Cancellation of Ads May Be Just the Beginning for Rush Limbaugh


 

People across the country have united in an effort to express our outrage over Rush Limbaugh’s attack on Sandra Fluke, the 3rd year law student from Georgetown University.

David Frum, a conservative voice in the country, has explained why Limbaugh’s comments were unforgivable. He said:

“Even by the rough standards of cable/talk radio/digital talk, Limbaugh’s verbal abuse of Sandra Fluke set a new kind of low. I can’t recall anything as brutal, ugly and deliberate ever being said by such a prominent person and so emphatically repeated. This was not a case of a bad “word choice.” It was a brutally sexualized accusation, against a specific person, prolonged over three days.”

Now that many advertisers have pulled their ads, there is another form of redress Ms. Fluke might consider.  Given the fact that she is a law student, she presumably knows about legal remedies that may be available to her. Although it would be pure speculation on my part, I would guess that she has already been contacted by several attorneys, willing to take her case on a contingency fee basis. I am not a practicing attorney any longer, and never practiced in Washington D.C. However even law students understand that there are civil remedies for the type of attack lodged by Rush Limbaugh. Here are some important general claims that may be considered:

A. Defamation

Georgetown is in Washington DC, so for purposes of this article, I’ll focus on DC law, but similar statutes would apply in most jurisdictions.

In Washington D.C. a Plaintiff has a claim for Defamation if they can prove these four elements:

 

1. the defendant (Rush Limbaugh) made a false and defamatory statement concerning the plaintiff (Sandra Fluke);

2. the defendant published the statement without privilege to a third party;

3. the defendant’s fault in publishing the statement amounted to at least negligence; and

4. either the statement was actionable as a matter of law irrespective of special harm or its publication caused the plaintiff special harm. http://www.citmedialaw.org/legal-guide/district-columbia-defamation-law

There is also a claim for Defamation Per Se, which means that as a matter of law (the judge could rule without a jury trial on the issue of liability) the statement was defamatory.

B. Defamation Per Se

In the District of Columbia, a statement that falsely accuses someone of committing a crime constitutes defamation per se. If a statement is defamation per se, the court will assume harm to the plaintiff’s reputation, without further need to prove that harm.

Prostitution is illegal in Washington D.C.,  and thus saying that a woman is a prostitute would constitute an accusation that Ms. Fluke has committed the crime of prostitution.

 

C. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

There is a tort of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress. Four elements must be shown for this tort to be proven. They are:

1. The Defendant (Mr. Limbaugh) must have acted intentionally or recklessly;

2. The defendant’s conduct must be extreme and outrageous;

3. The conduct must be the cause;

4. Severe emotional distress results.

Given the comments of Mr. Frumm, it appears these elements might be satisfied.

 

Damages

Actual Damages are real damages designed to compensate a plaintiff for actual financial loss or injuries that have actually occurred. This is in contrast to “nominal” damages (a small amount paid where there is no real loss) or “punitive” damages (intended to punish the party who must pay damages). When damages, which have been suffered by someone as a result of another’s wrongdoing, can be precisely measured, they are called actual damages. Examples of actual damages are: 1)Loss of income because of an injury 2) medical expenses, are 3) costs of repairing damaged property.

The most dangerous type of damages are punitive damages. Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, may be awarded by the trier of fact (a jury or a judge, if a jury trial was waived) in addition to actual damages. Punitive damages are a way of punishing the defendant in a civil lawsuit and are based on the theory that the interests of society and the individual harmed can be met by imposing additional damages on the defendant. Punitive damages have been characterized as “quasi-criminal” because they stand halfway between the criminal and Civil Law. Though they are awarded to a plaintiff in a private civil lawsuit, they are noncompensatory and in the nature of a criminal fine.http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/punitive+damages. There are three things about punitive damages that are important: 1) They are not usually covered by insurance, 2) they are usually a lot of money, and 3) if the judge finds that punitive damages may be appropriate, he/she may allow evidence of financial matters to be presented, that would normally not be allowed in the trial. The reasoning behind this is that if the jury finds that it would be appropriate to punish a defendant, assessing a financial penalty is difficult without knowing the financial status of the person or company to be punished. If you are a street person with only $2.00 in your pocket, a finding of $2.00 in punitive damages might be devastating. However if you are Rush Limbaugh, and have a contract with Clear Channel for $400,000,000.00 it would take a lot more of a financial penalty to get his attention.

