A Rapid City group is calling on KOTA Radio to take Rush Limbaugh’s show off the air for the inflammatory comments he made last week on his nationally syndicated radio talk show.

Limbaugh made headlines and drew bipartisan criticism for calling a Georgetown University law student a “slut” and a “prostitute” last Wednesday. The 30-year-old student, Sandra Fluke, was invited to testify at a Congressional hearing in favor of a mandate requiring employee health plans to include free contraceptive coverage.

The language Limbaugh used is demeaning to women, and families should not have to hear it over the radio during midday broadcasting hours, said Holly Sortland, founder and executive director of Rapid City nonprofit ProjectRespect.org.

“We think it’s hate speech,” Sortland said Monday. “We don’t think there’s a difference in calling a woman a slut or a prostitute versus calling a black person the n-word.”

Sortland created an online petition at Change.org and is collecting signatures to request that Limbaugh’s shows be taken off the broadcasting schedule of KOTA Radio, which broadcasts in and around Rapid City. KOTA broadcasts on AM 1380. Duhamel Broadcasting, which operates KOTA Radio, also operates KOTA TV and SHE 106.3, which has the tagline “We know what girls like!”

“Duhamel Broadcasting has an opportunity to do something great, an opportunity to send a message that they support women in the community,” the petition says. “We, along with thousands of others in the Black Hills hope that they will join us by calling out Mr. Limbaugh and discontinue his programming.”

More than 100 people from the Rapid City area and other parts of the country had signed the petition by Monday afternoon. Sortland hopes Duhamel Broadcasting issues a public response to the petition even if it does not take Limbaugh’s show off the air. The Rush Limbaugh Show airs on KOTA from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday, according to Limbaugh’s website.

Ted Peiffer, the general manager of Duhamel Broadcasting Enterprises, said Monday that KOTA does not intend to remove Limbaugh’s show from its programming. There was a copy of an apology from Limbaugh on KOTA’s website Monday afternoon, and Peiffer said broadcasters apologized on the air Friday for Limbaugh’s words.

“In no way does Duhamel Broadcasting or KOTA support what Rush Limbaugh has to say. At the same time we do live in a democracy. It does guarantee freedom of speech,” Peiffer said. “In a democracy, the majority rules. Quite frankly, the facts are that the Rush Limbaugh Show is the most listened to show in America.”

KOTA has the most listeners of any Rapid City radio station during the 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekday time slot, Peiffer said. The Rush Limbaugh Show drew 15 million listeners per week in 2010, according to Talkers Magazine.

Limbaugh’s assumption that being on birth control means a woman has sex frequently is illogical because there are many reasons a woman may take contraceptives, said Jenn Greenwaldt, a 31-year-old graphic designer who lives in Black Hawk and signed the petition.

“I think any human being who has respect for another human being would not support somebody like Rush Limbaugh,” Greenwaldt said. “I would hope that as a community we have enough respect for individuals that we can band together and say we should not support him.”

Limbaugh had no right to call Fluke names on a public radio show, said Rapid City resident Sandra White Shield, who also signed the petition.

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“If she were those things, the airwaves where children are listening are not a place to display that,” she said. “He has the ears of millions of people, and she doesn’t. That’s not fair. That’s not right.”

After the incident, at least nine companies pulled advertising from Limbaugh’s show, including AOL, Quicken Loans and Carbonite. A radio station in Hawaii cut Limbaugh’s show from its programming.

The tumult began last week when Limbaugh discounted Fluke's appearance on Capitol Hill.

He said last Wednesday: “What does it say about the college coed ... who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.”

He dug in a day later, refusing to give ground.

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“If we're going to have to pay for this, then we want something in return, Ms. Fluke,” Limbaugh said. “And that would be the videos of all this sex posted online so we can see what we're getting for our money.”

On Friday, still defiant even after Democrats beat back Republican challenges to the new health care requirement, Limbaugh scoffed at the Democrats' talk of a conservative “war on women.”

President Barack Obama telephoned Fluke from the Oval Office on Friday to offer his support.

A day later, Limbaugh apologized in writing to Fluke.

Yet even on Monday, Limbaugh didn't back away from his criticism of Fluke's appearance on Capitol Hill. He questioned why she was invited to testify.

“She doesn't have any expertise,” Limbaugh said during the second hour of his radio show.

Contact Ruth Moon at 394-8415 or ruth.moon@rapidcityjournal.com.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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