. So far, 20 companies have suspended their ad buys, but others such as Brent Bozell of Media Research Center are saying liberal pundits are getting away with much more.
On Monday morning, media outlets including The Christian Post were reporting seven sponsors had withdrawn their ad buys over Limbaugh's reference to a Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke's testimony to a group of Democrat legislators, calling her a "slut" and a "prostitute."
While the exact number of sponsors who have pulled their ads is difficult to verify (the number is over 20), at least three of them had ads mistakenly run on Limbaugh's show and were not regular advertisers.
"What does it say about the college co-ed Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says she must be paid to have sex?" asked the conservative host on his show last Wednesday. "What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex."
On Saturday, Limbaugh issued a written apology and said his "choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a media stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting words."
President Obama also took time to weigh in on the controversy during his Tuesday press conference.
"I don't know what's in Rush Limbaugh's heart, so I'm not going to comment on the sincerity of his apology," Obama said. "What I can comment on is the fact that all decent folks can agree on, that the remarks that were made don't have any place in the public discourse.
"And the reason I called [Fluke] is because I thought about Malia and Sasha, and one of the things I want them to do as they get older is to engage in issues they care about – even ones I may not agree with them on. I want them to be able to speak their mind in a civil and thoughtful way, and I don't want them attacked or called horrible names because they are being good citizens."
However, media insiders, while not defending Limbaugh's actions, are asking if a double standard exists between conservative and liberal entertainers.
MRC President Bozell sent a letter on Tuesday to CNN's Piers Morgan questioning his criticism of Limbaugh while giving "progressive" commentator Bill Maher a pass on his comments about Sarah Palin.
"I am disturbed by your ongoing double standard when it comes to coverage of political rhetoric," said Bozell. "On your show, you recently called Rush Limbaugh out for his insulting comment about a Georgetown law school student: 'Limbaugh's disgusting comments are the work of an archaic old dinosaur living in a warped, ugly swamp, who thinks it's okay to degrade decent young women for sport and ratings. Well, it isn't it. Shame on you, Rush Limbaugh.' Fair enough."
"However you have seemingly turned a blind eye to the similar rhetoric of one of your guests – Bill Maher," Bozell continued in his letter. "Nearly a year ago (March 18, 2011), Bill Maher on his HBO show used far more vile sexist language to insult Sarah Palin as a 'dumb t-t.' Even after NOW condemned Maher – 'Stop degrading women with whom you disagree and/or don't like by using female body terms or other gender-associated slurs' – CNN never once bothered to report it."
Bozell said the bottom line is some of the networks and media outlets have a lot of explaining to do.
"The Obama campaign has cashed a $1 million check from Maher. Are they going to send it back because of his outlandish comments? Why not?"
In addition to the advertisers, at least two radio stations, WBEC in Pittsfield, Mass., and KPUA in Hilo, Hawaii, have said they will stop broadcasting Limbaugh's shows.
In a statement late Monday, Limbaugh downplayed the abandonment tactics.
"They have profited handsomely from reaching you," he said. "Now they have decided they don't want to reach you anymore and we will replace them with advertisers who do."
Correction: Wednesday, March 7, 2012:
An article on March 6, 2012, about the controversy over Rush Limbaugh's statements incorrectly identified Brent Bozell as president of Media Matters. Bozell is the president of Media Research Center, not Media Matters.