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Despite Apology, Advertisers Abandoning Limbaugh

AP with CNBC.com
Monday, 5 Mar 2012 | 5:10 PM ET

AOL,and Allstate are the latest advertisers in a group of ten to abandon radio host Rush Limbaugh's three-hour show after he called a Georgetown law student and women's health advocate a "slut."

The companies are pulling ad spots even after Limbaugh apologized.

Rush Limbaugh
Source: rushlimbaugh.com
Rush Limbaugh

"I should not have used the language I did, and it was wrong," a rarely contrite Limbaugh told listeners.

Ten companies have now stopped advertising on Limbaugh's program on Clear Channel's Premiere Radio Networks. The parent company is supporting Limbaugh, whose on-air contract with Premiere runs through 2016.

AOL said Monday that Limbaugh's messages "are not in line with our values." Allstate also discontinued advertising on Monday, telling CNBC that prior to the controversy, "an error had been made and advertising time had mistakenly been purchased for the show."

ProFlowers, mortgage lender Quicken Loans, mattress retailers Sleep Train and Sleep Number, software maker Citrix Systems , online data backup service provider Carbonite , Tax Resolution Services and the online legal document services company LegalZoom also left Limbaugh's roster of advertisers.

The student, Sandra Fluke, said Limbaugh's apology did nothing to change the corrosive tone of the debate over health care coverage and that Americans have to decide whether they want to support companies that continue to advertise on his program.

Fluke, who testified to congressional Democrats in support of their national health care policy that would compel her Jesuit college's health plan to cover her birth control coverage, said she had not heard from Limbaugh directly but signaled she had little interest in speaking with him. She said his criticism of her beliefs was an attack on women's health.

"It is an attempt to silence me," Fluke told ABC's "The View."

Fluke had been invited to testify to a House committee about her school's health care plan, which does not include contraceptives. Republican lawmakers barred her from testifying during that hearing, but Democrats invited her back and she spoke to the Democratic lawmakers at an unofficial session.

The issue has been much debated in the presidential race, with Republican candidates particularly criticizing President Barack Obama's requirements on such employers as Catholic hospitals. Democrats — and many Republican leaders, too — have suggested the issue could energize women to vote for Obama and other Democrats in November.

Sen. John McCain, the GOP's 2008 presidential nominee, told CBS News on Monday that Limbaugh's statements were unacceptable "in every way" and "should be condemned" by people across the political spectrum. Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrichsaid it is "silly" to suggest that Limbaugh speaks for the party.

Limbaugh, even as he retreated from his earlier characterization of Fluke as a "slut" and "prostitute," insisted the 30-year-old student was trying to "force a religious institution to abandon its principles to meet hers."

"Those two words were inappropriate. They were uncalled for," he said of his initial comments that roiled his critics. "They distracted from the point that I was actually trying to make."

Limbaugh said his apology was sincere, while trying to find some humor in the situation.

"I called myself to cancel my advertising. I got a busy signal," he deadpanned at the start of Monday's program.

Yet, he appeared defiant and suggested he'd have little trouble finding new sponsors.

"I reject millions of dollars of advertisers a year much to the chagrin of my hard-working sales staff," Limbaugh said.

The tumult began last week when Limbaugh discounted Fluke's appearance on Capitol Hill.

Rush's Rhetoric: Economics of Outrage
Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh has apologized for his outburst toward a Georgetown University law student over birth control, but the financial damage may already be done, as advertisers continue to pull advertising. CNBC's Brian Shactman reports on the economics of outrage.

He said last Wednesday: "What does it say about the college coed ... who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex."

He dug in a day later, refusing to give ground.

"If we're going to have to pay for this, then we want something in return, Ms. Fluke," Limbaugh said. "And that would be the videos of all this sex posted online so we can see what we're getting for our money."

On Friday, still defiant even after Democrats beat back Republican challenges to the new health care requirement, Limbaugh scoffed at the Democrats' talk of a conservative "war on women."

Obama, aware of the political advantages of branding all conservatives as supporters of Limbaugh's views, telephoned Fluke from the Oval Office on Friday to offer his support.

A day later, Limbaugh apologized to Fluke.

Yet even on Monday, Limbaugh didn't back away from his criticism of Fluke's appearance on Capitol Hill. He questioned why she was invited testify.

"She doesn't have any expertise," Limbaugh said during the second hour of his radio show.

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