As Advertisers Flee Limbaugh, Pro-Gingrich SuperPAC Buys More Time
As advertisers continue to bail from "The Rush Limbaugh Show" after the host called a law student a "slut" and "prostitute," the superPAC supporting GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has essentially doubled down.
Gingrich himself has denounced Limbaugh's remarks, but it hasn't cooled the pro-Gingrich group Winning Our Future.
"Actually, we bought more," Rick Tyler, a senior adviser for Winning Our Future, tells NPR. Tyler says the superPAC expanded its media buy for pro-Gingrich spots on the show because the conservative talk host "reaches more listeners who are likely primary voters in all the states than anybody else."
Tyler declined to say how much was spent on the ads, but says they are a "big part" of a national media buy in Super Tuesday states. He says the ads will continue to run in such states as Kansas, Alabama and Mississippi, which hold their primaries next week.
Last week on his show, Limbaugh called Georgetown University law school student Sandra Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute" for recently telling House Democrats that birth control should be covered under employee health insurance plans.
Fluke was addressing the administration's policy requiring that religiously affiliated institutions provide employees access to insurance that covers birth control.
Facing withering criticism, Limbaugh this week issued a written apology and attempted on his show Monday to clarify his remarks.
Regarding the sincerity of Limbaugh's apology, Tyler says he takes Limbaugh "at his word." Tyler says he understood the intent of Limbaugh's original argument: "Why should we pay for people's contraceptives? It's really an attack on religious freedom."
Limbaugh's apology hasn't slowed the avalanche of outrage from multiple quarters, or the procession of companies pulling ads from his show. Various reports Tuesday afternoon put the count at more than 30 companies.
During his Monday show, Limbaugh said the advertisers have "chosen to deny themselves that access....They've decided they don't want you or your business anymore. So be it."
In addition, two radio stations — in Hawaii and Massachusetts — have decided to stop broadcasting the show because of Limbaugh's comments.
Other conservatives this week have demanded the same degree of public outcry for attacks on conservative women by liberals. Appearing Monday on CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight," Rep. Michele Bachmann (D-Minn) said: "I've been on the receiving end of it, we know Gov. Palin has been on the receiving end of it. ...You don't see this same level of outrage."
In a White House briefing Tuesday, Obama declined to comment on Limbaugh's apology, saying "I don't know what's in Rush Limbaugh's heart" but said his remarks about Fluke "have no place in the public discourse." The president also invoked his daughters in addressing the issue of gender equality: "I thought about Malia and Sasha...and I don't want them attacked or called horrible names because they are being good citizens."
The Limbaugh show syndicated by Premiere Radio Networks to some 600 stations in the U.S. Rachel Nelson, a company spokeswoman, emailed a statement to NPR calling the host's remarks "an attempt at absurdist humor":
"We respect the right of Mr. Limbaugh, as well as the rights of those who disagree with him, to express those opinions. The contraception debate is one that sparks strong emotion and opinions on both sides of the issue. ...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. We believe he did the right thing on Saturday, and again on his radio show on Monday, by expressing regret for his choice of words and offering his sincere and heartfelt apology to Ms. Fluke."