The Ghost of Sandra Fluke Is Haunting Rush Limbaugh's Mega-Deal

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Rush Limbaugh denied that the advertiser boycott of his show after he called Sandra Fluke a slut would cost him anything, but a year later, it's clear that prediction wasn't true. It has, at the very least, cost him his relationship with the radio network giant Cumulus Media. Limbaugh's show is thinking of ending its contract with Cumulus at the end of the year, Politico's Dylan Byers reports. Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey has blamed Limbaugh for advertising losses, while Limbaugh thinks he's just making excuses. Either way, the Fluke controversy has clearly cost the radio host.

In an August earnings call, Dickey said the boycott had contributed to $5.5 million in losses at the top three of Cumulus's 40 major radio stations nationwide, Byers reports. In a March earnings call, Dickey said Cumulus's radio business had suffered "due to some of the issues that happened a year ago." Limbaugh's allies think that's not fair. "It's a very serious discussion, because Dickey keeps blaming Rush for his own revenue problems," a Limbaugh show source told Byers, saying Dickey's talk stations underperform compared to comparable talk stations.  

There is periodic outrage over the things Limbaugh says on his show, and Limbaugh himself references it all the time. "This is gonna get me in trouble," is one of his favorite ways to introduce his political analysis. But while outrage over Limbaugh's politics hasn't hurt him, outrage over his creepiness has. In February 2012, Sandra Fluke (left) argued at a Democratic congressional hearing that it was necessary for insurance policies to cover birth control. Limbaugh, who apparently did not know how the birth control pill works, said she wanted taxpayers to finance her sex life. Fluke "testifies she's having so much sex she can’t afford her own birth control pills and she agrees that Obama should provide them," Limbaugh said. He explained:

"What does it say about the college co-ed Sandra Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex, what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We’re the pimps."

Some argued that the resulting liberal outrage would only strengthen Limbaugh. "Attempts to advance a left-wing media agenda by destroying Rush Limbaugh’s radio show will surely fail," Michael Medved argued last year. "Amid threats of a boycott, more than 98 companies have suspended their sponsorship of the Limbaugh show, but Rush and his associates insist (very plausibly) that many other firms have eagerly rushed in (you’ll pardon the expression) to fill the gap." Limbaugh even rejected longtime advertiser Sleep Train when it wanted to comeback after suspending advertising during the controversy. Today, whether Limbaugh's bosses are looking for "someone to blame" or not, it's clear Cumulus would like some of those people back. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.