Ethical Performance
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Brands desert Limbaugh's US show after 'slut' jibe

April 2012

Sponsor boycotts of the Rush Limbaugh Show, whose eponymous presenter branded a women's rights activist a 'slut' and a 'prostitute' because she campaigns for contraception, look set to snowball as the latest US mass advertising withdrawal passes 100.

Dozens of US companies, including JCPenney, AOL and Citrix Systems, have abandoned the syndicated show after pressure from consumers. Limbaugh had used law student Sandra Fluke, who had campaigned for contraception health coverage, in an argument against taxpayer funding for birth control.

A spokesperson for the software company Carbonite said: "No one with daughters the age of Sandra Fluke – and I have two – could possibly abide the insult and abuse heaped upon this courageous and well-intentioned young lady.

"Mr Limbaugh, with his highly personal attacks on Miss Fluke, overstepped any reasonable bounds of decency. Even though Mr Limbaugh has now issued an apology, we have nonetheless decided to withdraw our advertising from his show.

"We hope that our action, along with the other advertisers who have already withdrawn their ads, will ultimately contribute to a more civilised public discourse."

Limbaugh, who has since apologised for acting "too much like the leftists who despise me", said of the advertisers: "They decided they don't want you or your business any more ... I knew the political inclinations of these people. They didn't care that they were profiting, and I didn't either. No radio broadcast will succeed by putting business ahead of the needs of its loyal audience."

The example of Glenn Beck two years ago will be uncomfortable reading for Limbaugh. In May 2010, hundreds of US companies cancelled advertising during the right-wing commentator's show after he accused Barack Obama of being "a racist" with "a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture". Beck was eventually dropped by Fox, some of whose advertisers, including Apple, had boycotted the entire network.

Given the recent spotlight on corporate political spending in the US on issues ranging from political parties to anti-environmental lobbyists, businesses have been quicker this time to disassociate themselves from another far-right millionaire. Limbaugh has previously caused controversy for a 'Barack the Magic Negro' joke and, less surprisingly, climate change denial.

The exodus by companies follows the most famous media boycott in recent history, in which the UK phone-hacking scandal triggered a mass pull-out by advertisers thought to have led to the News of the World newspaper's closure after 168 years.

Rush Limbaugh Show | North America | Marketing

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