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Scott Mendelson

Scott Mendelson
Woodland Hills, California, United States
April 02
A ten-year Salon reader, Mendelson also has a film and politics blog/column at Mendelon's Memos: located at: He is also a free lance voice over artist and occasionally contributes film reviews for

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MARCH 7, 2012 1:59PM

Rush Limbaugh's ad desertion feels good, but should it?

Rate: 12 Flag
About a week after Rush Limbaugh's (insert negative adjective HERE) comments about Sandra Fluke, a law student who testified before Congress regarding the ongoing 'debate' about contraception, the longtime right-wing talk-radio host has lost 30 sponsors from his show as a result of public outcry and calls for advertiser boycott.  As someone who has followed politics for the last twenty years, a practice that inevitably involves hearing or reading about any number of god-awful things Limbaugh has uttered over the decades, I suppose I have to wonder what took so many of his sponsors so long?  As a political liberal who has witnessed not only the sheer absurdity of many of Limbaugh's often fact-less rants, as well as the incredible power he holds over Republican office holders, it fills me with no little good cheer to see him getting his ass kicked over his misogynistic tirade against a private citizen who exercised her right to testify before Congress over a matter of personal concern to her (and her friend, who needed contraception for the treatment of ovarian cysts).  But I have to admit that it's a little disarming, scary even, to see the blinding speed and brutal effectiveness with which this activism took place.  It feels good because I happen to be on the same side of the political (and moral) fence as the activists.  But what happens next time when we get targeted... again?

Or, rather, what happens the previous time?  Bill Maher famously lost his television show on ABC after outcry over commentary that one of his guests made (which he agreed with) concerning the 9/11 hijackers not being cowards since they were willing to kill themselves in pursuit of their mission.  It was this statement that famously led President George W. Bush's  press secretary at the time, Ari Fleischer, to state that ""all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do."  Never-mind that Maher didn't even utter the offending statement, or that it was technically correct (suicide bombers, come what may, aren't cowards in the strictest sense of the term), the post-9/11 'sensitivity' caused his comments to create a firestorm of (arguably) manufactured controversy that forced his show off the air even as ratings had gone up after the 9/11 attacks.  And let's not forget any number of 'controversies' that sparked during the run up to the Iraq invasion in 2002 and 2003.  Let's not forget the outcry over Natalie Maines's comments that she was ashamed that President Bush was from Texas (which led to death threats and mass album-burning), or the politically-motivated firing of Phil Donahue from MSNBC because his liberal ideology didn't fit with the nationalistic fervor (never-mind that he had the highest rated show on the network at the time).  And that's not counting the various 'scalps' that the GOP has claimed during Barack Obama's first term (Shirley Sherrod, Van Jones, etc).Yes, there is a difference between the above incidents, which allegedly had behind-the-scenes government support, and what appears to be a purely grassroots effort in feminist (and humanist) activism, but it's still almost scary how fast the fire spread.

I don't have any profound conclusions to draw from this, nor do I have any 'answers'.  I guess what I'm saying is that, having lived through ten years of countless liberal/progressive or just-plain not-crazy people being targeted and/or persecuted because they said something that was deemed inflammatory, when Michael Moore was targeted for murder purely for making an anti-war statement at the 2003 Oscars (after winning his Oscar for making an anti-gun violence documentary)I can only take so much pleasure with the shoe being on the other foot.  In this case, the outrage is correct, and it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.  But I hope those metaphorically dancing in the streets will remember when those on our side were the ones being accused of treasonous outrage and all-manner of misdeeds purely based on our opinions and our speech, with life-altering consequences for many of them.  What has now (finally?) happened to Rush Limbaugh feels less like a cause for celebration and more like a necessary evil, albeit one that we should take limited pleasure in.

Your turn... Is anyone else disturbed by the lightning-fast reaction and the far-reaching consequences?  Am I the only one getting post-9/11 'outrage-Olympics' flashbacks?  Or is this merely a case of social/political activism being used for such ill purpose over the last ten year that it's taken all of the fun out of truly righteous indignation? 

