Rush Limbaugh is a millstone around the neck of the talk radio format.

The nation’s largest radio broadcasting company, Clear Channel, has been shedding jobs for a while now. Despite rebranding itself as  iHeart Communications, the company remains mired deeply in debt thanks to a 2008 private-equity deal with Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners. Facing a negative cash flow, iHeart Communications is moving into digital radio because broadcast revenue is expected to be flat until 2018. Their junk bonds are among the riskiest on Wall Street, rated CCC, which means “currently vulnerable to nonpayment,” “substantial risk” and “extremely speculative.” Rather than pay off their debts, iHeart Communications is finding creative ways to delay the inevitable — and offering higher interest to attract capital to their very risky terms.

Clear Channel has never been profitable since the Bain deal, but the fiscal year ending in June 2013 saw the company’s first cash-flow deficit in four years. So what happened in 2012? StopRush is what happened. Limbaugh’s disgusting three-day tirade of misogyny against Sandra Fluke spawned a huge reaction in social media and blogs, leading thousands of volunteers to start a divestment effort aimed at convincing sponsors to pull their ads from his program.

When iHeart Media Chairman and CEO Bob Pittman recently told Bloomberg about his company’s positives, he listed Ryan Seacrest — but not Rush Limbaugh. In fact, the talk format is fading from the FM band as Limbaugh keeps losing stations and declining in the ratings. In May 2013, Lew Dickey, the CEO of America’s 2nd largest broadcaster, Cumulus Media, specifically blamed Rush Limbaugh’s toxic brand for low revenues, while Radio Ink reported that 48 of the top 50 network advertisers had excluded Rush from their ad orders.

Since that time, Limbaugh’s show has featured so few real commercial breaks that StopRush activists have been reduced to asking nonprofits to pull their PSAs. Volunteers have found themselves contacting smaller and smaller businesses because almost all the big corporate sponsors have pulled their advertising. The resulting cash crunch has been so bad that FreedomWorks has started subsidizing Limbaugh’s salary.

While there are surely some people who love Limbaugh, his brand is absolutely toxic outside that fan base. His show long ago passed outside the bounds of respectable office listening, for example. With such a narrow audience, he just keeps getting worse: in the weeks since Limbaugh’s comment belittling sexual consent, “no means yes if you know how to spot it,” a petition posted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to his advertisers has gotten nearly 350,000 signatures. Rush Limbaugh is surely popular, but he is also incredibly unpopular.

So what’s an overpaid, underperforming, bigoted misogynist to do in these circumstances? Hire a hitman, of course!

Meet reputational hit-man Brian Glicklich

Brian Glicklich has his arms crossed to let you know he's serious
His arms are crossed to let you know he’s very serious

One year before Limbaugh’s tirade galvanized the nascent Limbaugh divestment movement, Brian Glicklich’s website advertised his experience helping “high profile individuals and organizations achieve tactical and strategic goals through the highly leveraged use of the Internet.” His clients, including broadcasters, paid top dollar for his assistance in overcoming organized opposition and boycotts — like, say, StopRush.

Glicklich currently works for Sitrick and Company as Chairman of the firm’s “digital practice” doing “reputation management.” Glicklich is a professional driver of fake ‘grassroots,’ or astroturf, causes. He owns more than three dozen unused URLs for National Football League team fansites, for example.

But he also has deep and abiding ties with Limbaugh. Glicklich’s company profile brags of creating and leading the digital division of Premiere Radio Networks as its senior vice president. He also owns Limbaugh-related domains such as rushbabesforamerica.net, nationalorganizationforrushbabes.com, and rushfacts.com — all URLs associated with his failed efforts to repair Limbaugh’s image. On his profile at the Huffington Post, where he has written a screed attacking Media Matters’ Eric Boehlert, Glicklich lists himself as “the Spokesperson for The Rush Limbaugh Show” — not just one of Limbaugh’s spokesmen, but The Spokesman.

Glenn Beck is another longtime client of Glicklich, who owns Beck-related domains such as theblazetv.com. Beck, who was the subject of a successful divestment effort by Color of Change that killed his advertising and led to Fox News cancelling his show, is now a webcasting millionaire and defamation defendant. Glicklich’s goal is to prevent that fate from happening to another right wing hate radio client.

Like Mercury Radio Arts President and COO Chris Balfe, Glicklich uses Austin-based security guru Spencer Coursen to do his threat assessments. A consultant for the film Zero Dark Thirty, Coursen was arrested in May after his client, the widow of “American Sniper” Chris Kyle, found that he had improperly charged her credit card for thousands of dollars in car rentals.

