PORTLAND — At least two more local businesses have told a local radio station not to run their ads during Rush Limbaugh’s time slot because of controversial comments he made about a female law school student who urged federal lawmakers to support health care coverage of contraception.
Michael Major, the owner of Cunningham Security in Yarmouth, said he asked WGAN not to run his company’s ads during the show, which runs from noon to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. He said he received about a half-dozen emails and a phone call Tuesday soon after the ad aired.
“The tone was ‘If you’re a responsible Maine business you will take a stand against this type of speech.’ And one of them actually went as far to say ‘If you don’t take a stand you will probably find yourself losing customers,’ ” Major said.
Major buys a number of ads each month that air between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. at WGAN. He said he did not choose specific time slots for airing them.
RSVP Discount Beverage in Portland said on its Facebook page that it was “in the process of having ads moved due to the recent controversy.” A call seeking comment was not returned.
They join Downeast Energy, which told WGAN Monday that it did not want its ads running during the show, citing Limbaugh’s pattern of making inflammatory statements that do not align with the company’s values.
Limbaugh called Georgetown University student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” last week after she told congressional Democrats she favored their party’s national health care policy that would force her Jesuit university to cover contraception. Limbaugh apologized to Fluke on Saturday in writing and discussed it on the air Monday, saying his point was that the 30-year-old was trying to “force a religious institution to abandon its principles to meet hers,” the Associated Press reported.
But the national fallout continued Tuesday, when a second radio station dropped the talk show. Radio station 1420 AM WBEC in Pittsfield, Mass., said Tuesday that it is no longer airing Limbaugh’s show and apologized to anyone who may have been offended by the conservative commentator’s remarks, the Associated Press reported. KPUA in Hilo, Hawaii, had already stopped airing the show.
A “handful” of WGAN advertisers have asked that their ads not be played during the Limbaugh time slot, said Cary Pahigian, president and general manager of Portland Radio Group, which owns eight stations including WGAN. Pahigian would not discuss specific advertisers or give a more precise figure of how many businesses had made the request, which he said the station would accommodate.
“People have the right to give their opinion. Whether they should be picking up the phone and calling up a merchant and strongly advising them how to use their advertising dollars, I think there would be a question of whether that’s good practice,” he said.
Pahigian said if the aim is to silence Limbaugh, offended listeners should turn off their radios and tell their friends to do the same. He said interest in Limbaugh is higher this week than last, when it was already very popular. WGAN is not considering dropping the show, he said.
Charlotte Warren, associate director of the Maine Women’s Lobby, called Limbaugh’s comments “disappointing” and “disgusting” when others were working hard to inspire leadership in young women. She said the organization wasn’t involved in trying to persuade advertisers to abandon Limbaugh’s show.
“In the world we work on, I can’t imagine anyone would want to be associated with that kind of talk. I can’t imagine radio stations would choose to be associated with it, or advertisers. But that’s not the kind of work we do,” she said.
Ray Richardson, the host of a conservative talk show on WLOB Radio and WPME TV, said he found Limbaugh’s comments “degrading and disgusting” while noting that Limbaugh has the right to say what he wants under the First Amendment. Richardson said Limbaugh also took the focus off an important issue and put it on himself.
“Bottom line for me is Rush has the right to say it, I have a right not to listen and people have a right not to support advertisers,” he said. “Personally, I respect the right of people to (pressure advertisers), but I don’t think they’re effective. Because at the end of the day, if Rush has lost nine advertisers, there are nine people waiting in line to advertise.”
Irv Williams of Portland said he had called local advertisers and urged them to reject the Limbaugh time slot on WGAN
Williams said he doesn’t regularly listen to Limbaugh’s show but heard reports last week about what he had said about Fluke.
“I was just appalled,” said Williams, who describes himself politically as a liberal.
The Associated Press reported that ProFlowers and Legal Zoom pulled their national ads from the show over the weekend and that AOL Inc. and Tax Resolution Services Co. did so Monday, bringing the total of national advertisers fleeing the show to least nine as of Monday.
Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy contributed to this report.
Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at: [email protected]