Rush Limbaugh may be claiming he’s back and better than ever, but you better believe the Fluke flap put the fear of God in him. On his show Thursday, Limbaugh claimed that “our ratings are up anywhere from 10 percent to 60 percent, depending on the station.” And he added that the only people who were hurt by the whole “tragedy” are the advertisers who left his show. They left, of course, in response to public outcry after Limbaugh attempted to slut-shame Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student, because she testified in front of lawmakers about the importance of making contraception available to women. Limbaugh called her a slut and a prostitute and suggested that if the American people were forced to be her “pimps” by subsidizing her safe sex, she should be required to make public her own sex videos in exchange.
The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi, who has been covering the Limbaugh fracas from the beginning, recently wrote a piece suggesting that, indeed, the tumult over the shock jock’s words is dying down. “Stations are standing by him, advertisers are trickling back to his program and the news media have moved on,” Farhi wrote. He points out that only two out of 600 or so stations have dropped Limbaugh’s show, and quotes a spokeswoman for the show’s syndicating company saying that “the program retains virtually of all its long-term sponsors.”
But none of this proves Limbaugh is indomitable. Rather, it shows just how mortal he is. During the heart of the public disgust over the radio host’s remarks, he issued an apology (twice), he lost sponsors, and, as Kathleen Parker has written, he powerfully undermined the Republican argument that concerns over contraception coverage were legitimate religious issues, rather than damning evidence of the party’s disregard for women’s health and welfare. Limbaugh did considerable damage to his own political cause and he witnessed how quickly the tide could turn on him. Farhi quotes the director of a liberal group saying, “I suspect his internal editing equipment is significantly amped up,” and I don’t think that’s just wishful thinking. Limbaugh may be crowing now, but I’d wager he now recognizes just how far he can’t go.