The owner of —the only Santa Cruz radio station that carries Rush Limbaugh's show—knew the community was disturbed by the nationally syndicated conservative host's remarks last week calling a woman who testified before Congress a "slut" and a "prostitute." So he decided to leave it to his listeners to decide whether the station should dump the show.
Now, Michael Zwerling, who has owned the talk station for 21 years, says he's having trouble deciding what to do.
He put up the poll Wednesday afternoon, and the votes were first for getting rid of Limbaugh by 56 percent to 44 percent. But after the station started publicizing the poll all day, it jumped to 70 percent in favor of keeping him and 30 percent opposed, with more than 1,000 votes.
But Thursday, the poll got publicized on Reddit and went crazy with national voters, who crashed the system. When the station got another site to run the poll, the tally was 9,781 to dump Rush and 1,314 to keep him.
It leaves Zwerling in a quandry.
"When it was just our listeners, it was clear that we were going to keep him," he said. "Now I don't know what to do."
The poll closes at 7 p.m. today.
Zwerling will take calls from listeners live on the air Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon at 831-479-1080, on the "Saturday Special" show he hosts.
On Monday, Zwerling did an editorial that chastized Limbaugh and pulled local ads from the show in order not to offend customers of those businesses.
"I think it was a poor choice of words and a classless thing to say," Zwerling said of Limbaugh's three-day rant against Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke.
His words have alienated dozens of advertisers, including Patch's parent company, AOL, which pulled its messages from the three-hour show. The show claims to reach as many as 20 million listeners nationwide, although no official tally exists, according to this story in the Huffington Post.
Zwerling won't reveal his business deal with Limbaugh but says it costs the station "a fortune" while bringing in "thousands and thousands and thousands" of listeners.
The station has the biggest signal in Santa Cruz and can be heard from King City to the Silicon Valley. For a long time, it was known as a conservative station with programming that reflected Limbaugh, but in the past few years it has added moderate and liberal voices.
It also added former KGO radio host Dr. Bill Wattenburg, who was fired with a group of hosts from the once-most popular station in the Bay Area.
In the interest of full disclosure, I do a weekly talk show on the station Wednesdays from 2-4 p.m., for which I am not compensated and from which I am on a two-month hiatus.