Tomi Lahren came of age at the altar of Fox News, a product of the YouTube generation who’s been endowed with a Facebook platform and Instagram looks. She was born at the start of the Clinton years—around the time cable news became opinion mongering—in Rapid City, South Dakota. When she was 20, attending the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the Grand Old Party was hoping to redefine itself to a brand new generation. In her early twenties, she moved swiftly from the One America News Network to Glenn Beck’s ultra-conservative bulwark TheBlaze, using her “Final Thoughts” segments to sear a path through the national conversation.
Lahren, now 24, is at the center of a furiously divided political landscape. She’s become the right wing’s most polarizing enfant terrible, the poster child of Trumpism at a time when “Make America Great Again” is being translated as either hate speech or patriotism. She wears lots of denim, and her copious blonde hair is often crowned with a ball cap with letters stitched onto it that read “MAGA.” She’s become the president’s most unapologetic and viral defender.
But on March 27, the most clickable name in conservative media was alledgedly fired.
Lahren has developed a reach into an emerging conservative consciousness that has dwarfed Fox News’ greying band of hucksters and bizarrely obedient anchors. Her appeal is that of a self-made conservative, one who challenges the father figures on the right with a less fundamentalist view of issues such as religion and abortion. In fact, it was her refusal to condemn the latter that, according to widespread speculation, caused TheBlaze’s top brass to shut her down.
To the surprise of her critics, Lahren doesn’t rely on a cadre of writers and researchers. Her brand of rapid-fire discourse is based on an openly partisan belief that “America First” should be taken literally and then presented in seething sound bites. She owns the “conservative millennial” brand of rabble-rouser with an allergy to identity politics. Think Ann Coulter without the irony.
The day before this interview, Lahren took to her kitchen to record a DIY-version of her “Final Thoughts” monologue. The video, in which she promises viewers that, Blaze or no Blaze, she’ll be back, currently has 8 million views on Facebook—about 5 million more viewers than Fox News draws in primetime. She’s built close to 6 million followers on social media behind similarly explosive clips, with towering targets that include Beyonce and Black Lives Matter. But despite her popularity, Lahren is currently in a state of limbo, unable to work until her contract with TheBlaze is terminated early or expires in September. She is currently suing TheBlaze for wrongful termination. TheBlaze has countersued her, claiming that she’s still an employee. (Note: On May 1, it was reported that Lahren and her former employer had reached a settlement.)
We met Lahren in her home in the suburbs of Irving, Texas. She sat in her living room, surrounded by a bouquet of red, white and blue flowers from various media outlets trying to court her; a nearby laptop was emblazoned with a “Capitalism” sticker. A MAGA hat, signed by Trump, perched in a corner, right across from a kitchen that had a giant wooden flag with the Pledge of Allegiance painted on it. It’s no surprise that Lahren is the granddaughter of a World War II paratrooper and the niece of Purple Heart recipient who fought in Vietnam.
The conversation that follows is unavoidably going to offend a lot readers on both sides of the spectrum. Our goal was to understand the psychology and history of a firebrand who’s currently at war with both her party and the left wing. We’ll leave it to you to decide if she’s the future of conservative media, the hopelessly partisan mouthpiece of the spiraling Trump administration or something else entirely.
At 21, you interviewed for an internship with Robert Herring, the CEO of the One America News Network (OANN), and he immediately gave you your own show. The critics have said you were given On Point with Tomi Lahren because you’re a blonde bombshell—questioning whether you truly deserved your own show.
Those who have a knowledge of One America would know that there were several models and actresses working there just as anchors. And they didn’t get their own political talk shows. If I was just some dumb-dumb who looked pretty, they would have made me an anchor and had me read news from a teleprompter. Robert Herring had enough trust in me to think I could carry my own show. He wanted to experiment. I built that show from nothing. At 21, right out of college, I had two producers, about my age, who had never produced a show before, and they wanted me to write and produce an hour-long show before I turned 22. Which is a whole lot of work for someone who’s just an “airhead.“
Some of the people I spoke to about this interview immediately sexualized or objectified you, or labeled you with stereotypes like “blonde bimbo” or “airhead.” Do these kinds of comments offend you, and do you find yourself combating it on social media?
I do find it offensive, but I don’t let it bother me anymore. Just as many conservatives do it to me as feminists and folks on the left. Those who feel threatened by you or your success will seek to tear you down. But I’m not going anywhere. People tell me all the time that my 15 minutes are up. Well, my 15 minutes have been a couple years now, and every month I seem to have a viral moment. They also don’t take the time to understand me. I’m not a foreign policy expert, but I surround myself with former Navy SEALs and folks like [retired Army Lieutenant Colonel and former congressman] Allen West, absorbing from them. I’ve also been a 4.0 student my entire life. I graduated with honors from every level of education.
I think the intellect argument against you stems from an interview with The Daily Caller’s Jamie Weinstein, for his podcast, where you told him that you’re "not a reader” and that you don’t “read long books.”
He asked me what I did for fun, what my hobbies were and what books I like to read. I told him that in my free time, when I’m not working or consuming news, I don’t read novels. I don’t like fiction, I don’t read Harry Potter. I’m a consumer of news. So during my free time I like to read short articles or watch reality TV. I’ve read a lot of the classics through my education as a political-science minor, and all through high school I was in honors English. It’s just not what I do for fun. I studied journalism so I enjoy reading news and writing in that style, or using it to write my monologues, which I write like how I speak.
What made you want to become a voice for conservative millennials?
It was about middle America. I found that from moving out of South Dakota, which is conservative and doesn’t have diversity like L.A. or Detroit. So I went from somewhere where people were mostly the same, and I threw myself into Las Vegas, which was vastly different. I learned a lot from Vegas; it shaped a lot of what I did. They didn’t understand people from where I was from, and vice versa, but I thought it would be great to use my voice to speak to people that didn’t understand middle America, and take what was going on in Vegas or the coasts and compartmentalize it in a way for people in middle America to appreciate. Also the bias in the mainstream media doesn’t give a voice to conservatives or the silent majority of blue-collar workers who are “Trumpocrats" now. I wanted to be fearless and give a voice to those people.
Do you believe the mainstream media ignores or delegitimizes the plight of the white working class in this country?
The media are based on the coasts. Everything is different on the coasts than in middle America. And they have a much different perspective of life, socioeconomics and race. They have this perception that middle America is backwards, hillbilly, inherently racist, bigoted and intolerant, which is just not the case. But few in the media have actually journeyed to those places and spent time with those people, and if they did they’d understand that they’re just hard-working folks who could care less what color your are and just want to put food on the table and take care of their families. So I don’t know if it’s purposeful. I just think it’s an ignorance of the middle.
How about their treatment of you? Do you feel like they’re talking down to you?
They always talk down to me. But that’s a function of being conservative, as well as a function of being a young blonde female. I’m not trying to play the feminist card. Feminists are actually some of the meanest to me. They look at me and say, “You can’t be intelligent because you look this way,” so they immediately discredit me. They attribute all my success to my looks—that I fit this image in the “Fox News mold,” which is very frustrating. I also believe the mainstream media is very combative right now because they realize they’re losing relevance. People are going to social media for a lot of their news because the trust for the mainstream is at an all-time low. They don’t seem to understand this. So they seek everyone outside-of-the-box and try to delegitimize them instead of embracing them. They don’t think we’re as good as they are because we’re not a network where letters make up our name, and so we’re not as important. Which is just not the case anymore.
Do you believe we have any bipartisan news sources in this country?
