Bringing Limbaugh Down to Size

Rush Limbaugh isn’t backing down from the “slut” comments he made about college student Sandra Fluke, and while he’s faced furor many times before, the difference is that advertisers are starting to drop out.

Sleep Train Mattress Centers, Sleep Number Beds and Quicken Loans have dropped out. “Recent comments by Rush Limbaugh do not align w/our values, so we made decision to immediately suspend all advertising on that program,” a Sleep Number spokeswoman said.

As the New York Times points out, some of the same advertisers that organized a boycott against Glenn Beck’s show on Fox are working on the campaign to convince advertisers to drop Limbaugh. Although Beck denied it had much of an impact at the time, in the summer of 2009, it was apparent that major brands had given way to G. Gordon Liddy gold commercials.

Some Republicans are offering rebukes, but no where near those from Democrats and the White House. House Speaker John Boehner called the remarks “inappropriate,” and Mitt Romney said that Limbaugh’s words were “not the language I would have used.” Rick Santorum tried to distance himself, calling Limbaugh “an entertainer,” and suggested that the remarks were just all part of the schtick.

While Democrats seize on Limbaugh as indicative of the Republican party, and the GOP walks a tightrope, what will be interesting to see is whether their is much effort to put Limbaugh’s influence in perspective. On NPR tonight, David Brooks noted that while Limbaugh has been an important voice among conservatives, he hasn’t shown much success in rallying votes. The example Brooks cited was John McCain, who Limbaugh railed against for years yet it didn’t stop from Arizona senator from winning the Republican nomination in 2008.

Five years ago, another radio personality, Don Imus, faced a furor after making misogynistic comments about the Rutgers women’s basketball team. Politicians condemned his remarks. Advertisers started to pull out. He apologized, but was still fired, and although he landed elsewhere, he’s never been able to gain that level of influence.

Limbaugh is defiant, and although it is tough to see him headed to the same fate as Imus, the large scale pullout of advertisers can start to bring seemingly invincible personas down a notch.

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