UPDATE: Late Thursday, Rachel Nelson, public relations director for Premiere Networks, said any ads from Westboro Baptist Church would be rejected. “Premiere Networks is not considering an offer of sponsorship from Westboro Baptist Church,” Nelson said in a message to Hatewatch sent from the company’s Sherman Oaks, Calif., headquarters.
Guess who’s knocking on Rush Limbaugh’s door as his advertisers flee like rats from a sinking ship? It’s the people behind the infamous GodHatesFags website — the Westboro Baptist Church, the most notorious gay-bashing group in America — and they’re ready to step in to keep the embattled Limbaugh on the air.
“As a matter of fact, I can confirm that,” Westboro spokesman Steve Drain told Hatewatch today when asked if the church was seeking to advertise on “The Rush Limbaugh Show.” “We’re preparing our first ad at this very moment, and we’ll have a 30-second radio spot ready to go by Friday.”
Drain said he has been in contact with ad executives, but added that the Westboro spots will have to be produced before they are accepted or rejected. The radio ads would be posted as audio links Friday on the church’s websites, the Westboro spokesman said.
Clear Channel Communications, which owns Premiere Radio Networks, the distributor of Limbaugh’s program, did not return telephone calls or an E-mail seeking comment today. The program airs coast to coast for three hours a day, has about 13 million listeners, and is highly lucrative for Clear Channel.
For most mainstream media organizations, allowing Westboro to advertise would be absolutely radioactive. The church is probably best known for picketing the funerals of soldiers, carrying signs like “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” and describing their deaths as God’s payback for America’s tolerance of gay people. It is despised as much by those on the political right as those on the left.
But Limbaugh has been losing advertisers by the score since late last month, when he called Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” in extended rants after Fluke testified on Capitol Hill about contraception coverage. Even as criticism of Limbaugh began to rapidly mount around the country, he went on for a third day, this time suggesting that if insurance was to pay for Fluke’s contraception, he believed she should be obliged to make public a tape of her having sex.
Even for Limbaugh, who has long railed against “feminazis” and called female members of the Obama Cabinet “sex-retaries,” the comments and the vitriol with which they were delivered were remarkable. They spurred denunciations from many quarters, as well as a quickly expanding advertiser boycott. Limbaugh eventually issued a half-hearted apology, accompanied by hot blasts at his critics.
The ThinkProgress blog reported Wednesday that it had obtained an internal memo from Premiere listing 96 national companies that have “specifically asked” their advertisements not be played during the Rush Limbaugh Show. Today, it said more than 140 companies had dropped the show.
For his part, Limbaugh claimed that the losses of these advertisers were like “losing a couple of French fries in the container when it’s delivered to you in the drive-thru. You don’t even notice it.”
Similarly, the industry news blog, radio-info.com, reported today that Premiere is circulating a list of 98 advertisers who want to avoid “environments likely to stir negative sentiments.” The list includes carmakers Ford, General Motors and Toyota; insurance companies Allstate, Geico, Prudential and State Farm; and restaurant chains like McDonald’s and Subway, the blog reported. The advertisers reportedly want to avoid content “deemed to be offensive or controversial, for example, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Tom Leykis, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity.”
For its part, Westboro sees a natural affinity with Limbaugh, Drain said, but the first ad won’t mention those commonalities. “The ad’s message will be that America is doomed because Americans have cast aside the standards of God, and won’t quit their proud sinning,” the Westboro spokesman said.
Westboro hasn’t always had kind words to say about Limbaugh. On its website, the church calls Limbaugh “a world-class phony, blow-hard.” “He wouldn’t recognize Bible truth if it were a bottle of pills on his desk,” it adds.
Undeterred, Westboro also agrees with Limbaugh’s remarks about Fluke, Drain said, and will attempt to impart that message in the church’s second radio advertisement.
“That lady basically believes she wants the government to pay to kill her babies,’’ Drain said in comments that closely resembled those delivered earlier by Limbaugh. “That implies a certain level of promiscuity. She wants to fornicate her brains out, but she doesn’t want a child. Sounds like a slut to me, and God hates sluts.”