By Brigitte L. Nacos
Sarah Palin’s public support for Limbaugh’s right of free speech—and by extension for male chauvinism and gutter language directed at women—did not stop the exodus of advertisers from the Russ Limbaugh radio show. As Media Matters reports based on yesterday’s (March 8th) 3-hour Limbaugh program:
86 ads aired during New York based WABC's broadcast…; 77 of those ads were public service announcements donated free of charge by the Ad Council; and of the nine paid spots that ran, seven were from companies that have said they have taken steps to ensure their ads no longer air during the program.
ThinkProgress reports that on Thursday, “listeners in the nation’s largest media market [New York] were treated to over five minutes of radio silence where Limbaugh’s advertisers once stood.”
The talk show host’s claim that the withdrawal of about 50 advertisers has not impacted his show and the 600 stations around the country that air the program is not credible. While it is possible that he will win new deep pocket advertisers that share his views and his style, it may not be as easy as he pretends.
Palin is right, when she reminds us that the First Amendment guarantees Mr. Limbaugh the right of free expression. Indeed, he can say what he wants. If he defames a private person, and I think this was the case in his outbursts against law student Sandra Fluke, he could be sued for libel (as an aside, while private persons have only prove that they have been defamed to win libel cases, this is very different with respect to public officials/public figures: Since the New York Times vs. Sullivan ruling, the “actual malice” clause makes it next to impossible for public figures to win libel cases even if they have been defamed).
Fox News star Bill O’Reilly has seconded Limbaugh’s attacks on Sandra Fluke accusing her to ask the government to pay for her social life. Why hasn’t there been an anti-O’Reilly protest? The diffence is simply that O’Reilly does not have the influence that Limbaugh has for many years within the Republican Party. His coronation by the Republican Party came in 1994, when the GOP finally won a majority in the US House of Representatives and Newt Gingrich became Speaker. Limbaugh was celebrated by a united Republican front as “Majority Maker.”
Nearly 18 years later he remains the single most influential voice of conservatives, the Republican Party and its powerful Tea Party wing. That’s why GOP leaders and especially the contenders for party’s presidential nominations do not criticize Limbaugh--regardless of what he says.
Obviously, they all hope that he will be their “majority maker.”
For Sarah Palin to call anti-Limbaugh protests the “definition of hypocrisy” is disingenuous in that she insists on Mr. Limbaugh’s free speech right without granting the same liberty to his critics.