Glicklich’s boss is Michael Sitrick, who proudly admits to being a professional spinmeister. In his press coverage, Sitrick compares himself to ‘The Wolf,’ the mob fixer character in Quentin Tarantino’s film Pulp Fiction. The firm’s clients have included Michael Vick, the NFL star convicted of taking part in an illegal dog-fighting ring; the Church of Scientology; and the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which needed help during the pedophile priest scandal of 2002.

One of Sitrick’s biggest brags is that he got news outlets to change or delete their coverage of Papa Johns pizza magnate John Schnatter after the CEO told an investor conference call in 2012 that Obamacare would ‘force’ him to jack up the price of his pies — rather than, say, foregoing a new addition to his underground 22-car garage.

Toadying to the rich and infamous is apparently very rewarding work: Glicklich lives in a $1.8 million home in Agoura Hills, California with his wife and three children because Sitrick reportedly charges these clients $900 an hour. But whatever Rush pays them, it’s far too much money for what he’s getting.

Spreading a kooky conspiracy theory through right wing tabloids

In the wake of the DCCC petition, Limbaugh seems to have panicked over his continued toxicity. But instead of cleaning up his act, the bloviator decided to send his personal goon squad after the activists who have given him such tremendous butthurt.

Suddenly, Glicklich appeared in the Twitter streams of #stoprush activists, accusing them of a ridiculous conspiracy theory drawn from the fringe-addled depths of his imagination. He has pushed this narrative through right wing outlets like WorldNetDaily, the original birther website; CNS News, whose reporter, Michael Chapman, immediately confused me with actor David Boreanaz; and Breitbart.com, where anti-masturbation crusader and professional bully Ben Shapiro works.

In terms of facts, Glicklich has merely published a few names and email addresses of StopRush volunteers who tweet. Presenting absolutely no proof that any of them has any relationship whatsoever with Media Matters For America, Glicklich maintains that this tiny group of random activists (that he has selected) are the only actual StopRush activists in the world — and that they are doing something illegal, or at least immoral, on behalf of MMFA founder David Brock.

Just to give you an idea how silly this is, the FlushRush Facebook group has more more than 20,000 members. No more than about 10% of StopRush activism has ever taken place on Twitter at any time in the last two years. Yet Glicklich encourages Rush Limbaugh’s fans to send people disgusting emails on this misbegotten basis, and keeps tweeting his nonsense in the vain hope that enough false headlines and intimidation will magically disappear more than 300,000 petition signatures, restore thousands of lost advertisers, and convince the world that only a few malcontents dislike the Dear and Widely Beloved Leader Kim Jong Un Rush Limbaugh.

Glicklich also noticed that some (though by no means all) of those #stoprush tweeters had a Unite Blue twibbon on their accounts, so he accused the creator of that group of participating in his imaginary Twitter conspiracy. Glicklich has tried projecting some really absurd powers on Mr. Zach Green, the Twitter API developer who created #UniteBlue and who has worked in the past with Herman Cain as well as other tea party candidates.

In Glicklich’s bizarre narrative, StopRush Twitter users are all somehow violating the social media network’s rules with as-yet unnamed, magical software tools that do not actually exist anywhere on the internet. That ought to put his credibility somewhere between the chupacabra and fake moon landings, but of course it’s also why he shopped the story to a birther website.

Smears will not slow down StopRush. Quite the opposite, really

With first-stringers like Glicklich, it’s no wonder Rush Limbaugh is losing the war against his critics. In fact, the movement hasn’t been this energized since 2012; Glicklich’s smears have had the opposite effect from the one he intended. Sure, he’s managed to get some fringe right wing sites to repeat them credulously, but no major media outfit is going to touch his story because it’s quite obviously bunk — and his client is extremely toxic.

Indeed, Glicklich seems to imagine that he can make StopRush activists so hated that Americans will somehow forget how much they dislike Limbaugh. But that is not going to work because they are not on the air every weekday making bigoted remarks like he is. Furthermore, the radio industry is changing in ways that reduce his audience and influence even without the help of divestment activists. The huge price tag of his show is no longer justified by the revenue he brings in.

It’s just a matter of time before gravity — or an investors’ conference call — brings reality crashing down on the soft protective bubble around Rush Limbaugh.

  • Zero

    Of course the sad part is that even if all Pig Boy’s contracts are torn up tomorrow, he’ll still get to go home to his palatial estate and sleep on his oversize mattress stuffed with $1000 bills. He’s got more money than he’ll ever be able to spend. Even with 3 going on 4 ex-beards.

    • He’s not going to lose anything — in fact, when he follows Glenn Beck into the brave new world of paid web content, he’ll probably be richer than ever for it. But making him poor was never the point of StopRush. Deflating his artificially-enhanced cultural value was.

