Rush Limbaugh, the notoriously polemical radio talk show host, yielded to public pressure Saturday. He issued a public apology to law student Sandra Fluke who he had previously called a “slut” and a “prostitute” during his radio program. Limbaugh conceded in his apology that his “choice of words was not the best.” No hard feelings then, Sandra?
Fluke had previously testified to Democrats on a House committee about health care plans. Limbaugh objected to her testimony, which supported compelling her college to offer health plans that cover her birth control.
Reactions to Limbaugh’s broadcast comments were swift and intense. All could smell PR blood. President Obama called Fluke to offer his support (and made that public), while no less than six major advertisers have suspended advertising.
The PR Verdict: “F” for an apology that isn’t. In PR terms this was not an effective apology. At best, it was a clarifying statement.
Public apologies are never easy. The golden PR rule: State clearly what you are apologizing for, and then stop talking. Reinforce the apology with an unexpected action and save self-serving and mitigating factors for day two. Limbaugh would have gotten more mileage by inviting Fluke on his show to make her case rather than launching back into his arguments, as he did with his apology. Fluke still has the upper PR hand and advertisers haven’t changed their decision to withdraw. Sometimes it’s hard to say you’re sorry.
What’s your PR verdict on Rush Limbaugh’s apology to Sandra Fluke? Give us your grade: