Rush Limbaugh‘s supporters and critics both claim victory a month after the radio talk-show host made incendiary comments about law student Sandra Fluke. Clear Channel’s Premiere Networks — which syndicates The Rush Limbaugh Show — says that advertisers are coming back. “Contrary to the wishful thinking of the professional special interest groups, reports of sponsors fleeing The Rush Limbaugh Show are grossly exaggerated,” the company says. “In fact, the program retains virtually all of its long-term sponsors who continue to have great success with The Rush Limbaugh Show.” Several advertisers wanted off after February 29: Many people said that Limbaugh crossed the line from acceptable commentary to unacceptable hate speech when he called Fluke a “slut” and “prostitute” following her testimony at a congressional meeting in favor of employer health plan coverage of contraceptives. He apologized for using the inflammatory words. Still, sponsors considered him so radioactive that Premiere ordered about 600 stations that carry his show to suspend national barter spots for two weeks. That period ended on Monday. Limbaugh’s defamatory comments about Fluke were “part of the normal day-to-day of talk radio,” Clear Channel CEO Bob Pittman told the Associated Press this week.
So is everything back to normal? Not quite says politically progressive watchdog group Media Matters. “We were able to identify nine ‘long-term sponsors’,” the group’s campaign director Angelo Carusone says. “Six of these dropped Rush Limbaugh: Carbonite, Legal Zoom, ProFlowers, Sleep Number, Citrix, and AOL. Premiere has offered no evidence to suggest that any of these six have returned. If we just look at Carbonite, which probably had the strongest relationship with Rush, their departure is still visible on the front page of Rush’s website — there’s now an empty space where there used to be a permanent Carbonite ad.” He adds that while Limbaugh says all’s well with the business, “his actions tell a different story. He hired a crisis manager and continues to lash out at his critics on his radio show and Twitter feed.”
But Premiere seemed to dodge one bullet: Its competitor, Cumulus, is syndicating a talk show featuring former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee to run in the same time period Limbaugh airs. “None of Limbaugh’s many affiliates have said they’ll move him from his midday time slot in favor of Huckabee,” Washington Post media writer Paul Farhi says.