Limbaugh boasts to Howard Kurtz that a boycott has had minimal impact on his show. Why the targeting of advertisers after the Sandra Fluke ‘slut’ comments fell short—and why it isn’t over.

 

Mar 30, 2012 4:45 PM EDT

The storm over Rush Limbaugh hasn’t completely abated, but he appears to have weathered the worst.

While Limbaugh’s detractors are still pushing an advertising boycott, he has started speaking of the effort as a failure.

“The opposition has been consistently dishonest in what they say about me,” Limbaugh told The Daily Beast. “So it’s no surprise they would be dishonest in their impact on my business.”

After apologizing for his blunder in calling Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and “prostitute,” Limbaugh is said to be energized by the furor, feeling that his opposition is now seen as wanting to shut him down rather than debate the issues.

Liberal critics quickly mounted an extensive campaign to pressure companies to stop advertising on his radio show. And it’s had an undeniable impact, with more than 140 companies either withdrawing their ads or asking that their spots not be used during Limbaugh’s time slot (although some were not regular Rush advertisers to begin with). Someone familiar with the program’s finances says the percentage drop for revenue flowing to the national program has been in the single digits.

Limbaugh told listeners this week that “our ratings are up anywhere from 10 percent to 60 percent, depending on the station,” and that “the advertisers who hung in here are going gangbusters, yes…The only ones who got hurt are the ones who left. And that’s its own tragedy because they left under false, trumped up, unreal pretenses.” The latest ratings information will not be made public for some time.

Even the advocacy group Media Matters, which is leading the boycott campaign, concedes the effort has peaked. Angelo Carusone, who heads the campaign for Media Matters, told The Washington Post, “I think certainly the pressure has been reduced. To a certain extent, that’s OK and acceptable…Obviously, the intensity is gone, but the engagement remains high.”

What’s more, although two stations dropped the Rush program when the controversy exploded, none of the other 600-plus stations that carry him have followed suit.

But Limbaugh is not declaring victory quite yet, and the reason has to do with the complicated ways that ads are sold for his program.

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