Don’t Kill the Crisis, Milk it! – Why Rush Limbaugh’s “Slut-Gate” is the Best Publicity in the World

 

All right, I just can’t stand it anymore.

I was hoping the Rush Limbaugh scandal would just go away and we could all go back to important things like complaining about gas prices and wondering where the heck Steven Tyler gets his wardrobe. But like that festering forehead zit the day before a big presentation, this just will NOT go away and I am now compelled to add my two cents to the conversation.

As the oft quoted philosopher Richard Nixon (someone I would really love to have seen on Dancing With the Stars) once said: “Let me make this perfectly clear” what Rush said was wrong. What started off as a “humorous,” pointed railing turned into a personal attack, period. Everyone had the right to be angry and demand an apology. And that’s exactly what they did and exactly what they got.

Didn’t satisfy your personal sense of outrage, did it? If you were hoping that this will be what finally puts an end to Rush Limbaugh, I have some very disappointing news for you:

It ain’t happening.

[Isn’t this the same guy who skated through a drug scandal? Was his rehab covered by his insurance? “Irony, table for one.”]

Let me hip you to something: the outrage, the ongoing conversation, the endless media focus, is nothing but Manna to Rush. In truth, he doesn’t want it to end. Not yet. Rush has gone from cash cow to milkman. Keep talking about me, milk those babies dry!

A great radio man I worked for many years ago always said: Publicity is publicity. Good or bad, just make sure they spell your name right. If you were to put a monetary value on the amount of TV coverage Rush has received in the past ten days, it would easily reach the tens of millions of dollars. Tens of millions he did NOT have to shell out for.

The other day on his program, Rush stated (paraphrasing here) “the business end is fine, everything’s good,” which is an interesting assertion considering at last count, over forty advertisers have either pulled or threatened to pull advertising from his program. That is a LOT of money. But in truth, for Rush everything IS fine. Don’t worry Ditto-heads, Rush is still collecting his paycheck and will continue to until he decides it’s time to hang up the headphones.

But, I digress. This is supposed to be about an apology.

I don’t know Rush Limbaugh. I did meet him once. He struck me like every other radio dork I know, an insecure egomaniac who wants nothing more than for you to be addicted to his program. Rush wants your loyalty. He wants to get paid millions of dollars to sit on his ass and talk for a couple of hours a day. Other than that, he wants a good cigar and a nice round of golf.

I respect Rush. I respect Howard Stern for that matter. This isn’t a like/dislike thing. I respect anyone who has achieved this degree of success in radio. Unlike them, I don’t have a daily audience numbering in the tens of millions, a swanky pad in Manhattan and a gigundus home in Palm Beach. I don’t/can’t do radio the way he does radio and I will never achieve the level of runaway success he has experienced.

But…

Rush Buddy, I’m right there with you. Apologies and damage control are a pain in the ass and seemingly do nothing but appease people that you don’t want to (but must) deal with in order to keep the peace and more importantly, KEEP THE MONEY COMING.

I know this situation because I’ve actually been in this situation with the same company. For the record, what I said wasn’t nearly as bad as what he said. The apology came (mine and his) when upper management said: “You really pissed off an advertiser* and if you don’t say you’re sorry, we could lose a ton of money. So, you WILL apologize.” Even if there is a genuine feeling of remorse for the most part, apologies like this are made to appease advertisers as an effort to slow or stop the loss of money to the parent company. This gives the company a chance to go back and say “hey, the guy apologized. What more do you want?”

*Most broadcasters don’t care if they piss off you the listener, but they do care if they piss off You the Advertiser. FYI.

The weird thing here is that these types of controversies are a double-edged sword. The free publicity is always welcome but when you have to spend days, possibly weeks doing damage control it takes the radio dorks focus away from meright now. It’s been beaten into our heads that yesterday’s news is no longer important. While Rush loves being the lead story on Fox and Friends and the above-the-crease headline of the New York Times, having to deal with last week’s story prevents you from entertaining your audience and milking the love and adoration from your followers right now.

To quote another philospher George W. Bush (whom I have NO desire to see on Dancing With the Stars) “Make no mistake about it” Rush, Glenn Beck, Howard Stern, all of them are entertainers. These are characters created to be controversial. Every once in awhile they’ll cross a line and need to be reeled back in. What’s more important, these guys are cash cows. Rush Limbaugh is paid millions because people pay tens of millions to keep him on the air. For every advertiser who bails, I’m certain that there are at least five waiting in the wings to advertize on a show that reaches tens of millions of people.

I know it doesn’t make sense but we’re talking about broadcasters, it’s not supposed to. It’s not about right or wrong, it’s all about the money kids.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to figure out just what the hell Steven Tyler is wearing.

Be Brilliant.

Skip-

Skip Mahaffey in an award-winning broadcaster, Media Coach/Consultant and Author of Adventures With My Father: Childhood Recollections of Divorce, Dysfunction and the Summer of Love. Skip is available for consultation by email: skip@skipshow.com

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