Not Surprisingly, The Boycott Campaign Against Rush Limbaugh Has Failed

Anyone who pays attention to the world around them could have seen this coming from a hundred miles away:

The dark clouds hanging over Rush Limbaugh appear to be lifting.

Exactly one month after the conservative radio host sparked outrage by calling Georgetown law-school student Sandra Fluke “a slut” and “a prostitute” in a three-day diatribe, stations are standing by him, advertisers are trickling back to his program and the news media have moved on.

Liberal groups that organized petitions and boycotts against Limbaugh say that they intend to keep up the pressure and that they’ve had a lasting impact on the most popular radio host in America.

“The objective has been to show that there are real consequences when someone like Mr. Limbaugh or his company shows no accountability for his actions,” says Angelo Carusone, who has been leading the anti-Limbaugh efforts for Media Matters for America, a Washington organization. “That is continuing.”

At the same time, however, Carusone acknowledged that outrage is hard to sustain. “I think certainly the pressure has been reduced,” he said. “To a certain extent, that’s okay and acceptable. . . . Obviously, the intensity is gone, but the engagement remains high.”

On Monday, the 600 or so radio stations that air Limbaugh’s program were told by his syndicator, Premiere Radio Networks, to resume running “barter” ads during his program. Stations are required to run these ads in exchange for paying discounted fees to Premiere to air Limbaugh’s show. Premiere, which is owned by radio giant Clear Channel Communications, had suspended the “barter” requirement for two weeks in a move widely seen as a way to give advertisers a chance to lie low while Limbaugh was in the news.

Limbaugh has apologized for some of his statements about Fluke, whom he attacked after she spoke last month in favor of mandatory insurance coverage for contraception at an event sponsored by congressional Democrats.

Limbaugh’s advertising losses may have been less than media accounts suggested. While more than 100 advertisers told Premiere that they didn’t want to be associated with “controversial” radio programs of any kind in the wake of the flap, some of these companies weren’t regular Limbaugh sponsors in the first place.

Carusone said most of the advertiser exodus over the past month appeared to be among companies whose ads aired only in regional or local markets, he said.

“Contrary to the wishful thinking of the professional special interest groups, reports of sponsors fleeing the ‘Rush Limbaugh Show’ are grossly exaggerated. In fact, the program retains virtually of all its long-term sponsors who continue to have great success” with the show, saidRachel Nelson, spokeswoman for Premiere.

Another Limbaugh advertiser, plumbing-fixture maker Kohler, said this week that it would no longer sponsor Limbaugh. But that was the first such announcement by a sponsor in almost two weeks.

Limbaugh’s recovering fortunes may be best exemplified by what hasn’t happened. At the peak of the controversy in early March, two small stations — in western Massachusetts and Hilo, Hawaii — said that they would drop his program. Since then, no other station has said it will take him off the air, dashing the hopes of, a liberal group whose ongoing petition drive seeks Limbaugh’s removal from 180 stations.

Expectations that a weakened Limbaugh could be bumped by a new program hosted by former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (R) have also not materialized. None of Limbaugh’s many affiliates have said they’ll move him from his midday time slot in favor of Huckabee.

Among the stations sticking with Limbaugh is WMAL AM-FM in Washington, one of several big-city Limbaugh stations owned by Cumulus Media. Cumulus is syndicating Huckabee’s program, yet the company isn’t moving Limbaugh aside for its own program on its stations.

In all, “the temperature of this controversy has finally fallen below the boiling point,” said Tom Taylor, news editor of, which covers the industry. He added, “I think the advertiser base is coming back.”

Anyone who has followed Limbaugh’s career even casually could have seen this one coming. Every controversy only serves to grow his listener base and, in the end, that’s what sponsors want. Now, instead of engaging in pointless and, I submit, dangerous boycott campaigns, maybe people can just do what I do and not listen to the guy.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Entertainment, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Things may not be as smooth sailing as the article suggests. If you read the details, the national sponsors (i.e. those that buy advertising time from EIB directly) have come back, but the local advertisers (i.e. those that buy advertising time from the radio stations airing the Rush Limbaugh Show) have not. That’s actually a pretty big deal, because ultimately, those local advertisers are where the radio stations make all their money, and if they don’t come back eventually, they’re not going to keep airing his show, no matter how popular it is.