Scott Mendelson

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can you say: feedom of speech; McCarthyism, censorship, blacklisting
and what goes around will come around
Careful what you ask for is a good aphorism for a reason.
Scott: What disturbs me is that it appears name calling and ad hominem arguments are now supplanting thoughtful discourse and discussion on such a wide variety of topics. I try to have an open mind and I'm willing to be persuaded to at least consider another person's point of view. I've never thought I had the answers to all the world's problems and I've always felt that I can learn something from just about anybody. However, the name calling and outright verbal bullying that flood so much of our discourse these days overshadow any attempt at resolution and harmony. Call me naive, but it makes me wonder if some folks are more focused on the thrill of put downs, verbal jabs and righteous indignation than they are on finding solutions to our problems? Rodney King's plaintive "Can we all get along?" echoes in my mind . . .
It's hard not to feel good about Rush's ad desertion, but you make a good point. I think I'll back off a little.
I dunno. I'm just going to sit here and eat my "Freedom Fries" and wonder at the silliness of it all. I really don't care what happens to Limbaugh. Let his advertisers drop him if they're feeling pressure. That's the "free market". Otherwise if I were Ms. Fluke, I'd sue his fanny for the libelous comments.
Social-media outrage will always be aimed imperfectly, hitting some we don't think deserve it, taking out (we hope) those who do. But I'm not concerned in the slightest that Rush Limbaugh did not deserve what he got in the past week, and I will be delighted if all sponsors and radio stations everywhere decide never again to put on America's airwaves any entertainer who so regularly produces that level of toxicity and belligerence.

Despite what the you-do-it-too whiners on the right are crying about, I cannot think of anyone other than Rush who has so habitually engaged in such truly vicious, vitriolic, and intensely personal attacks. Repeatedly calling a vice-presidential candidate 'stupid' or 'dumb' is not at all the same as demanding that a citizen who testified on one occasion before Congress make a sex video and post it online (to cite just one of his obscenities.) A person is lying or brainwashed if he says he cannot see that one is merely unpleasant, while the other is vile.

I can unequivocally state, on the record: If anyone on the left ever acts like Rush Limbaugh has acted, I will demand just as strongly--no, even more strongly because of how it reflects on my "side"--that sponsors desert him and that he or she be taken off the air.
I find it odd that many folks are concerned about protecting a nefarious offender his constitutional rights; as though the 1st amendment gives a blanket license to say anything, at anytime in any and all places. The broad and widespread misunderstanding of the 1st amendment shown in this post is appalling and shocking at the same time. I am taking this opportunity to correct that.
Firstly, the first amendment is a not a protection for obscenity.
The page above indicates the Supreme Court has found that in situation where there is a charge of obscenity -and I am stating there clearly is a situation of obscenity overall in what Limbaugh did-that the whole body of the work so accused has to be scrutinized. So with that in front of us let's look at the entire opus of Limbaugh's utterances.
let me just present one of those 46 attacks: to quote:
Does She Have More Boyfriends? Ha! They're Lined Up Around The Block. They Would Have Been, In My Day. end quote.
This is clearly obscene. Again, please examine the entire body of slurs; this is clearly obscenity.

Again, here's what the Supreme Court has found:
Currently, obscenity is evaluated by federal and state courts alike using a tripartite standard established by Miller v. California 413 U.S. 15 (1973). The Miller test for obscenity includes the following criteria: (1) whether ‘the average person, applying contemporary community standards’ would find that the work, ‘taken as a whole,’ appeals to ‘prurient interest’ (2) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law, and (3) whether the work, ‘taken as a whole,’ lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

I will stop; I can't see why anyone has the right to spew pornographic diatribes against another person and use the Federally supported air waves to do that. My internet provider has rules on obscenity. My work place has rules on the subject of presenting obscene language and gestures to other people and to customers. Common decency calls for us to curtail the use of obscenity. However, for some unknown reason, the featured author on this page feels that we must be forced to allow Limbaugh to continue and allow him to spew obscene and pornographically based remarks at any citizen of this country that is of his choosing. I believe we have reached a tragic state of affairs when articles like this are supported by a major site like
Actually, because his original premise about Ms. Fluke was a lie, an absolute, outright lie, his first amendment rights are not at issue. She really has a good case, and frankly, I'd sue his ass, were I her.

He's losing his sponsors because they don't want to lose their customers and because their attorneys are saying, "Back off. He could get sued. Let's not go there."
My question for all those advertisers is why were they connected to his show in the first place??
My question is why many of these companies were advertising on there in the first place. Limpdick's audience skews old, white, and male. Old people don't spend as much money and tend to be set in their ways when it comes to spending. Women do 85 of all consumer spending, and they influence 95 percent of it. And while white people are still the majority of the country's population, Hispanics and Asians are growing rapidly.

I went into more detail about why advertising on Limpdick's show is a bad marketing decision on my blog, but advertising works when it's directed at the right audience. For most companies, that's not what they're getting.
Fair question about what took the sponsors so long Scott. Was this by that much the worst that Rush has ever come out with? Maybe it was more like the Army-McCarthy hearings where when he attacked the young soldier, it was rightly seen as being at long last too much. It may not have been his most scurrilous attack but it was the one that broke the camel's back.

