Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Is Rush Limbaugh still relevant?

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
updated 7:59 AM EDT, Tue May 14, 2013
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
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
updated 11:39 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Paul Saffo says current Google Glasses are doomed to become eBay collectibles, but they are only the leading edge of a surge in wearable tech that will change our lives
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
updated 5:29 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say the Kansas Jewish Center killings are part of a string of lethal violence in the U.S. that outstrips al Qaeda-influenced attacks. Why don't we pay more attention?
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Danny Cevallos says families of the passengers on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 need legal counsel
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Frum says Russia is on a rampage of mischief while Western leaders and Western alliances charged with keeping the peace hem and haw
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Most adults make the mistakes of hitting the snooze button and of checking emails first thing in the morning, writes Mel Robbins
updated 1:54 PM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Wheeler says as middle-class careers continue to disappear, we need a monthly cash payment to everyone
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Democrats need to show more political spine when it comes to the issue of taxes.
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Donna Brazile recalls the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act as four presidents honored the heroes of the movement and Lyndon Johnson, who signed the law
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Elmer Smith remembers Chuck Stone, the legendary journalist from Philadelphia who was known as a thorn in the side of police and an advocate for the little guy
updated 2:56 PM EDT, Sun April 13, 2014
Al Franken says Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, wants to acquire Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable provider. Should we be concerned?
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Philip Cook and Kristin Goss says the Pennsylvania stabbing attack, which caused grave injury -- but not death, carries a lesson on guns for policymakers
updated 3:06 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Wikipedia lists 105 football movies, but all too many of them are forgettable, writes Mike Downey
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
John Sutter and hundreds of iReporters set out to run marathons after the bombings -- and learned a lot about the culture of running
updated 12:49 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Timothy Stanley says it was cowardly to withdraw the offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The university should have done its homework on her narrow views and not made the offer
updated 10:16 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Al Awlaki
Almost three years after his death in a 2011 CIA drone strike in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki continues to inspire violent jihadist extremists in the U.S, writes Peter Bergen
updated 9:21 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
David Bianculli says Colbert is a smart, funny interviewer, but ditching his blowhard persona to take over the mainstream late-night role may cost him fans
updated 1:31 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Rep. Paul Ryan says the Republican budget places its trust in the people, not in Washington
updated 5:28 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Aaron David Miller says Obama isn't to blame for Kerry's lack of progress in resolving Mideast talks
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Weinberger says beyond focusing on the horrors of the attack a year ago, it's worth remembering the lessons it taught about strength, the dangers of idle speculation and Boston's solidarity
updated 12:32 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Katherine Newman says the motive for the school stabbing attack in Pennsylvania is not yet known, but research on such rampages turns up similarities in suspects and circumstances
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Simon Tisdall: Has John Kerry's recent track record left Russia's wily leader ever more convinced of U.S. weakness?
updated 12:40 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Mel Robbins says Nate Scimio deserves credit for acting bravely in a frightening attack and shouldn't be criticized for posting a selfie afterward
updated 2:39 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Wendy Townsend says the Rattlesnake Roundup -- where thousands of pounds of snakes are killed and tormented -- is barbaric
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Dr. Mary Mulcahy says doctors who tell their patients the truth risk getting bad ratings from them
updated 9:28 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Peggy Drexler says the married Rep. McAllister, caught on video making out with a staffer, won't get a pass from voters who elected him as a Christian conservative with family values
updated 7:43 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
David Frum says the president has failed to react strongly to crises in Iran, Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela, encouraging others to act out
updated 4:57 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Eric Liu says Paul Ryan gets it very wrong: The U.S.'s problem is not a culture of poverty, it is a culture of wealth that is destroying the American value linking work and reward
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Frida Ghitis writes: "We are still seeing the world mostly through men's eyes. We are still hearing it explained to us mostly by men."
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Chester Wisniewski says the Heartbleed bug shows how we're all tangled together, relying on each other for Internet security
updated 3:26 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Danny Cevallos says an Ohio school that suspended a little kid for pointing his finger at another kid and pretending to shoot shows the growth in "zero tolerance" policies at school run amok
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT