Democrats are using Twitter ads to build support from voters in response to inflammatory comments made by conservative radio firebrand Rush Limbaugh. Meanwhile, corporate brands that sponsor his radio show are scrambling to ensure Twitter and Facebook users they don't endorse Limbaugh's statements.
At issue are comments made by Limbaugh about Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke - who recently testified before Congress in opposition to a bill that would have allowed companies to deny insurance coverage for contraception based on religious considerations. "She’s having so much sex, she can’t afford the contraception.... She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex," he said on his show recently, saying it "makes her a slut.... It makes her a prostitute."
Democrats pounced on the statements in the hopes of reinforcing the idea that Limbaugh is a proxy for the Republican Party. "Denounce Rush's Vile Misogyny!" said a promoted tweet from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which asked viewers to sign and re-tweet the post. The tweet links to a petition on the DSCC site demanding "that Rush Limbaugh apologize for these incredibly appalling and ignorant remarks. Misogyny must be called out, especially when it comes from a mouthpiece of the Republican Party."
Signers are led to a donation page calling Limbaugh's opinions "ignorant and crude - and lodged deep in the Republican Party."
In recent days, Facebook and Twitter users have fueled the firestorm over the talk show host's comments. Those offended by Limbaugh's statements have passed around links to sponsors of his show, encouraging people to boycott the companies.
"So long Pro Flowers, Auto Zone and Hotwire. You'll never get another dime from this slut," wrote boycotter Kathleen Fleming on Facebook yesterday.
Today, the @ProFlowers page on Twitter displays a flurry of apologetic posts - more than 70 directed to specific users within one hour alone. "We would like to assure you that we do not endorse the views expressed by Rush Limbaugh and we appreciate your feedback."
Earlier today, bed company Sleep Number posted to Facebook stating it would no longer advertise on Limbaugh's show. "Due to recent commentary by Rush Limbaugh that does not align with our values, we've made the decision to immediately suspend all advertising on that program."
While many consumers have used Facebook to say they would no longer buy beds from Sleep Number, others decided that leaving Rush was reason to boycott. "We were considering buying one of your overpriced best sleep number beds. We're looking at alternatives now because you pulled your advertising from Rush. Shame on you!" noted Norman Phillips on the Sleep Number Facebook page this afternoon.
Auto parts seller AutoZone has been listed as a Limbaugh sponsor, though the company used Facebook to say "we do not purchase advertising on Rush Limbaugh websites, nor do we sponsor the Rush Limbaugh radio show. If a commercial did run, then it did so in error."
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Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.