The Tomi Lahren story isn’t going away any time soon. At least, not if the blonde wunderkind can help it. On the heels of filing a wrongful termination lawsuit against her former employer TheBlaze, the right-wing provocateur alleged that her boss, Glenn Beck, was guilty of some sort of “misconduct”—and then went on ABC News’ Nightline to complain that she had been “silenced” by him. (The irony of complaining about being silenced on Nightline might have escaped her, but it hasn’t escaped the rest of us.) Meanwhile, Beck and TheBlaze are countersuing, arguing her diva-like behavior made them decide to pull her show.
It’s unclear if we are witnessing the ugly collapse of a once-rising star or just the latest example of how, in this reality television world, any publicity is good publicity. Either way, I feel a twinge of pity for the wet-behind-the-ears pundette. The truth is that Lahren isn’t entirely to blame for this situation. She had enablers who set this all in motion.
If you’re unfamiliar with the backstory, a 21-year-old Lahren met with the head of One America News Network three years ago and immediately landed a job hosting her own show. It’s unclear just what Robert Herring saw, but, “He looked at me and said, ‘how about your own show,’” Lahren recalled. “My jaw dropped. I was stunned. I just wanted an internship. He gave me a show.”
This doesn’t sound like the standard operating procedure for hiring a conservative opinion leader. It almost hearkens back to the days when movie producers discovered future stars at a pharmacy counter.
But I’m not sure they did Lahren any favors.
If you want to understand how difficult it is to sustain a career when you are prematurely promoted, consider the plight of many child actors. What Lahren needed was a nice little pond to swim in; instead, they threw her into the deep end of a shark-infested ocean.
In a parallel universe, a young Tomi Lahren spent six months interning for a grown-up journalist before entering the workforce—and she paid her dues. Maybe she moved to Indiana and was a cub reporter at a daily newspaper where some crotchety editor forced her to cover school board meetings.
Maybe she worked on a presidential campaign and gained experience knocking on frigid doors in Davenport, Iowa. These experiences would have (one hopes) forced her to deal with the small humiliations and small victories that build character. Maybe she gained a strong mentor along the way who warned her about flying too close to the sun and stressed the importance of building a solid foundation for a career.
They could have made her an interesting person. Instead, they made her a viral star.
From there, she landed a job working for Glenn Beck—a man who arguably did as much as anyone to contribute to the paranoia that plagued much of the right during the Obama years.
Once a radio shock jock, today’s Beck is once again reinventing himself—this time, as a serious and thoughtful conservative. Appropriately, though, Lahren serves as an extension of the negative legacy Beck bestowed on conservatism.
Beck contributed to the miseducation of Lahren by picking up where One America News Now left off and giving this inexperienced but admittedly attractive young woman an even bigger platform.
And then she blew it up. “I can’t sit here and be a hypocrite and say I’m for limited government but I think the government should decide what women do with their bodies,” Lahren averred on The View last month.
In one fell swoop, she simultaneously implied that anyone who is both pro-life and pro-Second Amendment (presumably a sizable chunk of TheBlaze’s audience) is a hypocrite. Speaking of hypocrites, just a few months earlier, she went on a rant and referred to pro-choice activists as “baby killers.”
I could go on and on about Lahren’s incoherence and vapidity. (“I’m not a reader,” she told Jamie Weinstein. “I don’t read long books.”) But the big story here is how perverse incentives in the conservative movement are to blame for the rise and fall of Tomi Lahren.
It’s hard to blame a 21-year-old for not turning down a huge opportunity. It’s much easier to blame the so-called adults in the conservative media complex who value youth, clicks, ratings, buzz, and page views more than they value patience, wisdom, prudence, and decency.
Glenn Beck helped create her. He shouldn’t be surprised that his Frankenstein eventually turned against him.