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PALM BEACH, Fla. – Radio host Rush Limbaugh says ratings are in for March, the month during which he faced severe criticism after calling a Georgetown University graduate student pushing insurance-covered birth control a “slut,” and he claims the news is good.

“For those of you new to the program, and by the way, we now know,” Limbaugh said this afternoon, “we got numbers in from March. Through the roof. Skyrocketing. All kinds of new people here.”

While the remark was just an aside thought from another issue he was discussing, it reveals Limbaugh has been tracking the size of his audience since last month’s national uproar in which some sponsors departed his program and other new ones joined.

While Limbaugh did not provide any specifics today, on March 29 he did disclose some early percentages.

“The simple answer is that on the range of all 600 radio stations, our ratings are up anywhere from 10 percent to 60 percent, depending on the station,” he said at the time.

“And that’s as detailed as I’m going to get. What I mean by that is we could be up 33 percent on one station, 12 percent on another, and 60 percent is the top that we’re up on another. We’re up 50 percent in a number of places. The advertisers who hung in here are going gangbusters, yes. I mean, that’s the simple truth. The only ones who got hurt are the ones who left. And that’s its own tragedy because they left under false, trumped up, unreal pretenses. I don’t want to relive that. I just wanted to answer the question without getting too specific, because everybody’s asking about it.”

Today Limbaugh also introduced a brand-new advertiser to his show, a tea-party offshoot called FreedomWorks,  an organization with 1.6 million members “openly committed to lower taxes, less government and obviously more freedom for each American.”

“I love these moments in the program and it’s gonna be happening more and more this spring as we announce brand-new sponsors here on the EIB Network,” he stressed.

As WND reported last month, Limbaugh claimed companies who abandoned his program were getting “creamed” financially.

“The people who have been hurt on this program are the advertisers who left! They’ve been creamed,” Limbaugh said at the time.

“The advertisers who’ve really been hurt are the ones who’ve abandoned here. I just assume everybody understood that. Let me tell you: We have 22 million people here [in our listening audience] who have stopped patronizing these people … . It’s major in many instances, the harm that has been inflicted.”

Among the first major advertisers to drop Limbaugh’s show were ProFlowers, Quicken Loans, mattress retailers Sleep Train and Sleep Number, software maker Citrix Systems, data-backup provider Carbonite and online legal-document company LegalZoom. Dozens of others, mostly in local markets and not nationally, followed suit.

Many of Limbaugh’s listeners have thought the broadcaster had taken a financial hit due to a boycott campaign promoted by leftists at Media Matters and elsewhere. They have been targeting his advertisers in the wake of national controversy for his calling Sandra Fluke a “slut” and “prostitute” as she pushed for insurance-covered birth control. He has since apologized for those remarks.

The head of Clear Channel, the national distributor of Limbaugh’s program, said the outrage over Limbaugh’s remarks was “part of the normal day-to-day of talk radio.”

“Rush is Rush and radio is radio,” CEO Bob Pittman told the Associated Press, referring to the host as “the king.”

“Rush is certainly the leader, and we’re delighted to have him.”

Pittman confirmed advertisers leaving the show did not have a large impact on the company, and there has not been a major move among stations to drop Rush. Limbaugh himself has noted other advertisers are lining up to replace deserters, and some of those who had left have sought to return, with one “practically begging to come back.”

The Sacramento Bee identified the company seeking to return as Sleep Train, but Limbaugh spokesman Brian Glicklich released an email suggesting a permanent split between the parties:

“Rush received your requests personally,” said the email. “Unfortunately, your public comments were not well received by our audience, and did not accurately portray either Rush Limbaugh’s character or the intent of his remarks. Thus, we regret to inform you that Rush will be unable to endorse Sleep Train in the future.”

Limbaugh maintains that those on the political left orchestrating the onslaught against him are feigning any previous financial support for the companies they’re trying to intimidate.

“These so-called angry consumers are not patronizing any of these sponsors. They’re just calling and then threatening them,” he said last month. “These so-called angry consumers (who are not angry consumers, they’re just Democrat Party operatives or people sympathetic to the Democrat Party) [who] are just calling and harassing and threatening them. They’re not buying anything from these sponsors.”

Limbaugh directed listeners to DefendSmallBusiness.com, a website run by the Small Business Authority, which is fighting back against the anti-Limbaugh campaign promoted by the leftist group Media Matters.

The website has numerous contacts for elected officials, national news outlets and even provides direct emails and a phone number for people to call Media Matters.

“Ask them why they are at war with small businesses,” the site says. “Be civil, don’t sink to their level. Call again if you think they didn’t listen to you carefully.”

Limbaugh says targeting his radio show and advertisers are nothing new, but it’s never been this focused because opponents “smell blood in the water.”

“And this is the first time that small business has not cowered,” Limbaugh said, referring to DefendSmallBusiness.com.

“Honest to God, folks. In 23-plus years this is the first time small business has not cowered and caved and gone away. And thought if they just shut up, it will go away. Because you know what they’ve realized? It won’t go away. The next show will just be the next target, the next host or what have you. In the meantime they’re not gonna be able to advertise their business. And they know that it works, and they want to be able to do that.”

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