      • JustaSlob

        Cripes…. I hadn’t thought about that. Do you happen to know the fate Tundra Barbie’s venture? I haven’t seen anything on it.

        • The channel is still happening, though of course we don’t know what the results are. At BU, we have considered paying for the channel so we can mock her and post clips, but we’ve decided against doing that because it would mean killing our brain cells to watch Sarah Palin every day.

          • JustaSlob

            With ya….. I have no idea what the late-night comedy writers get paid to watch all that shit… but I’m pretty sure they’re underpaid.

  • OooShiny

    …FreedomWorks has started subsidizing Limbaugh’s salary.

    Ka-CHING, baby! Hearing Beck hawk FreedomWorks hour after hour on XM radio in the car, then watching him get crazier and crazier online with his batshiat prophecies just to get mainstream shock-clicks, I wondered if FW is subsidizing far-right fringers like Beck and Limbaugh. Because surely they can’t be selling enough Armageddon seeds to hayseeds to keep these kings in the lifestyle to which they are accustomed, riiight?

    As the FreedomWorks script consistently chants “Vote Republican or we’re all gonna die!!” via Beck, Rush, NewsMax and the Tea Party, I was nauseated but not surprised to learn that FW was birthered by a Koch.

    Very nice research, sir; enjoyed the read.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FreedomWorks#History

    • Pedro

      Those evil Koch brothers . . .

      • The Koch brothers are the undisputed kings of RW organizing. They’ve been at it for longer than anyone else, their money is everywhere in the movement, and they created tea parties as we’ve known them.

        • Pedro

          The facts are what they are. Talk to the SEIU/Teamsters/AFL-CIO . . . Read them and weep . . .

  • KittyFitzGerald

    Poor Rush. He thought he was getting stellar advice. GREAT job Matt!

  • JustaSlob

    It’s easy to spot his followers…

    • They’ll both be on Twitter later to tell us how wrong we are about Rush.

    • Pedro

      So much better!

      • JustaSlob

        Your party.

        • Pedro

          Yes, reducing taxes, enforcing laws, and following the Constitution. What a bunch of whackos! Maybe MM will donate all his money (and fat) to help the poor. I doubt it.

          • JustaSlob

            Uh huh

          • Pedro

            You’re a raping duck? Figures. You n Billy boy and the Kennedys can share secrets about the war on women! You know, best way to drug them, rape them, and kill them.

            Keep up the laughs!

          • Paul Duca

            Sounds like Pedro can’t afford to keep a woman around to take care in him…in every way possible–and worse, can’t even find one that would do so out of “conservative gals HAVE to be married to SOME man” mentality

          • Paul Duca

            Careful,,,with a name like Pedro, he might get caught up in Republicans enforcing immigration laws–getting deported since he MUST be an illegal. After all, his name is Pedro!

          • Pedro

            That’s really the best you can do? What a joke!

          • Paul Duca

            It’s a bigger joke to adore Rush’s wealth and think it’s the best Pedro can do…

          • Pedro

            You said that, not me. Why don’t you go back to your Jim Crow laws and the KKK (All Democrat creations) and you can deal with your white gulit.

          • Paul Duca

            How does Hispanic groveling to white conservatism make Pedro’s life any better? Does he hope to be invited to Rush’s mansion and not be expected to clean the pool?

          • Pedro

            I didn’t grovel, I simply pointed out a fact. To presume someone named Pedro should clean pools speaks volumes.

          • Stuart Dahlquist

            I have this crazy idea that you are Pedro Celis…

  • Ratcraft

    Rush, so popular even those who hate him listen to him. Write about him. Look at all the comments on this one, most I’ve ever seen. Rush is good for business.

    • Warren Taylor

      I don’t.

    • Bob

      11 comments? Your standards seem a bit low.

      • Pedro

        Well, with a site that has 11 followers, that’s a pretty good number!

  • Pedro

    Estimated net worth of $400 million . . . yep, he really is hurting!

    • Paul Duca

      Pedro…even if you became Rush for the Hispanics, you couldn’t clear 400 million in 10 lifetimes.

      • Pedro

        Why? Because the Dems would never let a minority move up the ranks! Maybe I could get in will the billions crowd like Lurch Kerry! Pathetic. Four articles in four days and its a “news” site!

        • Paul Duca

          Explain to us what you do in life that makes you think you’ll rise in the Republican ranks, Pedro…other than believing that the 1% invite the ones that toady to them most impressively to join them?

          • Pedro

            I never claimed to want to rise in Republican ranks. Mr. Soros and I are on good terms (1%)

          • Stuart Dahlquist

            So it is you Pedro Celis…

          • Pedro

            Wrong again, but that is par for the course with progs . . . Let the war on everyone who doesn’t agree with you begin.