The Winners and Losers of Rush Limbaugh’s Slut Controversy

“Outraged” advertisers score a win-win.

In front of the entire nation, conservative radio giant Rush Limbaugh repeatedly called Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and “prostitute” for her support of an Obama administration policy requiring health insurers to offer contraceptives. In the ensuing media storm, here’s who’s coming out on top, and who is left burning in the ashes.

Winners in the Rush Limbaugh “Slut” Controversy

Rush Limbaugh, the Entertainer
Entertainer Rush follows a cardinal rule: There’s no such thing as bad publicity. Bet the ranch that his ratings will increase, and so will his advertisers. This is not foreign territory to Rush, as he has been engulfed in numerous high-profile controversies in the past, since, let’s face it, controversy pays. To the tune of $40 million a year.

Remember, too, that Rush has the luxury of saying pretty much whatever he wants without fear of repercussion. With a net worth in excess of $350 million, he needn’t worry about paying the rent should he get fired. And how likely is Clear Channel Communications (his employer) to fire the most lucrative figure on the radio? It’s doesn’t take courage to tell and defend the truth when one stands to lose nothing. For those who idolize Rush in that regard, find a real hero to adore.

Oh, and his apology? It’s a stretch to even call it that, but all part of the game. Apologize while not really apologizing, and trash your enemies in the process. If nothing else, Limbaugh would be a great politician.

Rush Limbaugh’s Advertisers
Sure, some advertisers have “temporarily” suspended advertising, but most of those companies are also practicing the above rule. A business (very publicly) announcing that it will yank advertising from Limbaugh scores a huge coup by receiving untold millions in free publicity. And in a few weeks when the shelf life of this story dies, most, if not all, will quietly return to Limbaugh. It’s a win-win for advertisers, and Clear Channel knows it. And let’s face it: Limbaugh’s advertisers know he’s controversial, which is exactly why they pay top dollar to run commercials on his show. To them, occasional forays over the line of decency are acceptable risks.

Sandra Fluke
There are hundreds of thousands of law students, but Fluke has broken through the ranks of obscurity to be forever known as the “Limbaugh slut girl” who wanted taxpayers to foot the bill for her sexual habits. She helped her issue gain political ground, and will never have to worry about landing a job. Fluke’s popularity—and notoriety—is her golden ticket. Who knew testifying at an unofficial congressional hearing could be so lucrative?

Mandatory Contraception
This issue gained significant momentum, unwittingly helped by a poor student being mercilessly—and personally—attacked by an ultra-wealthy bully. And what about the actual merits of the issue? To many in the Great American Middle, they don’t matter. Right or wrong, they think if Limbaugh is attacking Fluke, she must have some valid points. Conversely, if Limbaugh has to demonize her, his position must be so weak that it can’t be won on its own merits. (Too bad, because on the issue, Rush was right.)

Losers in the Rush Limbaugh “Slut” Controversy

Mandatory Contraception
President Obama’s attempt to mandate contraception coverage by health insurers tramples on market freedom and religious freedom. There are religiously affiliated entities opposed to providing services, directly or indirectly, such as contraception and abortion.

Truth be told, most insurers are more inclined to offer contraception services anyway because it makes financial sense. Paying for the Pill is infinitely cheaper than shelling out thousands for OB-GYN visits, ultrasounds, pregnancy complications, delivery, vaccinations and, of course, the regular medical bills that accompany a new child throughout his life. But the market should determine that coverage, not government.

Rush Limbaugh, the Movement Leader
Entertainers do whatever is necessary to entertain and make money (see above). But when they cross the line and represent themselves as serious leaders of a political movement, there are problems. Most Rush fans can’t discern the difference, and that endangers their conservative cause when their iconic leader does something that benefits himself but vastly sets back a core issue.

It’s not that he doesn’t care, but he puts his own interests ahead of the cause, even if that means hurting the movement. This is nothing new, and it isn’t just Rush. Ann Coulter calling John Edwards a “faggot” was another example of needlessly providing red meat to the left. And make no mistake, this issue will be back in the general election, with Obama and the Democrats painting all Republicans as extremist, mean-spirited Rush Limbaugh-types. Not a winning image for the GOP.

The Republican Party
Another fantastic issue in which the Republicans could have differentiated themselves from Obama and the Democrats—and another opportunity squandered. What else is new?

Not one Republican leader—and not one GOP presidential contender—transformed this into what it is: the lack of common sense health-care reform. This is all George W. Bush’s fault, along with the sizable GOP majorities he had for six straight years. Did they make any real attempt to solve the problem of skyrocketing health-care costs? No. Had they done so, Sandra Fluke wouldn’t be begging the taxpayers to pay for her contraceptives.

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