Skip to comments.Rush Limbaugh’s Apology: Saving Conservative Line on Obamacare?
Posted on 03/05/2012 8:46:39 AM PST by SeekAndFind
Limbaughs career and radio show arent in danger. But his professed contrition might help salvage conservatives most effective line of attack against Obamacare.
Left-leaning pundits and activists who cackle gleefully at the prospect that current controversies will seriously damage Rush Limbaughs media career display their own vast ignorance of the talk-radio industry.
Yes, El Rushbos weekend apology for crude comments about Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke demonstrate his own recognition that these remarks fell far short of the broadcast excellence he regularly promises his 15 million listeners.
But neither uproar from all quarters against Limbaughs language, nor the much-publicized phone call from President Obama to support Ms. Fluke in her silly face-off with the most popular talk host in radio history, will prevent those committed listeners (not to mention a host of curious newcomers to the show) from tuning in to Rush in the weeks ahead.
In other words, it hardly matters if 95 percent of the public disapproves of Limbaugh using terms like slut and prostitute in response to Ms. Flukes demand to Congress that insurance from her Catholic university must provide her with free coverage for all her contraception needs. Neither Limbaugh nor other leading talkers worry about the overall approval ratings that obsess politicians.
Theres an unbridgeable gap between the dynamics of conservative media and the imperatives of electoral politics. In order to succeed in radio, you dont need to win a majority of Americans, or even a majority of Republicans, or even a majority of those who are listening at the specific time of your broadcast. In fact, a show that consistently commands 5 percent of the available, major market audience will earn millions and count among colleagues as a spectacular success. Limbaugh himself, who often (but not always) dominates ratings around the country, almost never scores more than 10 percent of the big market listeners who tune in to some form of radio during his three-hour daily show. The leading metro areas each boast well over 50 radio stations, so a program that draws even a mildly disproportionate share of the audience on a reliable basis becomes an attractive proposition to advertisers and to programmers.
Talk radio, in other words, appeals to a niche audiencedrawing only a small fraction of the public even with its most successful shows, but still connecting with millions of people. The secret involves the fact that nearly everyone in the country listens to radio regularlywith a weekly audience most recently estimated at a staggering 242 million. This means that Limbaugh need not appeal to progressives or moderates or apolitical sports fans in order to maintain his franchise: he can remain a media powerhouse with an exclusive audience of hard-core right wingers.
(Full disclosure: I began my radio career as a fill-in host on The Rush Limbaugh Show in the early 90s, but havent worked directly with Rush for more than 10 years.)
As it happens, Rush actually does reach far beyond the conservative baseas do other successful right-leaning shows, including my own. Market studies show that a full third of the more than 4 million Americans who listen regularly to my radio show identify themselves as Democrats. They tune in to argue (we bill the show as Your Daily Dose of Debate), or to hear what the other side is saying, or to feel outraged or, we hope, to be entertained and informed. One of the lessons that radio consultants regularly attempt to convey is to avoid panic at the receipt of indignant letters or emails that promise Ill never listen to your show again. Such pledges usually last until the next day of broadcasting, when the offended party tunes in to see if youre still just as incurably awful as expected.
After all the Sturm-und-Drang over Limbaughs contraceptive controversy, this anomalous feature of radio reality means that a near-record audience will listen to his show to see how he follows up on the most recent developments. Even the withdrawal of leading sponsors and threats of boycotts wont undermine his potency or power. The disenchanted advertisers will either return when the smoke clears or else find themselves replaced by other companies eager to reach an impressive audience.
Why, then, did Limbaugh take the uncharacteristic step of posting a statement on his website declaring that he felt sorry about his intemperate and tasteless comments, complete with an unequivocal declaration that I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices?
I cant offer inside information on El Rushbos motivations, but I strongly suspect that the apology stemmed not from wounds inflicted on his own interests, or pain visited upon Sandra Fluke, but from his undeniably damaging impact on the conservative cause.
On the hot issue of the Obamacare mandate that forces even religious charities to provide free contraception coverage as part of their insurance policies, Republicans could win the argument as long as the conversation focused on religious liberty and freedom of conscience. When the administration succeeds in shifting the discussion to access to birth control, we lose. If theyre able to frame an even more extreme narrativethat conservatives side with Catholic charities as part of an over-arching war on women then we lose, big time. By attacking an articulate if sanctimonious law student as a slut, and suggesting that she post her sex videos online so we can all watch, Limbaugh made it vastly easier to characterize the conservative position as misogynistic and hateful.