I don't think the backlash against Rush was excessive and I do think the political and corporate reaction to Maher was ridiculous. I appreciate that you're not suggesting this, but to back off on Rush in hopes that this will result in fairer treatment for the next Maher seems fanciful. Interesting post nonetheless.
You do make a good point about sauce for the elephant being potential sauce for the donkey at some future point. It's true that Maher's guest said something unpopular in the aftermath of 9/11. But.... Maher himself is still around. Also, the situations are not precisely equal. Maher's guest was making a point about a group of dead people, and how he perceived them. He didn't say that what they'd done was admirable; just that in his eyes, their being willing to die for their beliefs represented a variety of courage rather than cowardice. I happen to agree with that POV. Part of the harm and tragedy of 9/11 was not only the day itself, but the kind of goose-stepping, right-wing "love your country or ELSE" variety of patriotism that pretty much tainted the well of patriotism for me. It seemed more like a form of national mental illness than a virtuous love of country.

I can't weep even crocodile tears over Rush Limbaugh, though. His own big mouth uttering a slanderous statement about a living young woman who wished to testify on a topic Rush Limbaugh personally disapproved of. She didn't kill anyone; she was exercising her right to testify on a topic that was important to her in a political climate that is not friendly to women, to put it mildly. Limbaugh chose to make crude references to her (unknown) sexual history, insinuating libelous things about her, that her parents should be ashamed of her, and thus, his own big mouth landed him in his current hot water. I hope he not only loses his show but that Sandra Fluke sues him down to his skivvies.

"Voting with one's feet" is a long-time tradition within the free-enterprise system. Just ask Air America. . . .
Lighting fast? Think about it. Think about Rush's cruel attack on 13 year old Chelsea Clinton calling her the White House Dog...or his cruel bullying comments about Amy Carter. Limbaugh was so callous, cruel, ignorant and abusive to pick on young adolescents girls who are very sensitive and vulnerable people indeed. A vicious attack on innocent children and he got away with it. You can sum up the mentality and his audience as those fools in the back of the room that continually insult, intimidate and bully the smart kid for doing the study and knowing the answer. "Obama the Magic Negro"...hoping that the President fails at a time when there are people in this country who are homeless, desperate and hungry.

Rush does not provide intelligent debate. He insults. He name calls. He belittles. He provides nothing to the issues other than hatred. Like Gabby Giffords said regarding violent rhetoric..."When people do that...they have to realise there's consequences to that action". So we have Giffords, Dr Tiller, the shooting in a Tennessee Church...

People aren't angry at Rush's politics. They are angry at his hateful rhetoric. Personally I'm rather happy with's about time people saw it. I believe it was conservative pundit, George Wills, who said..."The Republicans want to wage war with Iran but are afraid to take on Rush Limbaugh." So let righteously angry women in this country and men who support them do their work for them.

We've seen the amount of power and influence of the misinformed with their misspelled signs have had while many remained silent. It's time people of conscience fought back. You don't have to be limp and lame because you're progressive and liberal. It's more than sweet to see some righteous anger and solid backbone.
I'm not sure that I get your point. The advertisers on any show pay money to try to sell products to the public. They aren't donating money to a charity. If being associated with someone on the air would result in selling less of that product, then they clearly aren't getting what they paid for. It's natural for them to switch the money they were paying to somewhere else where they can successfully sell their products. To expect otherwise to to expect rain to fall up.
The advertisers who have jumped ship, including Carbonite, are being left by their customers in droves; people all over the U.S. are cancelling H.B.O. ever since it came out that Maher gave 1 Million dollars to Obama's super pak. So in the end, it will be interesting to see who gets hurt the most. Bill Maher has called Palin a c*nt, slut, b*tch, etc. etc. etc. so obviously liberals could care less about the coarsening of the American dialogue, in fact they love it. It ain't over yet.
Wang's comment "old, white, male" could be considered racist
While I support Rush Limbaugh's right to say what he wants on the air, the man is clearly a bully. He is a rich powerful man with a huge pulpit from which to speak, and millions (well, so they say) of listeners hanging on his words. To use that to beat the daylights out of a private citizen is disgusting, and if he loses every advertiser he has, I won't shed a tear. He should go back to ragging on the Clintons and Obama. At least they have the means to defend themselves properly.
If someone needs a definition of liberal guilt I'll show them this post.

