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 4:06 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
updated 9:02 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
updated 12:00 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
updated 9:12 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
updated 2:51 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Crystal Wright says racist remarks like those made by black Republican actress Stacey Dash do nothing to get blacks to join the GOP
updated 6:07 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Mel Robbins says by telling her story, Monica Lewinsky offers a lesson in confronting humiliating mistakes while keeping her head held high
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
updated 11:36 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
updated 10:21 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
updated 8:05 AM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
updated 4:33 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
updated 12:42 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
updated 4:27 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
updated 12:07 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
updated 1:00 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
updated 7:01 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
updated 9:35 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
updated 10:08 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
updated 4:04 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
updated 6:50 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Sat October 11, 2014
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT