Fair And Bombastic
‘Tyrant’ Laura Ingraham Already Terrifying Fox News Staffers—and Her Show Hasn’t Even Aired Yet
Sources say that Fox News staffers are dreading working for what one person called a ‘known tyrant.’
When conservative author and talk radio host Laura Ingraham sits down in the anchor chair on Oct. 30 for the first time as a host on Fox News’ evening lineup, the cable network will be making a multi-prong bet.
The first is that its audience will gladly stomach another evening hour of ardent Donald Trump boosterism. The second is that someone who’s spent the much of her career in radio can translate to television. But the third, and perhaps biggest, gamble is that the notoriously combative and difficult-to-work-with Ingraham can run a functioning show.
Already, there are signs of trouble.
A number of Fox staffers are dreading the possibility of working for Ingraham, who, even among the healthy egos that populate America’s cable newsrooms, has built a reputation as overbearing. According to numerous sources, Ingraham has been, occasionally, a verbally abusive boss, who will not hesitate to scream at employees if something goes awry. Two former employees of her radio show recounted to The Daily Beast separate instances of Ingraham hurling objects at staff members in displeasure. Though Fox declined to address most specific examples of her conduct, the channel issued a blanket denial of such allegations.
Cable news is full of abrasive and demanding figures, most of them men. But whereas some shows keep the host distant from the production, leaning heavily on executive producers and other high-level staffers instead, Fox prime-time shows tend to be more host-driven, one senior official at the channel said.
For those on her direct staff, that means a daily dose of a demanding, hands-on managerial style. Ingraham has brought only a few staffers with her to the network, leaving Fox to assign other employees to the show. That includes executive producer Tommy Firth, who was moved over from The Story, Martha MacCallum’s 7 p.m. weeknight program.
But three Fox sources tell The Daily Beast that numerous staffers have been actively hoping—“praying,” in one Fox insider’s words—that they do not get re-assigned to Ingraham’s show. Another Fox employee simply described her as a “known tyrant.”
Sources spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to avoid reprisal. Ingraham did not respond to a request for comment on this story.
In a statement sent to The Daily Beast, Fox News called this story “a transparent, predictable and sexist attack from a left-wing website run by a CNN political analyst whose mandate it is to troll FOX News for traffic purposes on a daily basis.” A number of the allegations in this piece were made by women. Fox News also insisted that it be noted the piece was edited by an MSNBC contributor. That editor, Sam Stein, said in a statement that he feels “quite able to both contribute to MSNBC and edit this piece without one affecting the other.”
Fox News is banking heavily on Ingraham’s show to succeed. Its launch comes amid a tumultuous time for the network, which has experienced difficulty maintaining ratings but remains very much a cable news behemoth. Fox News has struggled to find the right evening lineup after the departure of former prime-time star Bill O’Reilly, who was forced out in April after facing multiple allegations of sexual harassment.
Editorially, Ingraham will fit right in, to the chagrin of some at the network. She is a longtime conservative commentator and staunch Donald Trump ally who even spoke at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Asked whether Ingraham’s show has ruffled the feathers of the network’s hard-news operation, one daytime producer, requesting anonymity as a current employee of Fox, said: “I can tell you this much: It doesn’t make our jobs any easier.” The producer explained: “The credibility gap worsens for all of our reporters and anchors trying to work at a real news organization.”
Operationally, Fox News says that Ingraham will break new ground for the network. A spokesperson for the network said her show will be it’s first regular live broadcast during the 10 p.m. hour (a statement that a past Fox News host, Greta Van Susteren, rightfully noted was not actually true.) Either way, Ingraham's new show will mean more programming aired from Fox’s D.C. bureau, from which Tucker Carlson broadcasts his weeknight show at 8 p.m., instead of the New York headquarters of parent company News Corp.
Ingraham has been a long-standing and frequent cable commentator who has shown a capacity to move across mediums. “She is brilliant. No one can deny that,” said one former producer of the Laura Ingraham Show, her radio program. “When she would get into a segment, it was like watching Picasso paint. It was everything else that was a nightmare.”
She is also not a TV host novice. Ingraham previously hosted a short-lived Fox show called Just In, which ran for three weeks in 2008. That run was long enough for Ingraham to star in a viral video of her berating the show’s production staff off-air. Similar audio has surfaced of Ingraham going off at staff on her radio show. Five former employees of that show, who spoke with The Daily Beast about their experiences, indicated that such conduct was not rare.
“Have you ever seen The Devil Wears Prada?” one former Ingraham radio producer told The Daily Beast, referring to the Meryl Streep film about a New York fashion magazine publisher who was famously brutal on her staff. “That’s what it’s like, except it’s The Devil Does Radio and there are no redeeming qualities with her.”
Another former employee of the radio show described being targeted with frequent “verbal harassment.” Ingraham, the employee said, would swear and, in “an instance or two,” would throw a phone in anger at individual staffers. Yet another employee recalled Ingraham “screaming to the point of veins popping out, sometimes throwing stuff at staff.” Asked what objects were thrown, that former staffer said: “Whatever was in her hand or closest to her at the moment.”
Other veterans of Ingraham’s radio broadcast recounted similar outbursts, often taking place in the middle of show. Such in-studio lash-outs would not only be directed at a staffer’s job performance but also some times at physical appearances. According to two sources, Ingraham mocked the weight of a particularly large male intern when the intern wasn’t around.
The result, perhaps predictably, was a “high rate of turnover” of producers and staff, sources who have worked for Ingraham say. Some staff did not last much more than a couple of weeks before bailing.
But even some who say Ingraham was extremely difficult to work for say her raw talent is undeniable. Ingraham has cut her teeth in a world—conservative talk radio—dominated by men. And she has done so with remarkable success.
“Unlike everyone else you talked to, I’m probably one of the few people on the planet who has worked with maybe every female in the conservative media landscape,” said A.J. Rice, a public-relation professional and former executive producer for Ingraham’s radio program. Rice says he still works with and advises Ingraham from time to time, and considers her a “mentor.” He claims he never witnessed or experienced any of the behavior others above alleged. “None of these people behaved anything but professionally. And Laura was the gold standard. I don’t know what these people are talking about… People are actually using the word ‘tyrant’? That’s insane to me.”
After The Daily Beast reached out to Fox News’ public relations department, other former Ingraham employees also offered unsolicited and effusive praise for their one-time boss.
“I would not be doing what I am doing now without her help and friendship,” gushed Lee Habeeb, a law school classmate of Ingraham’s, later the executive producer of her radio show, and now the vice president of content for Salem Media Group, a conservative media conglomerate whose subsidiaries have published Ingraham’s books and broadcast her show. “Laura persevered through some tough circumstances and a very competitive market to do just what she’d set out to do. And it was a great ride doing it—with lots of laughs, and yes, some fights.”
—with additional reporting by Andrew Kirell.
This post has been updated with additional reporting.