What It’s Like To Be A Guest On Laura Ingraham’s Show
I’d just broken up with my girlfriend and was staying with my mom when I got the email. A producer for Laura Ingraham’s show, the Ingraham Angle, asked if I was available to come on that night and discuss a story I’d written on Melania Trump. It was an opinion piece on how Melania probably hates her husband as much as the rest of us. By the “rest of us” I was referring to my readers, who are overwhelmingly liberal, and to the majority of Americans who disapprove of Trump’s presidency.
At the time, I’d never heard of Ingraham. This was before she made headlines for telling Lebron James to “shut up and dribble,” and before she attacked a survivor of the Parkland massacre, mocking his grade point average. So, to be honest, I had no idea how truly vile she is.
When I looked her up and realized she was on prime-time Fox News, my first thought was, “Why would a prime-time Fox News show want to discuss an opinion story I’d written primarily to entertain readers?” My second thought was, “Do I really want to do this?”
It didn’t take that many YouTube clips for me to realize Ingraham’s show was about pushing propaganda, like many others on Fox News. It was not about discussing diverse opinions, nor was it about constructively critiquing the news of the day.
So, I tried to get out of doing the segment as politely as I could. “I’d love to, but I’m in Pennsylvania right now,” I said, as if Pennsylvania was Antarctica and the network couldn’t possibly reach me there.
“We could absolutely get you to a studio in Pennsylvania,” the producer responded. My stomach dropped. I guess I was doing this. Naively I thought, maybe I could change a few Fox News viewers’ minds? (Judging by the messages I received after the show, out of thousands, I think I changed three minds. Hey, still.)
I stressed to the producer that the story was meant to be fun and lighthearted. I admitted I didn’t know anything firsthand about the inner-workings of Melania and Donald’s relationship. Shockingly, the three of us aren’t that close.
“Is there a particular reason she wants to talk about this story?” I asked.
“For the segment, we were looking for a writer who has written about the Trump’s marriage over the past few days with this news breaking on Melania and Trump,” the producer explained. The “news” was about Trump getting spanked with a magazine by a porn star a few months after Melania gave birth to their son Barron.
She went on to list topics the interview would focus on — all of which, of course, went completely out the window once the segment began. She asked what I thought about an op-ed by New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd that said Melania was “trolling” Donald, and what I thought about the media coverage of Melania and Donald’s marriage.
I told her what I thought and she responded by saying, “It would be nice to be able to share your point of view with our viewers who might not have heard this angle anywhere else.” (If by “nice” she meant I’d wake up to a barrage of emails telling me to “go eat a Tide Pod you horse-faced he she,” then yes, she was right. It was very, very nice.)
Around 9 p.m., a car picks me up and takes me to an anonymous studio in Philadelphia that sits on a dark cobblestone street. A technician buzzes me in and I’m lead to a small office where the hair and makeup artist greets me.
As she’s shellacking my face with airbrush foundation, she asks, “So what are you talking about on the show?”
“How much Melania probably hates Trump,” I say. She laughs. “I don’t think she’s going to agree with me,” I add.
The makeup artist goes quiet. “Yeah…” she trails off. That’s when I realize she’s probably seen countless people come in here and get blindsided by these hosts. “Do you want to watch the show for a bit?” she asks. “Sure,” I say, and I sit in the green room watching the segments airing before mine. Ingraham is nice to everyone because they’re conservatives who agree with her. The entire time I’m watching, she doesn’t report the news, but rather criticizes how other “mainstream” networks are reporting the news.
The sound technician comes in and tells me it’s time for my segment. I go into a small, dark, square room. If you’ve never done live TV, it’s a lot like living in a dystopian nightmare, only it’s real. You’re in a closet-sized space that’s usually painted black, staring at a camera (that is either completely black or a feed of yourself). I couldn’t see Ingraham or anyone else on the TV.
I hear a producer’s voice telling me to stand by. Then, Ingraham’s voice cuts in. Imagine sitting in a dark room where you can’t see anything but yourself and you just hear Laura Ingraham barking at you through an earpiece. That was basically it.
What I expect to be a discussion on media speculation about the president’s marriage turns into a long diatribe about how I’m an awful feminist. As I’m listening to her go off — and this is just my introduction — I start to smile. She can’t be serious.
Ingraham asked why I, as a feminist, would judge another woman — note that in my piece I did not judge Melania, rather, I empathized with her because I totally get why she may not be happily married to Trump. I responded by saying I would judge a woman who’d marry Trump because he’s truly a disgusting human being. Right there, I gave her and her viewers the soundbite they were looking for.
Ingraham never brought up Maureen Dowd or the moral questions behind probing into a president’s marriage. She just kept bringing up the Obamas and the fact that “no one cared about” my opinion. From the moment the segment started, I felt like I was caught in a riptide of stupidity, only to come up for air a few miles down the shoreline having no idea how I ended up there.
Toward the middle of my seven-minute segment (which felt like 14 years), I felt we’d reached a dead end. Ingraham would spew some crazy facts about the Clintons from years ago or unearth a selfie Barack Obama took with Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt in 2013, and I’d point out why that’s irrelevant and direct the conversation to the actual president in question. We did this until she finally ended it by saying, “Alright, Sarah,” dripping with condescension, “You have a lovely evening.” If there was a narrator at this moment, they would’ve said, “She would not have a lovely evening.”
As soon as I left the studio, my phone lit up with texts from friends and family who’d watched the show. One of my friends wrote, “Omg, the tweets are insane.” I’d turned my notifications off before the segment and when I turned them on, I was flooded with hundreds of hate messages from Fox viewers.
Most wanted to tell me how disgusting I was. Others told me Trump would never marry me (what a bummer) and some included very specific, graphic rape scenarios in which they’d like to see me. Suburban moms called me a “feminazi cunt.” (If I had a nickel for every person that called me a “cunt,” I’d be set for life.) Middle-aged men told me they’d wished my mom had had an abortion (interesting insult for a generally “pro-life” audience). Some recommended me and my whole family kill ourselves.
Having been trolled on the internet before, none of this was shocking to me, but what I found most disturbing was this is exactly the reaction that Ingraham wanted. She brought me on her show knowing that I’d written an opinion piece about the Trumps’ marriage, but presented it as hard news, just so she could discredit me and her viewers could have something else to react to.
Ingraham wants her audience as angry and riled up as she can get them. She recklessly strives to appeal to a very specific underbelly of society. And she proved she’ll go to any length to do this when she mocked David Hogg, a 17-year-old boy who’d survived one of worst mass shootings in our country’s history.
While this time, it looks like it backfired on her — she’s lost 17 advertisers in the wake of her comments about Hogg and has decided to take a “vacation” this week — it’s important to remember that Ingraham doesn’t just represent herself. People like Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, and even ousted Bill O’Reilly represent hundreds of thousands of viewers who are hungry for this kind of hateful rhetoric. And as long as they have an appetite, there’ll be someone there to feed them.