Liability of Clear Channel

Because Rush Limbaugh was broadcasting with Clear Channel, Clear Channel may have significant exposure as a result of the conduct of Limbaugh. Especially because Limbaugh has a history of making outrageous statements on his shows, and attacking various groups, Clear Channel has been put on notice of this type of behavior and has chosen to opt for rating, instead of fair reporting. Rachel Maddow reported on this history of Limbaugh saying things to generate ratings, which translates into money. If this could be proved in court, a jury could decide that Clear Channel should be punished for trading ratings for civility, for undeserved personal attacks by Mr. Limbaugh that were “…brutal, ugly and deliberate…and prolonged over three days.” While Rush Limbaugh and Clear Channel may be unfettered by the cancellation of advertisers on the Rush Limbaugh Show the public outcry and the fact that so many have cancelled their ads would be evidence of the extreme reaction of the people across the country. If Clear Channel allows Mr. Limbaugh to continue broadcasting after this event, the fact that Clear Channel provided a platform from which he could continue this type of rabid attack, would likely be used against Clear Channel in a civil lawsuit where punitive damages could be appropriate. As a publically traded corporation Clear Channel has an obligation to report potential liabilities to its investors and shareholders.  This is a potential liability that I would not want to have to report or estimate.

31 thoughts on “Cancellation of Ads May Be Just the Beginning for Rush Limbaugh

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  1. Hooray!! Seems like we can all sue him and clear channel for some kind of damage…this has the added advantage of impacting Mitt Romney if his stake in Clear Channel via Bain Capital is correct…2 birds with one stone if my math is right…:)

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  2. Patricia Heaton, the actress currently in “The Middle” and formerly in ‘Everyone Loves Raymond’, has taken up where Rush left off by tweeting ignorant comments re: Sandra Fluke. It is time to start putting pressure on ABC’s sponsors (and ABC). The comments Patricia made make me even sicker than what Rush said. The “far right” has really gone too far.

    http://todayentertainment.today.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/03/05/10584003-patricia-heaton-leaves-twitter-after-bashing-georgetown-student

    and

    http://www.newser.com/story/141095/patricia-heaton-attacks-sandra-fluke-deletes-twitter.html

    Like

    1. So not only was she an entitled suburban housewife BITCH on TEEVEE – a very unpleasant, whining, nag to Poor Raymond, she IS that in REAL LIFE, only worse. I am glad that her acting didn’t cover up what most of us felt – what a nasty woman and Poor, Raymond!

      Like

    2. Wow………..there’s another show I won’t be watching!!

      Not to mention, I will never watch another Everybody loves Raymond re-run.

      Sounds like another boycott is necessary.

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    3. Ugh, I read about this earlier today. This is a 54-year-old woman. What on earth is wrong with her? Honestly, that manic, abusive tweeting makes Palin look like she’s got her shit together.

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  3. Would the entire female student population at Georgetown Law or even the University as a whole, have standing for a class action lawsuit ?
    On March 2 , Limbaugh made comments like ” the women ” of Georgetown are sex addicts and all of them having so much sex they can’t afford birth control pills.
    And they all like to have sex in the back seats of cars and on and on.
    His filth and defamation went way beyond one woman and smeared all the women students.

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  4. I just read a post a KO’s. It has Rush literally blaming President Obama for his shameful remarks/actions/deeds.
    My computer is acting slow, otherwise I’d grab the link for you. If you want to read it, it’s one of the first few posts on the main page.
    I KNEW that they would blame our President somehow!

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  5. Now that pig has had the nerve to say he didn’t mean and and he “descended to the level of the Left” when he made that remark. If I EVER wanted to kick somebody in his non-existent balls, that just made it sound like the most enjoyable thing I could ever do.

    Wow, if I was angry before…!

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  6. I think the odious Limbaugh will survive this—but not intact. Now he won’t be such an object of fear to the cowardly GOP anymore.

    It seems to have come full circle. At the beginning of the Obama administration Rahm Emmanuel pushed the meme that Rush was the head of the GOP. Keith Olbermann made sure you heard it every almost everyday. So the GOP was hoisted on their own large petard–Rush. Republicans let him rule with an iron fist. It was hilarious to watch how afraid they were of him. GOP congressman sniveled, senators genuflected, Sarah Palin let him say retarded repeatedly–when she bashed Emmanuel for saying it in an innocuous context. The fear was palpable and made them all look like scared morons.

    If the power had not gone to Rush’s fat head—this all would be mute. He’d just be a rich, idiot, shock jock—but he had to be the nasty conservative political exterminator.

    Those chicken have come home to roost.

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    1. The Republicans response to what Limbaugh said was so telling. Boehner said his remarks “were inappropriate.” Joan Walsh pointed out that was a very strange word to use. She said “Inappropriate” would be to invite someone to your house and have them sit on a whoopie cushion!! George Will said Inappropriate is when you use the salad fork to eat your entree (buy don’t those two sentences show the difference between Dems. and Rep.)

      Williard said “those would not have been the words I would have used.” Williard, just what words WOULD you have used. Strumpet? Harlot?