Some people get pissed when you tell the truth. Some people get pissed when you lie. People getting pissed is the arbiter of nothing.
Even when Rush Limbaugh does not use filthy language, his distortions of reality and the perversity of his spin amounts to a spew of toxic waste into the stream of American political discourse. More minds have been de-educated, confused, and filled with snarling bilious poison by Limbaugh than anyone else I can think of. He has been able to rest his enormous cushiness on his throne and scream at the nation for so many years because of the amorality of the market. If the market has decided at long last that Limbaugh has jumped the shark finally, so be it. Good riddance.

Having said that, simply because I find Limbaugh to be a uniquely awful case of extreme perversity enabled by the unthinking and uncritical adoration of his dittoheads, I do in general find the trend of personal destruction in our political sphere to be very disturbing.

It has a chilling effect on candor, on transparency, on open engagement with the public. Media self-censors because it's subjects exercise powerful economic controls over the jobs and careers of journalists and their outlets.

The false balanced neutrality of "he said/she said" journalism is not serving the public's interests in having open access to accurate information, a right whose protection should be enabled by our first amendment rights.

Image, perception, and message are all filtered through meticulous layers of design, calculation, intentional manipulation of meaning, and camouflage of motives more and more as time passes, so we are at a stage where understanding the truth and learning simple facts requires a form of code breaking and an exhaustive effort to locate and understand the true stories behind the gloss that effortlessly gains broad visibility.
On the contrary, I fnally feel like we finally won one! BUT, maybe the "we" I am speaking of is women. You need to put this particular Rush incident into context - it was heinous misogny at a moment when the shenanigans against women's reproductive health are at an all-time high, and very visibly so. In my eyes, the takedown is about basic respect for women, and thank heavens we finally won one.

I do not for a second believe this will take Rush off of the air, that will never happen. But it did make him pretend to apologize; it shook him at least a tiny bit. The message is that you do not get to treat women monstrously anymore, and I cannot tell you how good it feels that finally, some advertisers are standing up for us.

Barbara Walters shared similiar worries to your own on the View (I don't watch the View but I read her quotes). I'm not sure why she should worry.

Bill Maher is worried because he is also an unrepetent misogynist wo just might find women, and the men who respect them, kicking the shit out of his show someday.

I have been fighting for women's rights, women's freedom, women's equality all of my adult life and it feels damn good to see Rush getting the shit metaphorically kicked out of him for what was truly a monstrous attack on us.
I don't think the Maher-Rush issue is valid. Rush's personal attack on a private citizen who was speaking (or trying to) at a hearing was beyond anything that public decency or freedom of expression should allow. We don't allow public figures to call people the 'n' word, we don't allow the 'fag' term to be used, why should we allow something as nasty as Rush's language be spewed out at the public (even a public that chooses to listen to him. YUK.) Maher's comments were made during a period of insanity - post 9/11 was an all-time low for America in terms of its emotional state. Decisions were made by many that were off-kilter. The same comment now probably wouldn't cause the same reaction.
I don't think the Maher-Rush issue is valid. Rush's personal attack on a private citizen who was speaking (or trying to) at a hearing was beyond anything that public decency or freedom of expression should allow. We don't allow public figures to call people the 'n' word, we don't allow the 'fag' term to be used, why should we allow something as nasty as Rush's language be spewed out at the public (even a public that chooses to listen to him. YUK.) Maher's comments were made during a period of insanity - post 9/11 was an all-time low for America in terms of its emotional state. Decisions were made by many that were off-kilter. The same comment now probably wouldn't cause the same reaction.
I don't think the Maher-Rush issue is valid. Rush's personal attack on a private citizen who was speaking (or trying to) at a hearing was beyond anything that public decency or freedom of expression should allow. We don't allow public figures to call people the 'n' word, we don't allow the 'fag' term to be used, why should we allow something as nasty as Rush's language be spewed out at the public (even a public that chooses to listen to him. YUK.) Maher's comments were made during a period of insanity - post 9/11 was an all-time low for America in terms of its emotional state. Decisions were made by many that were off-kilter. The same comment now probably wouldn't cause the same reaction.
I saw Howard Dean talking about this last night and was reminded about how they posted Howard Dean acting silly over and over again - an act that effectively turned off voters and inevitably helped sway that election in the republicans favor
None of the name-calling matters. If it were just name-calling, it would be between Rush and his sponsors. There's no free speech infringement in that regard. No one is arresting him for it.