No. I wouldn’t say so, but there are some. I’m fairly impressed with The Hill. And there’s Pew research on this, even though a lot of people think I’m stupid and don’t understand what Pew research is. But they’ve shown time and time again that journalists are primarily on the left. And so you’re gonna write in that way. There’s an inherent bias. So it’s difficult to find truly neutral news. Everyone writes with some kind of slant. The same could be said for the right. I criticize the left more because they’re mainstream. For example, when people watch Fox, they know it’s a conservative network. When people watch ABC, they think it’s neutral. I don’t think so. It’s really hard to have George Stephanopoulos as one of your anchors when he was a Clinton administration confidante and employee who donated to their foundation. Don’t tell me ABC is neutral when Martha Raddatz is crying on election night.
The right often accuses the mainstream media and CNN, specifically, of being “Fake News.” Do you feel this is a fair characterization of CNN?
I think there’s been a lot of fake news. I remember BuzzFeed reporting on the Russian dossier connecting the Trump administration to those wacky claims like golden showers, and then CNN said they wouldn’t publish it, and ended up spending a good amount of time talking about it. So they legitimized it without saying they were legitimizing it. So there’s instances like that, where they’ll run with a story with so few sources because it’s salacious and demonizes Trump and might bring down or torpedo his administration. Or because they think it’s going to make a good headline.
How did you come up with your controversial “Final Thoughts” monologues during your time at OANN?
Most political commentators that have their own show do a monologue. Whether it’s a comedy show or what have you, you stand up in the beginning of the show and do a monologue and then do the interviews. I wanted to be different. I remembered that viewers usually remember the last thing they hear, so I put the monologue at the end of the show: This is what I want you to take away from everything that’s happening today.
You first went viral in July of 2015, in the wake of the Chattanooga shootings that resulted in the deaths of four service members. In your “Final Thoughts” monologue, you attacked President Obama for not immediately labeling the attack as “Islamic Terrorism.” Do you believe the President valued political correctness over national security?
Yes. One hundred percent. When you won’t name our enemy you can’t defeat it. It’s a slap in the face of all the service members overseas who are combating Islamic terrorism. When you won’t name it, say the ideology that you’re fighting against, or say you’re fighting against an ideology that wants to establish a caliphate under Sharia, when you will not admit that, you are putting Muslim sensitivity, words, feelings and snowflakery over mission accomplished and the service members who over there fighting this thing.
It caught them off guard. If it was Bill O’Reilly saying those same exact words, I don’t think it would have got the reaction that it did.
Why do you think that specific video went viral and became your biggest success up to that point?
People saw someone that they didn’t expect to say those things. Someone that they hadn’t seen before. It caught them off guard. If it was Bill O’Reilly saying those same exact words, I don’t think it would have got the reaction that it did. And I think they could see the passion and authenticity.
Your Instagram tends to draw some controversy as well. There was a recent photo of you firing an assault rifle [AR15] in South Dakota. You’re also a champion of the Second Amendment and supporter of the Bullets & Bombshells Guns Society. The media has described you as “gun toting.” Are you a member of the National Rifle Association?
No. I’m not a recreational shooter. I don’t enjoy shooting as a hobby. I grew up with it. My dad was a gun enthusiast with a collection of guns. My grandfather was as well. I don’t fear guns. I grew up somewhere that was rural, and being 25 minutes from the nearest police department meant that the Second Amendment was important. So I’m an advocate. I have a Glock, but I don’t walk around carrying it. I don’t have a conceal-carry license in Texas. It’s always been something I want to do. But I do realize that for home protection I feel a lot better having a weapon; it makes me feel a lot safer. But I do believe you should be trained and tested on your skills and have knowledge on how to use a firearm.
In another controversial “Final Thoughts” monologue, you discussed the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. Do you feel his shooting was justified?
We have to rely on the court system. And the court system said that, in that instance, they found that Darren Wilson was innocent. I believe in our court system. I’m an advocate for our court system and now I’m also a part of it. So I have to put my trust in it. Any time a life is lost, especially a young one, it’s not something to be celebrated. Nobody wanted that to be the result. But the events leading up to that concluded that Darren Wilson did act accordingly with the law and his position. I have to be respectful of that. It also frustrated me when they [Black Lives Matter] used the "hands up, don’t shoot” slogan, when it’s been proven to be a falsehood. Why would you try to legitimize a movement based on a false narrative?
