“Start listening to Rush Limbaugh.” That was the message representatives from Media Matters for America and the National Organization for Women delivered to NOW chapter leaders in a secret, narrowly focused strategy session Wednesday night.
In audio of the NOW/MMFA strategy webinar obtained exclusively by The Daily Caller, the liberal organizations plotted the best ways to get the radio giant and veritable burr in their collective saddles off the air.
Go after the local advertisers
The key, according to Media Matters online outreach director Jay Carmona, is to target Limbaugh at the local level — specifically advertisers in local radio markets — but with an eye on his national sponsors.
“I will say, just going by the numbers, getting local stations to drop Limbaugh is actually a hard, more long-term campaign than just looking at getting local sponsors to drop,” she explained, adding that they do not need to get the conservative talker off every local station to make an impact.
The catch, however, is that women who are active with NOW and the men who support them — whom Limbaugh often needles as the NAGs (National Association of Gals) and the “new castrati” — are actually going to have to listen to his radio show in order to identify and target those local advertisers.
“The first thing you want to do is, I say, start listening to Rush Limbaugh,” Carmona advised.
“I know this is a really big thing to ask. It’s really difficult, but he is online from noon Eastern to 3 o’clock every weekday, although your local station may air at a different time,” she said, advising listeners to take notes, and then track and contact advertisers that broadcast during Limbaugh’s show.
Carmona recommended that Limbaugh’s opponents should contact the businesses privately — just in case the advertisement was a mistake — and to open lines of communication for potential negotiations. (RELATED: Full coverage of Rush Limbaugh)
She added that the only way they can know for sure if a company continues to buy ads on Limbaugh’s show is to “keep listening.”
Listening to Rush taxes their mental health
NOW and Media Matters have a support structure to keep morale up in the face of Limbaugh’s conservatism.
“If you listen as a group it is actually really empowering. So I know folks who are live chatting ‘The Rush Limbaugh Show’ on Facebook every day,” Carmona told call participants.
“Just make sure that you take some time to talk about why certain things he says are wrong or messed up with your group, and that can actually be super, super empowering to do that,” she continued.
“And that way, also, when somebody asks, ‘Do you even listen to Rush Limbaugh?’ which happens, you’ll be able to say, ‘Yes, do you want to know what he said today?’”
It’s wise, Carmona added, to take mental health breaks from the show.
“Make sure that you also, just in general — if something is freaking you out and you are feeling really bad listening to Rush Limbaugh — take a break. Give yourself the time and the space that you need to listen to the stuff because it can be difficult at times,” she said.
The strategy session focused on NOW chapters’ ability to focus on local advertisers, who buy time from broadcast affiliates rather than from Limbaugh’s carrier, Clear Channel, because “most local station affiliates make the bulk of their profit off of these local advertising dollars, so targeting your local advertisers really is how you get those local stations to drop Rush. And that is what you’re aiming for.”
Call participants also heard that targeting national advertisers can also be effective, but that the result won’t impact the local stations as much as Clear Channel itself.
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Why Rush has to go
NOW action vice president Erin Matson explained how important taking out Limbaugh is in the wake of his comments about contraception activist Sandra Fluke.
“[Fluke] came back and said, ‘The attack on me was an attack on all women,” Matson said.
“And she was right, and at this point in the ‘War on Women’ we are all gearing up for the 2012 election and we all understand how serious they are. Their self-appointed mascot, Rush Limbaugh, is someone who is in a somewhat vulnerable position.”
NOW has a nearly 20-year history of fighting Limbaugh. The group claimed victory in 1994 when it prevented him from obtaining a $1 million spokesman contract from the Florida Citrus Commission.
But the larger goal — get him off the air — has eluded NOW.
“We always target advertisers,” Matson said, “and that is what we are talking a lot about tonight — because that is really how we can get rid of him for good.”
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NOW claims some victories
Media Matters online strategy director Angelo Carusone, the point man for the liberal organization’s 2009-2011 “Stop Beck” movement, provided the Wednesday night webinar audience with a list of victories his organization and NOW have won against Limbaugh, namely eliminating some of his sponsors.
“I think the bottom line is that there is real accountability and consequences that have been attached to what Mr. Limbaugh has done thus far,” Carusone said.
“Every single day his show is broadcast his syndicator loses money, and any affiliated station that has to broadcast that in the community, they have to deal with the economic consequences. The business decision to continue to broadcast Rush Limbaugh is proven to be bad for business.”
According to Carusone, more than 65 former national advertisers are no longer advertising on Limbaugh’s show. He also boasted of “countless successes at the local level with local advertisers who have taken similarly responsible action and decided to not broadcast on his program anymore.”
But nonpartisan radio expert Michael Harrison, who publishes Talkers magazine, told The Daily Caller in March that Limbaugh’s audience numbers likely will continue to rise.
Harrison also said Limbaugh’s opponents have been overestimating the impact of their push against the show’s advertisers. Many, he said, have standing “no-buy” orders covering controversial programs — orders that have nothing to do with activist campaigns.
Carusone, however, pointed to the conservative FreedomWorks organization’s recent sponsorship of Limbaugh’s program as proof that he has a sponsor shortage. And two stations, he said — one in California and one in Philadelphia — have dropped the show entirely.
TheDC reported in April that the Philadelphia situation actually involved a move from AM to FM.
“There have been real consequences that have been attached to [Limbaugh’s] words so far,” Carusone added. “And we are just glad that everybody is going to continue to push this year to ensure that the perverse incentive of these kind of attacks at least aren’t rewarded with additional revenue streams.”
A mid-May protest holiday
NOW and its chapters are planning a “National Day of Action” on May 18 to protest stations that carry Limbaugh’s program.
NOW field organizer Anita Lederer told webinar participants that many of the organization’s chapters will be taking action on other days as well. She recommended protests, pickets, online petitions, letter-writing campaigns, press conferences and newspaper op-eds.
“[We] just want to continue beating the drum that Rush is no longer relevant,” Lederer said, “and that he is not going to continue on on these local stations.”
Carmona also advised NOW activists to approach radio stations that compete with Rush Limbaugh affiliates, and encourage them to feature stories about the anti-Rush campaign.
“Most of the radio show news segments I’ve seen online about Rush protests have actually come from Rush radio stations’ direct competitors,” she explained. “So they love to feature stories about how their competitor is coming under fire for airing Rush Limbaugh.”
We’ve been infiltrated!
Halfway through the call, organizers announced that their webinar event had been infiltrated by peope who were not in fact NOW leaders — including one who claimed to be affiliated with Limbaugh.
They laughed it off and continued, encouraging any infiltrators on the line to help eliminate Limbaugh from the airwaves.
Attacking Rush Limbaugh is a struggle
During a question and answer period, a woman named Mary lamented having to actually tune into Limbaugh’s show.
“If there was any way we could go and find out the schedule of the ads without having to listen to him, I’d just be so happy,” she said.
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