The real issue is that he lied about Ms. Fluke's Congressional testimony. He said that she was trying to get free birth control for herself, and then he went into 'slut' comments. And he's continually repeated that lie. In fact, Ms. Fluke never mentioned her own sex life or her own birth control needs. She was discussing the need for birth control to be covered, using the example of friends, because they had physical problems like ovarian cysts and so on, things that are treated with birth control prescriptions. She never mentioned her own life in that testimony. So, he lied about her intent and her words. SHE CAN SUE HIM FOR THAT.

As for the rest, I'm a liberal, and Meyer is an asshat. He uses words I do not like, and I stopped watching him because of it. How about we stop trying to shift the argument away from Rush to someone else? That's an argumentation technique that Republicans have been using for some time now, and it's a cowardly way to address an issue. Discuss the issue at hand. Don't sidestep it by discussing another issue. But, in any case, Meyer was roundly denounced by many, both liberal and conservative, for his crappy discussion of women. And now that we've gotten that out of the way, we can go back to the actual subject of Rush.

So. 1. Rush's freedom to say what he wants to say has not been violated. Sponsors are free to stay or leave, as they choose. No one has arrested him. Public opinion convictions are not the same thing as actual jail-time.

2. Discussions of Meyer are roundly off-topic, but as a liberal, I think he's a turd. I don't watch him. There.

3. Ms. Fluke has a case against Rush, not because he called her a 'slut' or a 'prostitute' or asked her if she would make him nudie videos. She has a case because he lied about her on Federal airwaves. That's why the sponsors are bailing. They know she has a case. They don't want to be named in a lawsuit.
Considering the speed with which the advertisers dropped Limboob, I'm betting it was their perception of what customer reaction might be, not that they were driven by e-mail petitions. I bet companies seldom pay attention to such petitioning because the internet has made them as common as flies on scat.
Free speech, free reaction to free speech, a few news cycles and then it's a dead issue.
I find the most enjoyment in knowing Rush pretty much condenses (accent on dense) the adolescent bent of today's GOP politics into one loudmouthed crackpot crockpot. The right wing cattle drive properly suffers the more it's exposed and exposes itself. Someday enough Americans will ask the Movement Conservatives: "Have you no shame?" Once they realize the answer is a loud and loutish NO, we can start ridding America of these time-wasting, destructive asses.
Advertisers can leave whomever they want whenever they want and the only reason some of them left Rush-and most other stay- is the number of listeners he apparently brings to his show. If you think most of these advertisers cared one whit about his comments, you are deluding yourself. They knew what they were getting into with him when they chose to sponsor his show. The only thing they care about is the public reaction to his comments and since this got a far greater negative reaction than some of his other malicious attacks, a handful of them withdrew. Big deal. Many of them will be back if this blows over.
The amazing thing here is not that Limbaugh was not thrown off the air but the fact that he is even on the air in the first place.
How did this oafish, loud, vulgar, mean, devious, offensive, narcissistic, bombastic lout become the most popular radio host in the county? Who are these people that adore him so? It is beyond comprehension. I can’t believe he has 1500 listeners, let alone 15,000,000.
When the grand poohbah of bullies is the most popular, most famous and most well paid radio talk show host in the country is it any surprise that there is a bullying epidemic in schools all over the county?
There are differences between a network firing someone, and individual sponsors pulling out of a show. These sponsors don't want to be associated with Limbaugh because women are consumers and women were being trashed. The sponsors received tons of tweets and responded in terms of their bottom lines. More dangerous perhaps is that a person who is outspoken can be dropped by a network. The safest place to be is on a non-commercial network, NPR, Pacifica, though you can still be fired if you say something deemed offensive. No one should say things that trash a group, whether women, Blacks, Gays, etc. Frankly, Limbaugh has it coming, he's gotten away with this for too long, and I sincerely hope and pray, his time contaminating the airwaves is up.
Knechtges, because describing an audience accurately is racist.

If that's the case, saying Miss January is blonde, blue eyed, and tall would be anti-blonde, anti-light eye colored, and prejudiced against people of height.

Limpdick's audience is old. It is almost as white as the segregated south. And it is mostly male.
I completely agree with the previous posters who question why advertisers who are only now pulling out of the show are being celebrated for their suddenly principled stance against Rush.

I've been thinking about this all week and wondering why no one is making this point. Those same sponsors were somehow able to overlook years of highly offensive, outrageous, ugly, sexist/racist commentary just to attract a huge audience. But now they can no longer be associated with the show. Really?

I just can't applaud their hypocritical actions. Because frankly, it's too little, too late.
I get an anti Rush reading that OK?
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