Limbaugh O.J. Ads Squeeze Out Controversy

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It appears Burt Reynolds and Anita Bryant have nothing on Rush Limbaugh when it comes to controversy.

The Florida Citrus Commission, which picked the conservative radio personality topromote orange juice as part of its new $17.1 million marketing campaign, has been inundated with comments on its choice.

"The radio spots began last Monday, and by Tuesday we'd received 1,500 calls, letters and faxes reacting to Rush," said a commission spokeswoman. "When we announced we were dropping Burt because of the tabloid coverage of his divorce, we received about 30 calls."

The spokeswoman said reaction is "about 50-50, pro and con," but protests have included calls for a boycott of Florida oranges. Among those who consider Mr. Limbaugh an inappropriate pitchman are the National Organization for Women, Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Ironically, Mr. Limbaugh isn't even an official Florida Citrus spokesman. The commission bought $1.7 million in time on three radio talk shows. Besides Mr. Limbaugh's program, the Larry King and Dr. Dean Edell shows were chosen because of their ratings and costs. All three shows use the hosts to personally promote their sponsors.

"Rush Limbaugh is the No. 1 highest-rated show in the country. It was a smart buy," the spokes woman said. "Somehow the idea he's our next spokesman has taken on a life of its own. It's like the Barney-as-Satan rumor."

The commission first drew flak for its spokesman when Ms. Bryant filled that post from 1968 to 1980. Her support of a campaign opposing gay rights became so controversial she was dropped.

Other parts of the commission's new campaign, handled by Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, New York, include TV spots starting next month; magazine ads; and an infomercial, scheduled for late spring. The commission declined to discuss whether there will be any celebrities in the new campaign.

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