  2. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    Failed? This article says Limbaugh’s program lost listeners and advertisers. If Rush keeps “winning’ like this, he’s done for.

  3. @Stormy Dragon:

    As an example, this is why the nearest big talk station to me, WPHT, dropped both Beck and Hannity in spring of 2011. Not because ratings were down, but because the advertisers disappeared. And the advertisers, not the listeners, are the actual customers for a radio station.

  4. Curtis says:

    My pappy told me never to argue with a fool, as people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. As a center-left guy, it simply isn’t worth the effort. The people who should want him to shut the heck up are the thoughtful conservatives. His energy is all heat and no light, and I just get bored too quickly for that kind of nonsense.

  5. Tlaloc says:

    Define “failed.”

    From where I sit it seems like the boycott cost the stations that carry Limbaugh some money, helped raise awareness of his douchery, and generally made him weaker. In particular for the first time we saw republicans criticize limbaugh (even tepidly) without recanting immediately under duress.

    I suspect this will go down as the beginning of the end for Limbaugh, it will be a long decline, no doubt, but I think the event is set in motion.

  6. WR says:

    It strikes me this campaign has “failed” in the same way the initial Wisconsin Senate recalls failed — the liberals made some strong strides forward, but failed to get everything they said they wanted immediately. Of course, in Wisconsin, two Republican Senators were recalled, and when a third stepped down (reportedly for family issues), they lost the majority in the body. In this case, Democrats have firmly connected most Republican politicians with Rush’s statements that a woman who uses birth control is a slut, and energized who knows how many mllions of women to abandon any thought of voting R.

    If you believe that the goal of the boycott was to get Rush off the air, then you have to do what Doug has done and say it’s a failure. If you stop to realize that Rush is one of the Democratic party’s greatest tools for separating women from the Republican party, and that all this attention has helped them in that cause, then maybe it’s not such a lost cause.

  7. DRS says:

    Did it really? David Frum recently had an interesting post about Limbaugh’s show’s financial arrangements and how the producers charge a heftier than usual for the radio industry fee for the privilege of sponsordom. Many of the sponsors were quite irate about the recent kerfluffle; one of them said “I don’t mind paynig for content but I do mind paying for trouble.”

    If the boycott effort gave the sponsors some additional clout in getting the producers to scale back the size of the fees, then I would say that Rush got his nose bloodied.

    Also: the Frum article (on the Daily Beast) gave a more detailed look at his audience numbers than before. It was a good read. I’d link, but I can’t get the link thing to work.

  8. Have a nice G.A. says:

    Since you all have fluked here to bash Rush and missed this I shall re post it:)

    lol…..This is for all of you who must think by all means necessary this indoctrinatedly silly…Enjoy:)

    Time to wake up people…

  9. al-Ameda says:

    if by “failed” you mean that Rush is still on the air – then, you’re right. However, he did lose a few sponsors, some listeners, and the Obama Campaign benefited nicely.

    I’d say that the boycott Limbaugh campaign was moderately successful.

  10. al-Ameda says:

    @Have a nice G.A.:
    Since you all have fluked here to bash Rush and missed this I shall re post it:)

    One question, what is “fluked”?
    Observation: Weird video, kind of meth-induced, right?

  11. Tsar Nicholas says:

    It’s tough to boycott stupid. Limbaugh’s core audience is so dumb they’ll continue listening to his mindless drivel even after they’re completely brain dead. Regarding the listeners who’ve recently departed I suspect most were slumming liberals, who probably shouldn’t have been wasting their time in the first instance worrying about what Limbaugh was doing.

  12. ernieyeball says:

    …maybe people can just do what I do and not listen to the guy.

