By Joshua Freed
ABOVE PHOTO: Rush Limbaugh.
Rush Limbaugh’s mouth is taking a bite out of his wallet.
Forty-seven advertisers and two radio stations including one in Hawaii dropped his show after he called a law student a “slut” and a “prostitute.”
One of the most popular radio shows in the country on Monday lost advertisers including AOL Inc. and Tax Resolution Services Co.
The tax firm helps people who have disputes with the IRS. It spends some $9 million a year on radio advertising, according to ratings firm Nielsen, and its website carries endorsement from conservative talk radio personalities Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, as well as Limbaugh himself.
“You don’t need to fight this fight alone,” Limbaugh is quoted as saying on the Tax Resolution site. His endorsement was still up on Tax Resolution’s site on Monday afternoon.
CEO Michael Rozbruch said the statement about dropping Limbaugh was easily issued — but changing the website will require a meeting later in the week.
Limbaugh apologized over the weekend for his comments about Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke after she testified to congressional Democrats that her Jesuit college’s health plan should cover her birth control.
KPUA, an AM station in Hilo, Hawaii, said it is dropping Limbaugh’s show immediately.
The statement by station owner New West said the Limbaugh incident “crossed a line of decency” and didn’t live up to the station’s standards.
“We are strong believers in the First Amendment and have recognized Mr. Limbaugh’s right to express opinions that often times differ from our own, but it has never been our goal to allow our station to be used for personal attacks and intolerance,” station owner New West said.
Limbaugh joked on Monday that he got a busy signal when he called his show because of the advertisers who are abandoning it.
Clear Channel’s Premiere Radio Networks Inc. hosts Limbaugh’s show. His on-air contract runs through 2016.
Premiere Radio said in a statement Monday that it respects Limbaugh’s right to express his opinions. It said that, “in an attempt at absurdist humor to illustrate his political point, Mr. Limbaugh used words that unfortunately distracted from the message he was trying to convey.”
The company said Limbaugh did the right thing by “expressing regret for his choice of words and offering his sincere and heartfelt apology to Ms. Fluke.”
Fluke said Monday that Limbaugh’s apology changes nothing and that Americans have to decide whether to support companies that continue to advertise on his program.
The advertisers that have backed away from Limbaugh’s program represent a broad range of industries, from technology to financial services to retailers.
AOL, an Internet portal that runs the TechCrunch blog and the Huffington Post, said Monday that Limbaugh’s comments “are not in line with our values.”
Other companies that say they have left the show include flower delivery service ProFlowers, mortgage lender Quicken Loans, the maker of Sleep Number beds, mattress retailer Sleep Train, software maker Citrix Systems Inc., online data backup service provider Carbonite and online legal document services company LegalZoom.
Allstate Corp. said it bought ads on Limbaugh’s show by accident.
The insurer at first told people who asked on Monday that it didn’t buy ads on Limbaugh’s show. But it said on Facebook that it learned during the day that its ads actually were running with the program. It said an advertising vendor had bought the ads in error and its advertising strategy never included ads on Limbaugh’s show.
Allstate said on Facebook that it regretted “providing mistaken information” about its ads and has asked the media buying firm to stop advertising on Limbaugh’s show “in keeping with our original advertising plans and strategies.”
Clear Channel Media and Entertainment operates more than 850 radio stations in the U.S., and Premiere says it’s the largest radio content provider in the country, syndicating programs to more than 5,000 affiliate stations.
Clear Channel has declined to say how much revenue it stands to lose from advertiser defections. Its parent company was taken private in 2008.