Several weeks ago, the national debate over birth control policy was already at the boiling point, and then bombastic right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh tossed in a heaping measure of vitriol. He called Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute." This was after Fluke testified before Congress on the importance of contraceptive coverage for students and employees at religiously affiliated institutions. Advertisers around the country began pulling spots from Limbaugh's show. A national petition asking radio company Clear Channel to kill the show altogether now has close to 500,000 signatures.
Missoulians Dave Chrismon and Nancy Cooper also have a petition, with more than 1,600 signatures, asking NewsTalk KGVO Radio to take Limbaugh's show off the air locally. The couple was especially offended by his comments because their daughter, Beth, a junior at Georgetown, is so much like Fluke. "We could see a woman there whom we wish our daughter could be in five or six years," Chrismon says, "having faith in the system and the energy and the bravery to step up and speak so eloquently about a subject that's a little controversial, for sure, but not something way out of bounds." He says Limbaugh "has this huge bullhorn, this huge pulpit, that he's using to bully people."
On April 12, Chrismon and Cooper presented their petition to Shawna Batt, Townsquare Media's general manager for the Missoula market (Townsquare owns KGVO). They also created a website, www.rushoutofmissoula.com, listing all of KGVO's advertisers. As of Tuesday, four local advertisers had responded by pulling their ads from KGVO.
But Batt says it's "very unlikely" that the effort will get Limbaugh off the air in Missoula. The petition has close to 1,300 signatures of Montanans, "and I've had twice that much in emails in support of Rush," she says. "The other thing is, contractually, we're obligated" to air Limbaugh's show.
KGVO's most recent ratings show that more than 14,000 listeners tune into Limbaugh's show every week.
Now Chrismon and Cooper are the ones being bullied. They've received several emails with comments like, "Please take the American flag off your website! You are a communist! Go back to Russia or China where you belong," and "Get a life and turn off your radio. Rush will go away just by that simple act."
"We are community members who see something we feel passionately about and want to make a stand, and we get attacked personally," Cooper laments.