    Excellent advise! May I offer an alternative? Available on the internet.

    Extension 720…Mr. Milt Rosenberg

  13. DRS says:

    Stormy! If you rocked any harder, you’d be a granite quarry! Yes, that’s the one. And you can use the linky thing, too. Awesome. A good article.

  14. Jenos Idanian says:

    1) The declared goal was to get Limbaugh off the air. No wimpy “cost him a little money” or “make him hesitate before shooting his mouth off,” but shut him down.

    2) Limbaugh ain’t going nowhere.

    Boycott: epic fail. Just like every single other attempt to shut him down. It always ends with him triumphant.

    Why the hell can’t the left just learn from their Xth epic fail and try the new and novel tactic of just ignoring him? When every single attack only ends up making him stronger and his attackers look incredibly stupid and impotent, isn’t there a point where someone, somewhere says “you know, this just ain’t working?”

    Then again…

    Personally, I love it when these keep happening. I don’t give a rip about Limbaugh, so whether he prevails (he always does) or (finally) fails, it doesn’t matter to me. But the people who attack him are always such scum that I love seeing them fail so miserably. It’s a win-win for me.

    So, please, try once again to shut down Limbaugh. Please. I’m begging you. Try again, and again, and again, and again…

  15. Have a nice G.A. says:

    One question, what is “fluked”?

    the act of migrating to a cluster Fluke?…lol..Hell I don’t know, I was trying to make fun of that activist made me laugh..

    Observation: Weird video, kind of meth-induced, right

    lol I have only done meth once, one little tinny line, and I walked around Las vegas for three days! It was about as intense as that rant. You may be on to something there Pookie.

  16. Have a nice G.A. says:

    It’s tough to boycott stupid. Limbaugh’s core audience is so dumb they’ll continue listening to his mindless drivel even after they’re completely brain dead.

    lolI have been listing to Rush for twenty years and I’ll bet my 45 thousand dollar leg that you have not.

    And in that I will say that there are some smart people posting here, I will also say that most of them are close minded and hopelessly indoctrinated.So how do you and them compare to Limbaugh’s call in audience, lol, you people don’t have prayer.

    It is why you come here for groupthink and why I never here Tsar Nicholas from Kookamunga getting His, her, or its A$$, hat, and indoctrination handed back to them by Rush.

  17. Commonist says:

    Shorter Doug: The boycott failed because The Left lost the moral high ground by threatening to starve poor Rush to death with their uncouth, ungentlemanly boycott business! They escalated the culture war!

    *Pouts and tut-tuts like a prince*

  18. Loviatar says:

    I’m posting this link just so I can use this great quote,

    Culture War 101

    Doug Mataconis—who is to stupid as Foxconn is to Apple: a reliable supplier—thinks this means that the boycott has failed and that it was dangerous to start it in the first place.

  19. Like I care what mistermix thinks

  20. Tim in SF says:

    I don’t like Rush at all, but I thought the goal of the boycott was to punch back and inflict some financial pain. I don’t think having his show cancelled was the stated goal by boycott supporters (not, at least, by me). And I definitely did not hear any predictions by liberal leaders I listen to that he might actually lose his show. It simply never happened.

    What I expected was that Rush would become even more toxic to mainstream advertisers, that his advertising base would become even more low-rent, and that this would hurt that fat, pill-addicted liar in the one place he feels pain: the wallet. As far as I can tell, most of that has happened. To this day, if a national brand advertiser’s ad accidentally appears on the Limbaugh show, then they immediately have to apologize.

    How is this a failure?

  21. matt says:

    @Tim in SF: It’s a failure because Jenos and crew want anything a “liberal” does to fail. A liberal of course encompasses anyone who isn’t off on the far right side of the spectrum (sorry moderates you’re just liberals in disguise).

    Only a completely delusional person would think it was possible to take Rush off the air based on the Fluke controversy..

  22. Tim in SF says:

    @matt: Right. I get it.

