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
However, if what I've read in other threads is true, none of those activities require birth control.
—indignant letters or emails that promise Ill never listen to your show again. Such pledges usually last until the next day of broadcasting—
I’m a bit different. After that flurry of anti-Newt stuff on Drudge, I have not been back since, nor do I intend to be.
Medved used to be my favorite, even over Rush. But I got to where I couldn’t listen to his show that so overtly showed him being so in the tank for Romney that anyone surging was fair game. Anyone.
It’s a shame. I’ve met the guy and had a chance to talk at length when we met each other on a deserted picnic bench at one of the earler KVI 4th of July events. He’s taller than you think...
BTW, Michael, I DID stop listening on your affiliate that covers central KY (my daily commute now). This was several months ago. I now force myself through NPR.
I am not that interested in further discussing sluts and nuts while the country collapses. This is nothing but a manufactured RAT trap.
—...but college students are spending a lot of money on it.—
Well, they spend a lot of money on beer too, but I ain’t buyin’ it for ‘em.
Not exactly. There is, after all, the cost of the aspirin.
I remember a hot subject about tv a while back: Archie Bunker flushed a toilet. For the first time ever, a TV show acknowledged their existence.
And the scene was a “where’s Archie” moment where they hear a toilet flush and everyone slowly looks up. That’s it.
And it was ground breaking.
Mike Gallagher is probably the most pro-Newt national radio host out there now. It was disappointing that Levin endorsed Santorum without apparently vetting him. Or that Malkin bashed Newt for endorsing a moderate Republican and then endorsed Santorum who endorsed both Specter and Romney, which were far more high-profile endorsements that anyone should have known would get mentioned in debates and ads, unlike Newt’s no-name Dede endorsement that no one in the world cares about.
Anyway, it’s ridiculous to think any current news story will have an impact on the election. Things move so fast in politics. Dial back the calendar 8 months and look what was in the news then. Is any of it affecting the current election, unless it’s a genuine ongoing problem like Iran? Rush would have to call her a different name every week to keep it an issue. Not to mention, the public already hates Rush for the same reason they hate Palin and hated Newt in the ‘90s. The media told them to and they obeyed without questioning.
Is it a ‘fluke’ how Rush is pronouncing her name?
As the Archie Bunker example shows, the bar on what language or behavior is acceptable shifts over time. Words perceived as gay slurs are more taboo now than ever. But I think other curse words gradually lose their bite over time.
Another concern is that if you sound like a “cool rebel” type who might use colorful language, like Breitbart did, you might attract more young people to the movement, which are obviously much-needed for conservatives. OTOH, they might be the wrong type of people.
I think using humor is still one of the best ways to be persuasive. Actual proof of your argument is probably the best. Emotional appeals work great for Democrats (the fear of global warming, Medicare/SS reform). Logical appeals can work for us, but they’re an uphill battle to get across to the public.
What I keep going back to is George Bush Sr. For the ‘92 election he seemed, at one time, unstoppable with approval ratings above 90%. I suspect that is why no “real” Democrats ran against him. So they threw in this Clinton guy, complete with Genifer Flowers scandal.
But Bush’s ratings plummeted during the election cycle. And the rest is history. I’ve learned to let time pass and issues age before predicting an election. And I think some very “interesting” things will be happening the next few months.
Caving and groveling for advertising dollars. Spin it however you wish... Rush has fallen down and I have very little respect left for him. I can forgive drugs and the other problems... but cowardice is something I despise in a man. I can smell it a mile off... and Rush’s monologue stunk!
A moveondotorg borg is advertising with Rush... and rush allows it.
What I am ashamed of is all the idiot Freepers who, instead of rallying behind Rush, are piling on with the left.
Shame on all of you who are doing that. You are the real cowards, and we don’t need you in our foxhole.