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Gini Dietrich

Rush Limbaugh’s Non-Apology Creates Bigger PR Crisis

By: Gini Dietrich | March 7, 2012 | 
134

Can we give the Moron Award to Rush Limbaugh?

For those of you who haven’t heard, last week Limbaugh called a Georgetown law student a “slut” and a “prostitute” for speaking at a Democratic House of Representatives event. She called for  religion-affiliated institutions, such as Georgetown, to cover contraception in their health plans. Because it’s not covered, she said some pay up to $1,000 per year.

Apparently Limbaugh thinks she must be both a slut and a prostitute “if she required so much costly contraception.”

But then he upped the ante by saying she is, “A woman who is happily presenting herself as an immoral, baseless, no-purpose-to-her life woman. She wants all the sex in the world whenever she wants it, all the time, no consequences. No responsibility for her behavior.”

The National Organization for Women called for Clear Channel to take Limbaugh off the air and, while the company hasn’t done that, the advertisers are speaking.

During the weekend, ProFlowers was the seventh company to pull its advertising from Limbaugh’s show. They announced it on their Facebook wall.

And, just yesterday, AOL and Tax Resolution Services also pulled their advertising, making the total nine. But that’s not all. Peter Gabriel discovered his song “Sledgehammer” was the song used during this tirade and demanded his music be removed from the show.

While Limbaugh did issue an apology to the law student by saying,

For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week. In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.

He goes on with a “but” by saying it’s not really his fault and blames it all on the left, the side where you “can’t expect morality and intellectual honesty” even as advertisers continued to pull their funding of his show.

Let’s set the politics aside (I know that’s hard to do here every time I write about something so politically-charged) and talk about the PR repercussions of all of this.

It doesn’t matter if it’s business, life, your marriage, or a friendship, when you say, “I’m sorry, but…” the apology is voided.

And that’s what Limbaugh did here. He said, “I’m sorry, but…”

There are many companies (Carnival, Susan G. Komen, Claire’s, Boners BBQ, Kenneth Cole, and more) who can take lessons from places such as FedEx who know how to say “I’m sorry.”

It turns out Limbaugh could use that same lesson in humility and true sorrow.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

131 comments
PLHolden
PLHolden

I really don't think it's too far fetched to consider that Rush is simply trying to make himself look like as big of a pig as possible so Romney will be able to take on the role of the Republican "Saint".

I hope that people will do their research on Mitt instead of just selecting the lesser of two evils (even though he admittedly has a very impressive repetoire of songs, knows his stuff about Cheezzy Grits & has a Hollywood face).

candicefrye1
candicefrye1

@sandrulee Is your job beating you down? Let me help you start a home business. You can do it I promise! thecashjournalblog .com

DonnaRollWithIt
DonnaRollWithIt

@Steveology :That was very interesting to read & all points good. His sorry was like "telling your wife of course you don't look fat, but.."

liekev
liekev

@josgovaart Volg het nu een paar dagen en het is echt ongelofelijk dat er zulke mensen bestaan en daar openlijk voor uit durven te komen...

westtnyankee
westtnyankee

@afblair @webby2001 "If I offended anyone" always bugs me. "If" u didn't offend = no need 4 apology. #PRFAIL

stevecunningham
stevecunningham

@ginidietrich what works as an apology to your spouse...

JulioRVarela
JulioRVarela

AMEN. Social media is the great flattener and anyone who thinks they can "control" it with PR apologies doesn't get it. Great post as always G!

pocojuan
pocojuan

@ginidietrich Core concept: "self inflicted" pathological impotent rage of misogyny & racism. Untreatable, Requires a cranial transplant ...

KensViews
KensViews

Three thoughts: 1) But he did say I'm sorry.  Well he implied it: "I'm sorry my advertisers are leaving me in droves;" 2) Any time we say, or even hint at "but," the message is, 'everything I said before "but"  is BS. and 3) Unless I missed it, no one in this thread, nor much of the TV coverage, mentioned the fact that he said "If we're going to pay for her birth control, she should post her sex tapes on You Tube."  WTF?!

alexandrakirsch
alexandrakirsch

@ginidietrich He is a walking PR crisis. As my people would say, "Oy vey."

swagclubdaily
swagclubdaily

@brandnutter @thebrandbuilder Rush=posterchild4 #kooziemongercorporateassclowndouchecanoecatalogcarpetbombingtrunkslammerstalkergladhandguys

John_Trader1
John_Trader1

I'm sorry but "Rush Limbaugh" and humility will never go in the same sentence.

 

I think it's interesting to note that as an Ad Age article article pointed out earlier this week (http://adage.com/article/mediaworks/advertiser-boycott-rush-limbaugh-spell-end/233115/) that sometimes advertisers may pull their ads from the show but not the entire channel or any other entities owned by it (in this case Clear Channel Communications). I wonder if all of these advertisers are pulling all of their ads from Rush's show and not Clear Channel completely? That's a big leap if they decided to do that. If they didn't, is that truly "speaking?" I'm not sure.

