Fox News Host Laura Ingraham may be the latest victim of sexism in the American media.
In a perverse and ironic twist on this cultural moment, her status is self-inflicted. Off the air for a week as advertisers bleed her show in the wake of her vile attack on Parkland school shooting survivor and protest organizer David Hogg, Ingraham set the trap she’s now caught within.
As part of her public persona as a right-wing pundit, Ingraham promotes herself as a traditional, devoted mother and a “family values” warrior. She displays her Catholic faith with a large gold crucifix dangling from her neck in every television appearance. She apologized to Hogg ― only after the advertiser boycott began ― “in the spirit of Holy Week,” which outraged many who saw her as exploiting and hiding behind Catholic solemn ritual.
Now Ingraham is being hoisted with her own petard, depicted as a heartless fraud who doesn’t seem to care about children at all.
It also appears she’s being treated differently than male pundits at Fox News. Both Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson have taken disgusting shots at the Parkland students, but haven’t faced the same fate. Hannity claimed the students were “indoctrinated,” which he labeled “despicable.” Carlson has said the students were used as “moral blackmail” and “human shields,” and he helped to float conspiracy theories about them.
But it is Ingraham who is facing the the brunt of the outrage. Advertisers are dropping her show and she is suddenly off the air for a week. (She and Fox say it was a planned vacation.) It’s not clear if it was solely the advertiser boycott that led to Ingraham’s treatment, as there’s no evidence the students called for a boycott of Hannity’s or Carlson’s advertisers. It will be interesting to see what happens if they do.
Ingraham has reveled in being described as 'Trump before Trump.'
Ingraham, who began her show just last September and is trying to build a television audience after years on radio, dared to be just like one of the boys at Fox News, only to realize it’s a boys-only club. The network’s founder, the late Roger Ailes, resigned amid widespread sexual harassment allegations, as did its one-time megastar host, Bill O’Reilly.
Unlike Megyn Kelly, who challenged Donald Trump’s misogyny to his face while still at Fox as she moderated a GOP debate, Ingraham has reveled in being described as “Trump before Trump,” campaigned with Steve Bannon in October and was feted at the headquarters of Breitbart News last fall.
Ingraham’s blind allegiance to the most misogynist forces in our culture right now, combined with her promotion of herself as a doting Christian mom, have opened her up to attacks. Certainly, public figures have every right to take pride in being parents ― and we like to know politicians, celebrities and pundits are human like the rest of us ― but if you’re going to hold yourself up as an example of family values and maternal care for children, then you have a responsibility to live up to it.
Ingraham’s Twitter bio describes her as a “Mom, author, TV & Radio Host.” She’s adopted three children and regularly sends out photos of them on social media. She gave an interview to The Washington Post on her adoption of a baby boy back in 2009, posing with him in a photo.
So it was unsurprising that Ingraham would hear from many people, like Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), who questioned what kind of mother bullies kids.
And we should just as well be asking: What kind of caring mother wants to see families torn apart? Ingraham has pushed the very harsh immigration policies that have separated parents from their children, policies promoted by Trump, Bannon and White House aide Stephen Miller. What kind of mother attacks transgender youth trying to survive in a hostile world? What kind of Christian engages in bullying athletes and others in society, telling LeBron James he should “shut up and dribble”?
Ingraham has trafficked in all the same smears as other right-wing pundits for years on the radio. But now, with a television show, she’s getting a much higher profile, as is the bile she’s spouted against groups like LGBTQ people and Muslims.
The accuracy of Ingraham’s profile as a paragon of virtue and traditional Christian womanhood has been a subject of discussion before.
In his 2002 book, Blinded by the Right, openly gay Media Matters founder David Brock, a one-time right-wing hit man journalist, described former friend Ingraham as a one of his “fag hags” who, in a “drunken stupor, crawled on the floor” of a dance club. He also wrote about how Drudge Report creator Matt Drudge, whom Brock described as having a crush on him, sent him an email saying that Ingraham was spreading the rumor that Brock and Drudge were “fuck buddies” (with Drudge opining that he should only be “so lucky”).
Nonetheless, the profile Ingraham presents publicly, whether real or partially or completely fabricated, exposes her to charges of rank hypocrisy.
Ingraham may be treated differently than the the male Fox hosts, both inside Fox and beyond, but she’s helped foster that reality for herself and other women. And by working at Fox now ― post-Ailes and post-O’Reilly, while sexual harassment claims continue to swirl around the place and as Fox News coverage continues to promote right-wing dogma against feminism and distortions about the Me Too movement ― she’s only helping to allow sexism and misogyny to flourish further.