PORTLAND — At least one Maine company has removed its ads from the Rush Limbaugh show on WGAN radio in response to the talk show host’s comments last week about a woman who testified before Congress in favor of health insurance coverage for contraceptives, but the station’s general manager said the show will stay on the air.

Downeast Energy, which is based in Brunswick, pulled its ads from the show Monday, said Betsy Morrell, the company’s vice president of marketing.

“We have asked the station to discontinue running ads in that time slot due to the host’s repeated pattern of making inflammatory statements that don’t represent the values of Downeast Energy,” Morrell said.

Morrell said the company was running ads for a spring promotion on WGAN. It bought a specific number of ads per day, but in what is a common practice for radio, left it to the station to determine when to air them, she said.

One aired during Limbaugh’s show on Monday and someone asked about the company’s support for Limbaugh in a comment left on Downeast Energy’s Facebook page, the company said.

Downeast Energy then contacted its media buyer to tell the station it didn’t want any more ads running on Limbaugh’s show, which airs from noon to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Last week, Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke, a law student, a slut and a prostitute for telling a Congressional panel that contraceptives should be covered by health insurance. Limbaugh explained his statement over the weekend, saying “my choice of words was not the best” and he was attempting to be humorous, although Fluke has dismissed that as insufficient.

Nationally, eight advertisers have suspended their advertising on Limbaugh’s show. On Monday, a station in Hawaii pulled the show off the air.

There are no plans to follow suit in Maine, said Cary Pahigian, the president and general manager of Portland Radio, which owns WGAN and eight other stations.

Pahigian said earlier Monday that he hadn’t heard any complaints from advertisers. Attempts to contact him after learning of Downeast Energy’s decision were unsuccessful.

Pahigian said others who called to complain were apparently responding to the outcry over Limbaugh’s comments and he believes they do not regularly tune in to his station or to Limbaugh’s show.

The callers he talked to “couldn’t say where we were,” Pahigian said. “I ask them what other shows they listen to and they can’t name one. I ask where we are on the dial and they can’t say.”

Pahigian said the Limbaugh show is one of the most popular shows on the station, but the station’s decision to carry it “does not mean we condone anything he’s said, particularly in this case.”

An online petition calls on WGAN to drop the show and run one hosted by a woman. The petition, on signon.org, had been signed by more than 2,200 people by late Monday afternoon and it carried a goal of 3,000 signatures.

An attempt to contact the woman who started the poll was unsuccessful and Pahigian said he doesn’t expect to ever see the petition.

“In all my time in radio, I’ve seen petition drives many times, (but) I have never been presented with a petition,” he said.

Pahigian said removing a talk show host from the airwaves for making controversial comments “is a very dangerous road to go down.”

He said Limbaugh has been a “game-changer” for the radio industry, and people like that are often controversial.

“Rush Limbaugh is on the airwaves because there’s a high demand to listen to what he says,” Pahigian said. “You’d have to say has made an impact, whether you like him or not.”

Pahigian said he was happy to see that Limbaugh apologized about the comments and “I will take him at his word” that it was sincere.

Pahigian noted that the radio group’s country music station continued to run music by the Dixie Chicks after members of the group made some comments that were derogatory about former President George W. Bush.

“Where do we draw the line?” he asked. “Pull the Dixie Chicks and play Rush Limbaugh? Or pull Rush Limbaugh and play the Dixie Chicks?”

Pahigian said WGAN pays a fee to run talk shows and Limbaugh’s show is the most expensive in the industry. In return, WGAN is able to sell some spots on the show.

MaineToday Media, which publishes The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, allows some of its columnists and reporters to appear on WGAN’s local talk shows.


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