Limbaugh’s remarks hit home
As is widely known by now, Rush Limbaugh’s Feb. 29 on-air comments calling Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” for appealing to Congress to make it mandatory that her school’s medical insurance include contraception coverage rattled some cages.
The fury increased the next day when the radio talk-show host insisted that, in return for receiving taxpayer-financed contraception coverage, Fluke “and the rest of you feminazis” should post videos of themselves having sex for the public to watch.
Not only did Limbaugh have his facts wrong—no taxpayer money was involved—his suggestion also poured gasoline on what was already a blazing fire.
Since then more than 50 advertisers and two radio stations have cut ties with Limbaugh, the watchdog group MediaMatters.org reports. However, the folks who operate the Chico AM station that has carried his show for decades, KPAY 1290, have no intentions to remove Limbaugh and say they have seen only a little collateral damage.
“We’ve had two local advertisers and one regional move off The Rush Limbaugh Show since this happened,” said Dino Corbin, general manager and business partner of KPAY parent Deer Creek Broadcasting.
KPAY runs a full 12 hours of conservative talk shows back-to-back every weekday and another three hours each Saturday and Sunday. Corbin declined to name the two local sponsors who flew the coop, but he did say long-time regional Limbaugh advertiser Sleep Train Mattress Centers, headquartered in Sacramento, had pulled ads.
The mattress company spawned a mini controversy when it tried to come back to Limbaugh’s show and rehire him as a paid spokesman a few days after leaving but was rebuffed by Limbaugh, according to the Sacramento Bee. Corbin noted that Sleep Train, which runs four music amphitheaters in California, including Marysville’s Sleep Train Amphitheatre and Mountain View’s Shoreline Amphitheatre, has sponsored Limbaugh’s show since he was first aired on Sacramento’s KFBK AM 1530 in the 1980s.
Corbin is downplaying the national scandal that triggered a personal phone call from President Obama to Fluke expressing support. Corbin says advertisers often temporarily leave shows when a controversy flares, and he thinks Limbaugh has plenty of replacements waiting in the wings.
“Could Rush have used different words to say what he wanted?” Corbin asked rhetorically. “Sure he could.”
Limbaugh later offered a backhanded apology, responding to criticism that he was a misogynist. “The definition of a misogynist is a man who hates women almost as much as women hate women,” he announced March 2.
Corbin says the country has more important things to worry about than this. He also sees this as an attempt by the liberal media to silence conservative free speech.
“Where was the media outrage when comedian Bill Maher called Sarah Palin the ‘C word’ and ridiculed her for having a baby with Down syndrome?” he asked.
Other locals in radio say the cases are different. Rick Anderson, general manager at Chico’s community radio station, KZFR-FM, said he is appalled by Limbaugh’s behavior.
“Maher didn’t single out a private citizen; Palin is a national politician and FOX News political commentator,” Anderson said.
He also pointed out that Maher, whose HBO show Real Time with Bill Maher has no advertising, is primarily seen as a left-leaning stand-up comedian, whereas many view Limbaugh as a leading spokesman for the Republican Party. Anderson says some of KZFR’s hosts lean to the right on some issues, but recoils when asked how he would react if one of them behaved in this manner.
“I can’t imagine having a hate-filled monster on our station making such comments,” he said. “But if we did I would ask our board to print a public apology in the newspaper and suspend or expel the host from our station.”
Anderson says that Limbaugh’s antics are completely at odds with KZFR’s mission, which is to inform, educate and enlighten in the spirit of the local community.
Corbin sees the controversy as healthy democracy in action and mainly fears the government stepping in to censor free speech.
“Two years ago Congress was talking about eliminating talk radio, which should send chills down your spine,” he said.
Corbin is no stranger to censorship. He made national news, he said, when he banned The Jenny Jones TV show from KHSL-TV in the 1990s when he was general manager there. The program recorded a show, which never aired, that led to a murder after one male guest surprised an unsuspecting friend by telling him he had a homosexual crush on him. Corbin stressed cutting the show was not the government’s, but rather a private company’s decision. He prefers that the free market decide which shows are heard.
“If no one buys an advertiser’s products, then a change will occur,” he said. “Our forefathers built our system to sometimes swing left and other times right. That’s the beauty of it.”
Corbin insists he will not succumb to any calls to take Limbaugh off of KPAY.
“If you don’t like a particular show, there’s an on and off knob you can use. Here’s some good news: In this country we have free speech and democracy.”