Why should he care, if even more listeners tune in to his radio show for the next installment of troglodytic tastelessness?
Because, contrary to Rick Santorums dismissal of Rush as a mere entertainer (an entertainer can be absurd, Righteous Rick suggested), Limbaugh feels committed to conservatism, not just to his own success. By seizing angry attention in the midst of a presidential campaign from issues on which Barack Obama looks painfully vulnerable, Rush undermined Republican arguments and damaged conservative candidates, whether or not he undermined his own standing in the industry. To mitigate that damage, to change the subject to more promising and important issues, and not to protect his professional interests, that apology became not only appropriate, but absolutely necessary
Screw off Medved. Go have fun with Romney.
All Rush did was attach a label to the aged law student’s self-described slutty behavior—my gosh, she is 33 and still in school. I smell a set-up here and Bo and his gang are using it to capture the ignorant proglodyte’s vote.
His audience always bumps up during these controversies.
RUSH LISTENERS - PLEASE READ THIS ARTICLE - GOOD INSIGHT ON WHAT IS AND HAS BEEN HAPPENING WITH THE LEFT’S EFFORTS TO DAMAGE PUBLIC CONSERVATIVE VIEWS..
I think there is some truth to Medved’s view and I think Rush harkened back to the Michael J. Fox brouhaha that possibly unseated Jim Talent in MO. Perception is everything, and in the case of Fox and Talent, Rush was perceived as “making fun” of Fox and it hurt Talent. Rush doesn’t want a repeat of this to end up helping Obama.
CONTACT THE SPONSORS!
She went from 23 to 30. Now she's 33?
It might have been wrong to call her a slut, but it would have more wrong to call her a lady.
The only people Rush owes an apology to are sluts and prostitutes.
Any woman who publicizes her sex life for financial gain is either a fading Hollywood actress or a slut.
And your snark about Santorum shows you still can't carry Rush's clubs, Medved. Bye now.
Original article says she is 33. She has lots of other activities in her life.
RE: All Rush did was attach a label to the aged law students self-described slutty behaviormy gosh, she is 33 and still in school.
1) The reports are now all over the place. First, they said she was 23, then 30, then here I am reading from the above that she’s 33. How old is she really?
2) As I read the testimony, I notice that she was speaking on behalf of others, not herself. In other words, she is not saying that SHE HERSELF needed the contraception, but college students are spending a lot of money on it.
I’ve said this on other threads:
No one has told Little Miss Promiscuous that “Abstinance is FREE”.
Rush on the air now apologizing for sinking to “their level”.
I agree with the basic sentiment. Just like how I hate to see posters here using the sort of potty-mouth terms that are the stock and trade of DUmmies.
He is handling this beautifully.
He opened the show with a sincere and heartfelt apology to Ms. Fluke for calling her names.
And now he is going after her political agenda. He is doubling down on attacking her, and the Dems, phony victim parade.
Listening right now, Carbonite is advertising.
I thought that pulled their advertising.
He also made it clear that his apology was sincere, and that he should never have stooped to tactics of the left by using those particular terms. I loved it!
I agree with the basic sentiment.
Tough decision. Decorum was a casualty of the 1960s Communist invasion of US youth culturenot that those bold potty-mouths could have gotten away with saying naughty words back in the Soviet paradise. But one point of view would be that you fight the war that's in front of you, not yesterday's war, under the conditions on the ground. For instance, in the beginning of my Rush listenership, I loved "caller abortions," "gay updates," and other out-there features. I think humor with a sniper-scope is crucial in winning the culture war.
But I must agree with you that the world I grew up in, where you couldn't say "breast" or "pregnant" on radio or TV, never mind actual bad words, was more respectful of women, men, children, God, and humanity itself. It was better because it was more realistic: If you don't respect God and innocence, you will pay, because they are deceptively powerful. Your own disrespect for those things will literally destroy you within your lifetime, never mind the after-life.
Does the Left committing scandal by using crude language in the public media justify our doing it? Is it a necessary weapon of self-defense for the culture of life and for American freedom? Or does it destroy those things? I'd welcome some opinions.