More than a year after Rush Limbaugh’s assessment of Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke as a “slut” for advocating federally subsidized birth control, the broadcaster that carries his show is experiencing a “residual hangover” in its ad sales thanks to the boycotts Limbaugh’s comments sparked. At least, that’s how Lew Dickey, the CEO of Cumulus Media, has characterized the lingering slump. Limbaugh disagrees, and he’s now threatening to take his show elsewhere if Dickey keeps blaming him. If Limbaugh left Cumulus, the company would lose the rights to broadcast his show on its 40 radio stations, including WABC in New York.
Cumulus’s revenue fell by 3.5 percent in the first quarter of 2012, Dickey has said, attributing one percent of that to an ad boycott following Limbaugh’s attack on Fluke. Limbaugh later apologized for his choice of words, but nobody on earth bought it. Dickey said in March the broadcaster has experienced a “residual hangover … in terms of advertisers sitting out,” according to the New York Daily News.
Limbaugh, who is still the highest-rated talk radio host in the country, is not buying it. Anonymous sources described as “close” to him told the Daily News and Politico that he’s considering signing with someone else after his contract with Cumulus ends at the end of this year. “It’s a very serious discussion, because Dickey keeps blaming Rush for his own revenue problems,” one source told Politico.
In the weeks after Limbaugh’s comments caused a national uproar there was talk he could be taken off the air, or even replaced by someone such as Mike Huckabee, but all that amounted to nothing, and it looked like the Fluke episode would leave the host and those who carry him unscathed. Clearly, though, that hasn’t been the case. The Fluke fiasco may yet drive Limbaugh off the stations that carry him in some of his biggest markets.