Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Is Rush Limbaugh still relevant?

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
May 14, 2013 -- Updated 1159 GMT (1959 HKT)
Is Rush Limbaugh starting to fade out as a mover and shaker? Dean Obeidallah thinks so.
Is Rush Limbaugh starting to fade out as a mover and shaker? Dean Obeidallah thinks so.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rush Limbaugh and his radio network are at odds
  • Dean Obeidallah says Limbaugh's caustic approach has turned off advertisers
  • He says America has changed, Limbaugh hasn't and his time is past

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the editor of the politics blog The Dean's Report and co-host of a new CNN podcast "The Big Three" that looks at the top three stories of the week. Follow him on Twitter @deanofcomedy.

New York (CNN) -- Is Rush Limbaugh becoming a relic, a human version of "Mad Men," except without the style or cool clothes? Has Limbaugh become as dated as Jazzercise or "Macarena?"

All you need to do is look at the bottom line to see that Limbaugh is in trouble. Limbaugh once raked in the big bucks for his radio syndicator, Cumulus. But last week, Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey made it clear those days are over. Dickey reported that Cumulus had lost millions of dollars in ad sales because many advertisers no longer want to be associated with Limbaugh.

According to Dickey, advertisers began to pull away from Limbaugh after his February 2012 comments in which he infamously called law student Sandra Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute" after she testified before Congress advocating birth control be covered by health insurance. Limbaugh's despicable comments were met with an avalanche of outrage and calls for corporations to stop advertising on Rush's show.

Dean Obeidallah
Dean Obeidallah

How badly did this advertising boycott hurt Limbaugh's show?

Well, according to the radio industry magazine "Radio Ink," 48 of the 50 network advertisers for Cumulus radio have excluded Limbaugh's show from their ad orders. I'm no media expert, but that sounds really bad for Rush.

What was Limbaugh's response? Was he contrite or remorseful? Nope. Instead Limbaugh lashed out last week at young women again by asserting that the reason ad sales fell off was because: "The media buyers at advertising agencies are young women, fresh out of college-liberal feminists who hate conservatism." Not only is this comment sexist on its face, remarkably Limbaugh apparently doesn't believe that his past antics have contributed to Cumulus' lost ad sales.

In fact, a close associate of Limbaugh voiced similar sentiments to Politico last week, arguing that the loss of ad sales is not because of Limbaugh, but because the Cumulus owned radio stations are underperforming when compared with other talk radio stations.

How did Limbaugh get to this place? Times have changed.

Call it being PC or being more sensitive, no one can dispute that what was once acceptable in our society as humor and commentary is no longer.

Sure Rush has a big audience and remains ahead of other talk radio hosts, but the advertisers who abandoned Rush appear to be on to something.

Limbaugh: Conservatives lost gay marriage

Let's take a quick stroll down memory lane of Limbaugh's remarks -- all of which I wish I could have surgically removed from my memory:

1. "NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons," a comment Limbaugh made while sharing his "insight" on professional football.

2. "He is exaggerating the effects of the disease ... It's purely an act." -- Limbaugh mocking actor Michael J. Fox's struggles with Parkinson's.

3. Limbaugh claimed that President Barack Obama was disappointed that Hurricane Irene, which killed 40 people, wasn't worse: "Obama was hoping this was going to be a disaster as another excuse for his failing economy."

4. "Forget calling them the NAACP. They are now the R-A-C-I-S-M. NAACP equals racism," Limbaugh's comments defending the smear of Shirley Sherrod by right-wing media.

There are many, many more examples of these "Limbaughisms" through the years. Looking at these comments makes you wonder why it took so long for advertisers to wake up and smell the bigotry.

So what happens if Limbaugh is booted from his current syndication deal?

Limbaugh will probably find a new home on a lesser terrestrial network or possibly SiriusXM radio. My hope is that Limbaugh ends up as the in-store deejay at a Virgin megastore in a strip mall in the middle of nowhere. But then again, why should those shoppers be subjected to Rush's rants?

Regardless where he turns up, Limbaugh will likely not be as relevant to the national media as he is now. All you have to do is look at the career of radio host Don Imus.

Imus was fired from CBS radio in 2007 after a national furor erupted over his comments regarding the Rutgers women's basketball team that were almost universally considered racist and sexist. While Imus later found a new radio home, he was no longer the same media mover and shaker. And while Imus is still on five days a week, when is the last time you heard the national media quote Imus?

Imus may just be Limbaugh's "ghost of Christmas future."

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 12, 2014 -- Updated 1815 GMT (0215 HKT)
To prevent war with North Korea over a comedy, what would Dennis Rodman say to Kim Jong Un? Movie critic Gene Seymour weighs in.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)
Michael Werz says in light of the spying cases, U.S. is seen as a paranoid society that can't tell friends from foes.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Eric Liu explains why in his new book, he calls himself "Chinese American" -- without a hyphen.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1512 GMT (2312 HKT)
John Bare says hands-on learning can make a difference in motivating students to acquire STEM skills.
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 1320 GMT (2120 HKT)
Karl Alexander and Linda Olson find blacks and whites live in urban poverty with similar backgrounds, but white privilege wins out as they grow older.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 1620 GMT (0020 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says a poll of 14 Muslim-majority nations show people are increasingly opposed to extremism.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 1828 GMT (0228 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says spending more on immigation enforcement isn't going to stop the flow of people seeking refuge in the U.S.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 2048 GMT (0448 HKT)
Faisal Gill had top security clearance and worked for the Department of Homeland Security. That's why it was a complete shock to learn the NSA had him under surveillance.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 1841 GMT (0241 HKT)
Kevin Sabet says the scientific verdict is that marijuana can be dangerous, and Colorado should be a warning to states contemplating legalizing pot.
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 2047 GMT (0447 HKT)
World War I ushered in an era of chemical weapons use that inflicted agonizing injury and death. Its lethal legacy lingers into conflicts today, Paul Schulte says
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 1137 GMT (1937 HKT)
Tom Foley and Ben Zimmer say Detroit's recent bankruptcy draws attention to a festering problem in America -- cities big and small are failing to keep up with change.
July 10, 2014 -- Updated 1201 GMT (2001 HKT)
Mel Robbins says many people think there's "something suspicious" about Leanna Harris. But there are other interpretations of her behavior
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 1753 GMT (0153 HKT)
Amy Bass says Germany's rout of Brazil on its home turf was brutal, but in defeat the Brazilian fans' respect for the victors showed why soccer is called 'the beautiful game'
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 2107 GMT (0507 HKT)
Aaron Carroll explains how vaccines can prevent illnesses like measles, which are on the rise
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 0008 GMT (0808 HKT)
Aaron Miller says if you think the ongoing escalation between Israel and Hamas over Gaza will force a moment of truth, better think again
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 1903 GMT (0303 HKT)
Norman Matloff says a secret wage theft pact between Google, Apple and others highlights ethics problems in Silicon Valley.
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 2237 GMT (0637 HKT)
The mother of murdered Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khder cries as she meets Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, West Bank on July 7, 2014.
Naseem Tuffaha says the killing of Israeli teenagers has rightly brought the world's condemnation, but Palestinian victims like his cousin's slain son have been largely reduced to faceless, nameless statistics.
ADVERTISEMENT