M_Koehler
M_Koehler

Agreed. The Sorry, but really is not an apolgy. I'd say more but it would veer way of course into an anti Rush rant. Which you already know my stance on.

thebrandbuilder
thebrandbuilder

@swagclubdaily Lots of people still defending him. What does that make them? (maybe that's the real news.)

lovinglife_xoxo
lovinglife_xoxo

I happened to be listening to Rush during that time. I am a social liberal and believe in a woman's right for reproduction freedom. In the 80s, in order to have my tube's tied I actually had to get my husband’s signature. Of course if he would have had a vasectomy I wouldn't have had to sign a thing. With that being said, I was so busy laughing at the absurdity of what Ms. Fluke was saying that Rush was an afterthought. I was actually saying to the radio - "OK, how much do you spend on your hair, cell phone, SHOES!!! But you can't Woman up and afford your own birth control to protect yourself?" Was Rush out of line? Of course, but he is Rush. We didn't clamor for those that attached Sarah Palin's daughter, Bristol, for getting "herself" knocked up fired.  I mean please Bristol Palin was a teenager and not a woman attending Grad school at one of the most prestigious schools in the world. Since you were smart enought to get into Georgetown, how about having a discussion with your partner about who is going to pay for birth control this time. My advise is “Woman UP” Ms. Fluke and decide what your priorities are. Put together your own budget, because frankly I don’t wish to pay for your birth control. 

baylorbfa
baylorbfa

@Narciso17 @ginidietrich It's a shame such a logical and righteaous point got overlooked and misinterpreted because of name calling.

KevinVandever
KevinVandever

Yes, it was mistake to use "but", he should have used one of the more vogue methods: "with all due respect" or "no offense"

 

 

jaybaer
jaybaer

@ginidietrich You could replace "Limbaugh" with just about any crisis and it would still be an accurate tweet.

wabbitoid
wabbitoid

Having run a few campaigns myself, I know a little about these issues.  The goal is always to get your people to show up and the other side to not show.  The strategy from the right for the last 30 years has always been to define the debate and make things nastier and dirtier by giving their people all the ammo - while demoralizing those who are more likely to see issues as complex.  It has worked very well for them.

However, this depends heavily on controlling the message.  What we are seeing today is that the message cannot be controlled in social media.  Rush made a very stupid mistake by going off script, but more importantly his arrogance had a direct challenge that did not exist just a few years ago.  Things have indeed changed in politics - just as they have changed in PR.  Rush is no longer speaking just to a select audience - he can go out to the whole world, and they can fire back. 

Everything you say about PR, Gini, goes for politics as well.  And it is a game-changer for those who get a handle on it, especially on the left.

jasonkonopinski
jasonkonopinski

The reality is that politics is (and has always been) dirty business - and feeds on inflammatory language, vitriol and stereotypes on both sides of the aisle. Talking heads like Rush, Hannity, O'Reilly, Olbermann are entertainers. Controversy like this drives ratings - and the real danger isn't the talking head, but the throngs of adoring fans who swallow it hook, line and sinker.  

 

Politics, marketing, PR - we like the idea of open dialogue and civil discourse, but that's sometimes quite the tall order. ;) 

Steveology
Steveology

@deejhodges I suspect he will just go on.

josgovaart
josgovaart

@liekev Ik snap dat er een kleine culturele kloof is, maar dan nog..holyf**k

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@stevecunningham Turns out "I'm sorry" works with Mr. D

KensViews
KensViews

 @JulioRVarela PR apologies?  Please don't link what he did, or didn't do, to PR.  It insults too many fine people in the PR field who are working  diligently to get their clients to do the right thing every day.  (I know you weren't trying to insult anyone!)  And I certainly don't want to re-open the "PR Definition" can-of-worms!

SassyShenetta
SassyShenetta

@ginidietrich Oh, I know - don't get me started!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @lovinglife_xoxo I don't disagree, but there is a reason I wanted to keep the politics out of this. The issue really is that people, brands, businesses need to stop being defensive and really listen to what their stakeholders have to say. If advertisers are pulling out because you called another human being a name, for heaven's sakes, say you're sorry. Don't get defensive. Don't blame someone else. Say you're sorry. It's a lesson for all of us.

stevecunningham
stevecunningham

@ginidietrich doing the dishes and cleaning the house works for Mrs. C!

pocojuan
pocojuan

@ginidietrich There is a long waiting list for th procedure. th GOP is requiring patients to certify tht thy are not already brain-dead sigh

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@SassyShenetta I kind of want to get you started!

lovinglife_xoxo
lovinglife_xoxo

 @ginidietrichI totally agree with that point. No matter how nice we would like to play together Gini, politics and religion are a part of this issue. Rush should have lost the 'but," but the truth of the matter is even if had lost the "but" people would still be demanding he be fired and that advertisers pull their products.  Nothing he could've done after the that would have made a bit of difference. Once this gets out into the Social Media biosphere their really isn't a thing you can do except take cover til the storm passes, learn from your mistakes, or in this case make a large donation to the schools on campus clinic.    

jasonkonopinski
jasonkonopinski

 @ginidietrich Oh I hear you - loud and clear. I have some choice names with which to brand the blowhard, but I'll refrain from posting them here because they're not in good taste and, well, I respect this space too much to do something so rash.

 

Douchecanoe isn't nearly strong enough to express my disgust for everything that Rush stands for. 

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@stevecunningham That would work for me, too!

KensViews
KensViews

 @ginidietrich  @JulioRVarela  I hope I acknowledged that I realized that wasn't Julio's intent.  (At least that was my intent!)  I do believe a sincere apology would have gone far.  But that would have been impossible, because he believed what he did was right.  And that's even more offensive!

TonyBennett
TonyBennett

@jasonkonopinski Wow, great compound word there with douchecanoe, I'll have to try that on words with friends! @ginidietrich

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