For two years, a self-described grassroots army has protested “The Rush Limbaugh Show” in a campaign to convince advertisers to pull their commercials from the talk giant’s radio program. Now, Limbaugh’s show is fighting back with a new report arguing that the supposed groundswell of outraged consumers is in reality 10 “hardcore” progressive activists.

“It’s a cynical form of intimidation and harassment and business destruction that targets speech a small group of extremists and bullies find disagreeable,” Brian Glicklich, spokesman for “The Rush Limbaugh Show,” said in an interview with The Daily Signal.

Stop Rush” bills itself as a multiyear grassroots effort by consumers who object to the trademark tenor and content of Limbaugh’s conservative commentary on politics, society and what he calls “the drive-by media.” The group targets businesses, charities and nonprofits that advertise on the Limbaugh show in hopes of convincing them to pull their commercials.

Limbaugh’s show describes itself as “the most listened-to radio talk show in America, broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide.”

The brainchild of Angelo Carusone, executive vice president of the liberal website Media Matters for America, the Stop Rush campaign began in 2012 – when President Obama was running for re-election. Stop Rush participants are visible on social media such as Twitter and Facebook, and use the #StopRush hashtag in communicating with local businesses and other organizations.

However, according to research conducted by Limbaugh’s camp, about 70 percent of #StopRush tweets originated from a total of 10 Twitter account holders. The individuals affiliated with those accounts hail from only four states: California, Florida, Ohio and Georgia.

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Using contact information published by the Limbaugh camp, The Daily Signal reached out yesterday to those 10 persons, who include a professor at Kent State University and a writer for The Daily Kos, a left-leaning news and commentary site. Those requests for comment so far are unsuccessful.

Glicklich, the spokesman for the Limbaugh show, said researchers compiled statistics over the summer on those “tweeting” objections to the show at its advertisers. The researchers identified which Twitter accounts were most active in targeting businesses and charities that support the show.

The advertisers, listed along with contact information on the website, are located in all 50 states.

The researchers found that 80 percent of all #StopRush “attacks” came from users located in a state other than that of the targeted advertiser.

“It’s not a principled message,” Glicklich said in an interview with The Daily Signal. “It’s blackmail.”

To reach a large number of businesses, Stop Rush activists employ software that sends out automated tweets. Use of the software, though, violates Twitter’s terms of use.

Rush Limbaugh (Photo: Newscom)

‘What we can’t tolerate is small groups of political bullies targeting small businesses,’ a spokesman for Rush Limbaugh says. (Photo: Newscom)

In a statement to The Daily Signal, Carusone defended those who make up the Stop Rush campaign. He said:

This is a grassroots effort that grows every day. Instead of attacking people on the Internet, Limbaugh’s team would better fill their role by advising their client not to excuse rape in some situations (as he did just last week). Rush Limbaugh is bad for business — and the only thing Limbaugh has to blame for that is his own repeated conduct.

The Daily Signal is the multimedia news organization of The Heritage Foundation, a policy research institute with  longstanding ties to Limbaugh and his show based on shared conservative principles.

Carusone said the Limbaugh show has been a detriment to radio companies and local businesses.

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“Rush Limbaugh’s show has reportedly lost millions of dollars in revenue for radio companies, thousands of advertisers big and small refuse to run ads on the program and radio stations are dropping the show,” the Media Matters executive said. “After initially insisting there were no troubles with advertisers, two years later Limbaugh’s crisis team comes out with a report attributing this massive exodus to just 10 people?”

Glicklich, however, disputed Carusone’s argument. He said the effects of Stop Rush efforts are harmful not to the Limbaugh show, but rather to advertisers — many of them small businesses:

[Advertisers] made a business decision to want to talk to the 20 million people a week who listen and like going to the places mentioned on the show. When they have to do something else because they don’t have the resources to deal with the bullies and intimidation, it harms the businesses. The show hasn’t been affected, but it’s the people and businesses and families.

Matt Osborne, a Stop Rush participant, is not one of those named as a result of the show’s research, but says he was part of the campaign’s “groundswell” in 2012.

In an email to The Daily Signal, Osborne called Glicklich’s investigation an “imaginary Twitter conspiracy” and said there was no alliance between Stop Rush and Media Matters for America. He also decried the notion that the bulk of Stop Rush’s activism takes place on Twitter.

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“Very little of the actual contact work takes place on Twitter — for many reasons, not the least of which is that the issue has waned over time and activists have moved on to other causes,” Osborne said, adding:

Many people were also unfortunately persuaded to stop their activism on Twitter due to harassment activity, a fact which makes Glicklich’s denialism that much more sickening.

Glicklich, though, said that he and other Limbaugh backers respect Stop Rush’s difference of opinion and have done nothing to silence them. He said:

The reason we did this isn’t to stop anyone from having the beliefs they have or communicate them. We’re in the communications business. We love communications. What we don’t love and can’t tolerate is small groups of organized, political bullies targeting small businesses … for the sake of quelling political speech. That’s unacceptable, and we won’t tolerate it.