Mainstream advertisers are abandoning Rush Limbaugh after the embattled talk-radio host called Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke “a slut” and “a prostitute” for saying her university health plan should cover contraception. But while AOL and Allstate headline the more than 20 advertisers heading for the exits, at least two new would-be sponsors—matchmaking sites SeekingArrangements.com (pairing sugar daddies and sugar babies) and AshleyMadison.com (for adulterers)—are vying to fill that vacuum, or at least snatch a bit of the media frenzy surrounding Limbaugh’s remarks.
“Advertising on Rush seems to be the logical move, he’s actually a sugar daddy,” Seeking Arrangements founder and CEO Brandon Wade told the Daily Beast, defining the term as an older, wealthier man involved with a much younger woman. “One of the things we have found [is that] even though a lot of Republicans are not willing to say they embody the sugar-daddy lifestyle,” many in fact do, he said, claiming that 60 percent of the site’s male members say they are Republicans.
On signing up for membership, the site asks that “If you are an ESCORT, please do not join this website.” Rather than prostitution, “there is an exchange,” says Wade. “The other side of the exchange is a relationship where companionship is involved.”
Noel Biderman, the CEO of AshleyMadison.com offered a less contorted explanation of his site’s offer to fill all of Limbaugh’s newly vacated advertising space: “I’m opportunistic, I’m always opportunistic.” (Both sites put out press releases touting their plans to buy airtime on Limbaugh’s show).
“The motivation is economic. I’m in the business of promoting something controversial, and mainstream conservatives aren’t open to my brand, [but] I know my audience listens to Rush Limbaugh,” said Biderman, adding that he’d tried to advertise on the program before.
“I wrote an email to the director of programming, we tried back in 2009 and went all the way to the top and got shot down.”
While sugar daddies and philanderers would seem to have a vested interest in keeping contraception as accessible as possible, both companies have a track record of trying to tap into the political zeitgeist whenever possible. Wade endorsed Mitt Romney for president in January, calling him an exemplar of “sugar daddyism” after the former Massachusetts governor took out his wallet and gave $50 to an out-of-work 55-year-old woman who met him on the campaign trail and detailed her financial problems. The statement also took note of the Republican candidate’s “amazing good looks.” Biderman’s company placed a billboard featuring thrice-married Newt Gingrich in Bucks County, Pa., with the text: “Faithful Republican, Unfaithful Husband. Welcome to the AshleyMadison.com Era.”
“To offer their products and services to you through this venue is the best opportunity that they have ever had to advertise their wares,” Limbaugh told listeners this week about the advertisers, including AOL and Quicken Loans, who’ve dropped his costly show. “Now they've chosen to deny themselves that access, and that's a business decision, and it's theirs alone to make.”
“Rush’s recent remarks [about Sandra Fluke] are a lot of the reason” for SeekingArrangement’s ad buy, said Wade. “It’s outrageous that a lot of the other advertisers have pulled out.” He went on to bemoan that “mainstream media tends to call sugar babies prostitutes.” Asked if he considered the 30-year-old law student a “sugar baby,” Wade paused, and then gave a lengthy answer before settling on “no.”
Biderman took a less ideological approach, saying he’s just “building a brand.”
“People seem to believe their job isn’t to broadcast, just to judge,” he said.