      If Willard had anything resembling a spine (I won’t even hope for a ‘still spine’) he should have said: “My wife and I have raised 5 sons and if one of our boys had used that kind of language his ears would have been ringing till New Years Eve!!!!”

      What frady cats these guys are. They talk big when it comes to bombing Muslim countries but scurry in fear away from a fat, sexually confused, pill popping, ass hole. Just the kind of men I’d like to see in the White House.

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  7. I made my self listen to Limbaugh’s show this morning and he apologized over the waves to Ms. Fluke. (Which she didn’t accept – good for her!) But, he is blaming the Dems/liberals regarding all of this. And, states time and time again that his show is for the people that listen to him, he reviewed what President Obama did regarding this religious issue on contraception, how he turned down GM to be a paid advertiser on his program, etc. etc.

    This is going to be interesting. We need to keep after the sponsors and notice to his bosses, etc. to have his show cancelled.

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  8. My email to Clear Channel today..

    Time to jettison this man if you care anything at all about doing what is right
    versus using a character like this to draw your audience for profit potential.

    Rush used the system he rails against to extricate himself from the oxycontin mess he was in, has been married several times (4), never served in the armed forces with a supposed “back ailment” and flunked out of college to boot.. yet here he is, signed to a reported $400 mil contract, spewing racist, sexist and other inflammatory drivel as an expert on everything, apparently going under the protection of Clear Channel!

    Jettison this buffoon and prove that the old axiom ” a fool and his money”..ie.$400 Mil,. are soon parted.

    Do so if you have any semblance of corporate integrity and responsibility.

    Like

  9. WOW!!! Ya’ll are sad. I guess freedom of speech doesn’t mean anything if it doesn’t agree with yall. Thanks for letting me know a couple of sponsors that backed out on him. I won’t use them and I’ll be watching P. Heaton in anything she does. See it can go both ways….

    BTW – what he said is true, and that’s why yall are so upset about it. Personal shame is all it is…

    Also, the funny thing is that the Woman’s Movement, in this regard, has given men what they’ve always wanted. Sex without consequence. Thanks ladies!!!! You gave up the only true power you had to try to keep your power over a man. The gap hasn’t been closed, so don’t foul yourselves. Yall just moved it all over.

    There are bigger things to worry about in this country than this garbage. The economy is crappy, gas prices are high, young teenagers are having orgies, and Iran is getting closer to getting a NUKE. Which they will use to bomb Israel, a socialist but conservative country that has amazing woman’s rights laws compared to the rest of the Middle East. Stop falling for all these distractions by your beloved left leaders. Sheep will be sheep….

    Where are yall when Chris Matthews, Bill Maher (who just gave a million $s to Obama), etc say worse things about woman??? Way to be fair ladies!!!!

    Lastly…don’t try to fight to make woman equal to men when yall are going to cry over a 30 yo woman getting a little insult thrown her way. So hypocritical and patheitc…

    Like

      1. Hey Dan it is men like you that are allowing women to buypass you everyday in all aspects of life. Take your head out of the sand unless of course you prefer it. Stand up be a man. Apparently your the one stuck in 3000 B.C.

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    1. Dan, free speech is a concept that is part of our Bill of Rights. Any person can boycott a companies product or services to make a statement. It’s telling that you support what Rush said, but have a problem with the former sponsors who agreed his comments were wrong. So it’s wrong for to boycott a company for supporting Rush,… but it’s ok for you to boycott the same company for refusing to support Rush??? Is that what you are saying?

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  10. A little insult? Are you crazy? Have you read some of the crap your type has posted on Pamela Gellers site. She has gone bonkers.

    Like

  11. Funny, it took Rush to wake up some women and some men. Santorum and the rest of the Religious crackpots woke some of us up, but not enough. Sarah Palin started the process of waking us up.

    Thank you Sarah Palin. You were the bell whether sheep, ringing your bells and shooting off your mouth. Santorum. Cain, Perry and Bachman helped.

    And now Rush really opened some womens eyes.

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  12. Where were all you whiney butts when Ed Schultz called Laura Ingraham a “right wing slut????” He was suspended for a week and there was little coverage in the media. Once again, the Left demonstrates its double standard. I am a woman and I, too, won’t be purchasing from any company that cancelled their advertising with Rush even though I think his comments were inappropriate although I agree that the Federal government needs to get out of our bedrooms and
    the healthcare and contraceptive business. Scary!!!!!

    Like

  13. There are also FCC rules about obscene and indecent speech which bind radio stations. I don’t know how the FCC deals with verbal abuse.

    Like

  14. I hope she sues Rush Limbaugh and Clear Channel for everything they have…and gives half the money to try and improve the political discourse in this country.

    Like

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