Over the weekend, a few complaints started trickling in to First Night Spokane, the giant family-friendly New Year's bash, about their ads running with the Rush Limbaugh Show on KQNT, a local talk radio station that’s also host to Sean Hannity and and Glenn Beck. Limbaugh is notorious for his sexist, racist and homophobic diatribes, even in the less-than-polite world of talk radio.
First Night Spokane acted immediately, posting this in response to complaints on Facebook:
“First Night Spokane takes pride in being a family friendly, diverse, non-discriminatory New Year’s Eve event in downtown Spokane and in no way condones or supports the comments made by Rush Limbaugh or others associated with the Rush Limbaugh talk show, therefore we are pulling any programming of promotional information regarding our event from this station.”
Executive Director Lona Barnum says it was a swift decision for the board. The organization doesn’t take political stances, she says, but they do care a lot about listening to the community and representing local families.
“We pay a lot of attention to our constituents,” she says.
Nationwide, dozens of other companies and organizations have received similar complaints about their ads running with Limbaugh’s show. It’s part of a liberal grassroots effort, led by Stop Rush and Flush Rush, that took hold in 2012 after Limbaugh called Georgetown University student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” after Republican congressmen refused to let her testify on birth control coverage.
On its site, Stop Rush keeps a constantly updated list of advertisers and their contact information. Companies and organizations that have pulled their ads after pressure from consumers include Disney On Ice, Citibank, CVS, Papa John's, H&R Block and CNN. The activists’ goal is to eventually push Limbaugh off the air for lack of willing sponsors.
Many of the advertisers say they were unaware their ads would run during the show, and that’s what happened to First Night Spokane. Like most ad buys, it was part of a package deal, and Barnum says they’ve learned it’s important to have a discussion up front about what’s acceptable for your organization.
“I think you have to be really clear about who you want to align yourself with,” she says.
As 2014 approaches, you’ll continue to hear radio ads for First Night Spokane on other stations — but no longer with Rush.