File photo: Rush Limbaugh. (Associated Press )
Rush Limbaugh is probably not sweating this one, folks. The critics keep piling on. But the immensely popular talk radio host has the biggest "sponsor" of all on his side: Clear Channel radio network.
Arizona Sen. John McCain, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, and New York's Cardinal Timothy Dolan are among the latest to criticize Limbaugh for calling a Georgetown University student a "slut" and a "prostitute" after she testified in favor of birth control insurance coverage.
But Clear Channel's Premiere Radio Networks Inc., which hosts Limbaugh's conservative talk show, has voiced its unwavering support for Limbaugh, whose contract runs through 2016.
"The contraception debate is one that sparks strong emotion and opinions on both sides of the issue," Premiere Networks told the Associated Press. "We respect the right of Mr. Limbaugh, as well as the rights of those who disagree with him, to express those opinions."
A representative for Premiere declined to tell the news service how much revenue the company is losing over the recent loss of advertisers seeking to distance themselves from Limbaugh and his comments.
So far, at least seven advertisers have at least temporarily pulled away from the show, including ProFlowers, Quicken Loans, mattress retailers Sleep Train and Sleep Number, software maker Citrix Systems Inc., online data backup service provider Carbonite and online legal document services company LegalZoom, according to the Associated Press.
The advertisers who discussed the decision publicly said that Limbaugh crossed a line, going "beyond political discourse to a personal attack and do not reflect our values as a company,” said ProFlowers, an online floral delivery service.
Limbaugh caused a national uproar when he called Sandra Fluke, 30, a "slut" and "prostitute" and said she should post her sex videos online so he could watch. Limbaugh had blasted Fluke after she testified before Democratic congressional representatives in support of national healthcare policies that would force all employers -- including her Catholic-affiliated university, to cover birth control for women.
The furor led President Obama to personally telephone Fluke to lend his support. And Republicans and Democrats alike lambasted Limbaugh, who apologized to Fluke on Saturday.
But that was too little too late for some, like David Friend, a father of two adult daughters. Friend is also the chief executive of Carbonite, which provides online backup services, and was a frequent advertiser on Limbaugh's show. Friend issued a statement saying that he took the comments personally and could no longer be associated with the show.
"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 civilized public discourse."
For her part, Fluke said today on "The View" that Limbaugh's apology was insufficient.
McCain said Limbaugh's comments were "totally unacceptable" and "should be condemned" during an appearance on the CBSprogram "This Morning." New York's Dolan, who has been leading the battle to roll back blanket birth control coverage, on Sunday told the Daily News that the debate on such matters needs to stay civil. Gringrich also said Limbaugh was right to apologize for his statements -- and also said that the bigger issue were efforts by the "elite media" to frame the issue.