All this time I thought Ed Schultz epitomized a warped brand of bellicose buffoonery. Turns out he exemplifies abject hypocrisy as well.
The weekend MSNBC parolee and left-wing radio talker has barely contained his fake glee over news that major broadcaster Cumulus Media may drop Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, the two most popular radio hosts in the country, from dozens of stations at the end of the year. (Audio clips after the jump)
On his radio show Monday, Schultz laid the blame for this on Limbaugh's criticism last year of Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke as a "slut" and "prostitute" for wanting a government mandate that insurance companies provide contraception at no cost to their customers. According to Schultz, Limbaugh's remarks about Fluke "damaged" the radio industry and "destroyed" many careers (audio) --
It's always dangerous when talk show hosts start talking about advertising because we don't want to piss anybody off. You know, we want everybody to advertise. If you listen to this program, you know that at a very sincere manner and I have for years, I thank you for supporting our sponsors. I realize that if you don't do that, we can't be here. I would like to think that you'd like us to be here as much of an uphill battle as it has been over the years. But this is a story that the media seems to be, especially the talk industry media, is afraid to talk about. And I've had enough of it. I want to talk about advertising for a little bit. I want to talk about how Rush Limbaugh has damaged this industry, as much as he helped it back in the '80s and early '90s when he got going with syndicated talk radio and political talk radio and how you could make the argument that he saved the AM dial because nobody knew where the heck it was going. Right now he has destroyed a lot of careers and I'm not afraid to say that and there's a lot of people out there I think behind closed doors and conversations would say the same thing. I just want all of you to know, the Sandra Fluke story which took place, what, was that a year and a half ago now, a little over a year ago? That had a major impact on this industry, talk radio. Blacklists became just huge where advertisers across the country said don't even put me in talk radio, I don't even care what talk radio it is, I don't want to be there, I don't want my product there, it's just, it's bad. Limbaugh, for three days, went after Sandra Fluke and said some of the most disparaging things I think a broadcaster has ever said about another human being, especially a woman. He targeted her, described her, well, you know the story if you follow politics.
More along these lines from Schultz, with the same conspicuous omission from his screed (audio) --
I just want to tell you that, uh, thank you for supporting our advertisers on the Ed Schultz radio show. And I want you to know what I've had personal conversations with a lot of our advertisers and told them that this is the way I'm going to do my show and you're not going to hear that kind of stuff, uh, on my radio show, the, the, the level of personal insults that you know, comparatively, what Limbaugh did to Sandra Fluke. She was a citizen who was asked to come forward and speak up about something by the Democrats. And she instantly became a national story because Limbaugh decided that, you know, he had some political agenda or whatever and maybe he thought it was entertaining! Maybe he thought it was entertaining to attack a defenseless woman and now a lot of people have paid for it with their jobs, except of course Limbaugh.
More accurately, what Schultz must have told advertisers was that "you're not going to hear that stuff" on his show, those vile insults ... anymore. Because before Limbaugh slammed Fluke, Schultz smeared conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham as a "right-wing slut" and "talk slut" after she criticized President Obama for not cutting short his trip to Europe when Joplin, Mo., was ravaged by tornadoes in May 2011.
In other words, Schultz maligned Ingraham as a "slut" when she criticized Obama for not visiting Joplin sooner than he did while Limbaugh labeled Fluke a "prostitute" for wanting her sex life to be subsidized through government mandate. At least with Limbaugh, his criticism actually pertained to the subject at hand. Schultz's smear of Ingraham was completely gratuitous and wholly in character. Both men apologized for their remarks and Schultz claimed he agreed to a one-week unpaid suspension from MSNBC, though it's more likely the network made him an offer he couldn't refuse.
Schultz's dubious claim that Limbaugh has wrought inestimable damage on the radio industry was undermined by one of his guests on Monday, radio consultant Holland Cooke. Seems there was trouble brewing in talk radio long before Limbaugh slammed Fluke, according to Cooke (audio) --
SCHULTZ: When you take a look at possibly more local programming on stations around the country, is that because Limbaugh, Hannity are on no-buy lists and talk radio's taking a black eye so to speak in a fight with the public on what they're going to accept when it comes to decency and when it comes to respectful conversation? I mean, could we see a rebirth in a big way of local talent?
COOKE: I think the market is self-correcting in that way and I don't think it's just because of Limbaugh and Sandra Fluke. This genre of talk radio was already getting old. You've seen the ratings, this Democrats bad, Republicans good, but I'm right, you're wrong, I talk, you listen thing was already on the wane and as ratings methodology got more sophisticated, we see mathematical evidence that its appeal may have been overestimated all along. Let me be clear, radio is fine. Two hundred forty-four million people in the USA age 12 and older will listen to AM/FM radio this week. Rush Limbaugh has got 14 million listeners, he used to have 22. He's got 14 million listeners, which is still nothing to sneeze at, but that's less than 6 percent of the people listening to radio.
Cooke apparently wasn't listening to Schultz earlier when Schultz was insisting that It's All Limbaugh's Fault. In time we will better see whether Limbaugh's criticism of Fluke was flash in the pan or tipping point. And while Schultz will never acknowledge it, he's done his part to turn radio listeners away from political talk.