Rush Limbaugh to advertiser: I don't want you back
The intense campaign to cut advertising to “The Rush Limbaugh Show” took another turn Thursday when one of the first companies to pull its ads reportedly asked to return to the radio show -- only to be told by Team Limbaugh that the conservative host no longer would give his endorsement.
A Limbaugh spokesman said that California mattress company Sleep Train asked to restart a “voiced endorsement” from Limbaugh that it had publicly cut off last week. The company said at the time that it “does not condone such negative comments toward any person.”
Several activist groups have called for companies to drop their ads after Limbaugh called a Georgetown law school student a “slut” and a “prostitute” for her support of a proposal to mandate birth control in standard healthcare coverage.
Sleep Train's departure from the program had been billed by some observers as particularly significant because the mattress retailer had been with Limbaugh show for 25 years. Yet the tone of Sleep Train's withdrawal statement last Friday hinted it might not be pulling out for the long run.
“As a diverse company, Sleep Train does not condone such negative comments directed toward any person,” Sleep Train said at the time. “We have currently pulled our ads with Rush Limbaugh.”
Still, Washington Post blogger Erik Wemple called Sleep Train's decision "an act worth crediting," saying that lost ads would have more of an effect on Limbaugh than "well-crafted expressions of outrage from the usual organs."
Limbaugh spokesman Brian Glicklich on Thursday forwarded a copy of an email that he said had been sent to Sleep Train Chief Executive Dale Carlsen. In it, Glicklich wrote that Limbaugh had personally received the company's requests to resume advertising on his show.
“Unfortunately," Glicklich wrote, "your public comments were not well received by our audience, and did not accurately portray either Rush Limbaugh's character or the intent of his remarks. Thus, we regret to inform you that Rush will be unable to endorse Sleep Train in the future.”
Limbaugh and Carlsen met in the 1980s, when the conservative host was based in Sacramento and still trying to make a significant mark in the radio business. Carlsen’s mattress store, which now claims to be the biggest such retailer in the West, was also in its formative stages.
Glicklich said Limbaugh received a strong response from fans displeased with Sleep Train and other sponsors that pulled out of the show.
“They have had a very long relationship and friendship as well,” Glicklich said of Carlsen and Limbaugh. He would not speculate on whether the relationship would be permanently broken by the dispute.
Carlsen and Sleep Train representatives could not immediately be reached.
Limbaugh opened his show Thursday again disputing claims by liberal groups that he had suffered severe advertising losses.
Media Matters, a liberal watchdog group, strongly disagreed. The organization said 46 advertisers had reported leaving the three-hour program, which is syndicated to more than 600 stations. The organization said that it monitored WABC in New York and that there were two periods of "dead" air Thursday, when no advertisements filled normal sponsorship spots.
"This all comes after he said yesterday lost advertisers aren't a problem," said Jess Levin, a spokeswoman for Media Matters.
Conservatives, meanwhile, said the furor had been used to distract from the underlying issue of whether it was appropriate to mandate that birth control be part of health insurance policies. They have also protested that other media figures received much less blowback than Limbaugh for their sexist or derogatory remarks.
More than a week into the episode, the campaign over Limbaugh advertising -- and the meaning of the advertising defections -- showed little sign of slowing.
Photo: Rush Limbaugh said through a spokesman Thursday that he would not welcome back Sleep Train, an advertiser that left his show last week in protest of Limbaugh's comments on a student activist at Georgetown. Credit: Ron Edmonds / Associated Press