    I, for one, never thought ALL his advertisers would leave. I mean, Gold Bond Crotch Powder has been advertising with him since the 90’s and they’ll never leave him – he could probably keep his showing going on that sponsorship alone.

    I’ve always thought it’s Rush’s right to say what he wants. It is my right not to listen. It is also my right to tell his advertisers I won’t support their products as long as they are advertising on Rush’s show.

  23. jefft452 says:

    “I have been listing to Rush for twenty years …”

    So, in the middle of the afternoon, weekdays, while most Americans were at work,
    you were lounging on the sofa listening to the radio?

    Get a job, bum!

  24. Jenos Idanian says:

    @matt: It’s a failure because Jenos and crew want anything a “liberal” does to fail.

    No, not anything, just really bad ideas. For example, Obama’s failure to put together a sensible budget — or any budget, for that matter — has been despite my best wishes to the contrary.

    Only a completely delusional person would think it was possible to take Rush off the air based on the Fluke controversy..

    Then, pray tell, what was the purpose of the whole boycott anyway? What was the end goal?

  25. G.A says:

    So, in the middle of the afternoon, weekdays, while most Americans were at work,
    you were lounging on the sofa listening to the radio?

    Get a job, bum!

    lol I ran a porn warehouse, drove delivery trucks, and now I build cranes, them sh*ts got radios in them Pookie…..

    The buildings and the trucks….

  26. G.A says:

    It’s a failure because Jones and crew want anything a “liberal” does to fail.

    I like when you guys make superhero movies and er, um,ah, superhero movie spin offs…and I want you succeed and not make sh*tty ones:)

  27. matt says:

    @Jenos Idanian: The purpose was very apparent and was achieved. Your refusal to see something that is so clearly easy to see is just further evidence of your rank as a partisan hack.

  28. Jenos Idanian says:

    @matt: …and yet you can’t seem to sum it up. Much like how, in another thread, I was told that the Constitutionality of ObamaCare was so “self-evident” that to explain it would require speaking as if to an idiot. I think that was the first time I ever saw someone on this site pass on an opportunity to speak condescendingly. It was one for the history books.

    So, what was the purpose of the boycott? To get Limbaugh off the air? Fail. To get him to apologize? Fail again — he did so before the boycott started, and he never expanded on it. Was it to cost him money? Fail once more — any losses were minimal, and quickly made up. To cost him stations? Fail again.

    Perhaps the purpose was “to show once again just how pathetic the left can be when they whine and stomp their feet.” In that case, yeah, it was a total out-of-the-park grand slam.

  29. matt says:

    @Jenos Idanian: The goals have been summed up many times in this thread. Your not suddenly going to accept reality if I repeat it one more time. Frankly I’ve already wasted enough time with your delusional partisan existence as is.

  30. matt says:


  31. Jenos Idanian says:

    @matt: OK, matt, I’ll re-read the comments here. There’s only 31 of them…

    …OK, the apparent goal of the boycott was to cost Limbaugh some slight dip in listenership and a couple of local sponsors, and to make the radio stations briefly reconsider whether carrying him is worth incurring the wrath of the hardcore left, which doesn’t listen to talk radio anyway. And the results were, appparently, just barely noticeable, so that makes it a raving success.

    Cue the theme music…

  32. Eric Florack says:

    the fact is, that he continues to do well because most people agree with him.
    That’sone you’re not going to get around.

  33. An Interested Party says:

    the fact is, that he continues to do well because most people agree with him.

    Umm, not really…just because he has a certain group of people who listen to him doesn’t mean that most people agree with him…but I wouldn’t expect you to be able to get around that…

  34. merl says:

    So he claims, the junkie has been known to lie, you know

  35. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Eric Florack: the fact is, that he continues to do well because most people agree with him.

    I’d say that a lot of people agree with him, as well as a majority of talk-radio listeners. I seriously doubt that “most” people agree with im. Fortunately for him, though, Limbaugh doesn’t need a majority of the general public to support him, or even agree with him. Just a majority of the appropriate subgroups and demographics.