Explain how it was a “false narrative.“
He didn’t have his hands up. That was not the incident; that’s not what happened. So if they [Black Lives Matter] want to use "hands up, don’t shoot” as their tagline, and they want to apply it to Ferguson and Michael Brown, they’re starting with a falsehood. It’s an emotional tagline. I find it to be reckless.
I think some people would characterize the points you make, such as the previous one about Black Lives Matter, as a symptom of unchecked white privilege. How do you respond?
My criticism of Black Lives Matter has always been very direct. I believe it started out with good intentions. I believe those individuals felt like there was a rift between police and community. They wanted to draw attention to it and create a national conversation. I believe it was well-intentioned. But as I mentioned, when you start with a false narrative and then when your protests turn into riots and you start looting and walking around with signs that say “fuck the police,“ you lose your legitimacy. You’re no longer a social justice movement. You’ve become a group that demonizes police officers, not brings attention to a rift between police and community. You then become part of the problem. You become destructive to your own communities. People say, "Oh, it’s just a few individuals.” It’s not. When a state of emergency and the National Guard has to be called in, and you have to have curfews at night because of the violence, this is no longer a handful of individuals; this is a movement. And if Black Lives Matter doesn’t want to be associated with those individuals, they need to have a clear and distinct hierarchy within their organization. They need to make it very clear that it’s not what they stand for. I have yet to see that happen.
You held Black Lives Matter responsible for the five police officers that were shot and killed in Dallas. Black Lives Matter has publicly distanced themselves from association with the shooter, who they identified as a “lone gunman.” Do you believe the shooting in Dallas was an attack orchestrated by Black Lives Matter?
I don’t believe it was coordinated by Black Lives Matter. I do, however, believe it was influenced by them because the gunmen even said he was doing it because of Black Lives Matter. He said he was doing it to target white police officers. And you’ve got other incidents and riots involving Black Lives Matter, in which they’ve said in the streets, which has been videotaped, that when you see a white person, beat their ass. When those kinds of things happen at Black Lives Matter events, and a gunman says he’s doing it because of Black Lives Matter, yeah, I do believe in part they have to take responsibility for that. And if they don’t believe it was motivated by Black Lives Matter, they need to consolidate and solidify themselves in a way that says this is them, and this is us.
From BLM’s perspective, it’s not only that “Black Lives Matter,” it’s that black lives matter too, because law enforcement doesn’t seem to value or protect black lives with the same diligence it does white lives. So when you say, “All Lives Matter,” you’re ignoring or reducing the validity of their message. Do you believe there’s a problem with how the law enforcement community treats African Americans?
I have not existed in those communities, so to say I can walk in their shoes would be naive. But I don’t think what Black Lives Matter is doing is improving relations. You have to remember, for police officers, it is their job to go into those communities. They make about $45,000 a year on average, and they have to go into some of the worst communities in the country and put their lives on the line every day. When you’ve got Black Lives Matter saying the police hate them, oppress them, brutalize them? Imagine being the police officer having to go into those neighborhoods. Also, imagine your job being at a protest where people are actively protesting against you and you still have to be there? Imagine how dangerous that is for you. A young white police officer told me something that I’ll never forget: A black mother and her young child were at the protest and this police officer reached out to give the child a sticker, and the mother slapped his hand away and said, “Get away from my child, you white demon!” And that’s a direct result of the message of Black Lives Matter. That police hate you, that police brutality is rampant. I don’t believe it’s rampant; I think that’s bullshit. Are there areas where police and communities have a contentious relationship? Sure. But I don’t believe there’s a systemic racism or this hate in the hearts’ of police officers. I don’t think you sign up to be police officers for $45,000 a year to solve some pent up racism.
Do you believe there have been incidents of white police officers being racist towards black members of the community?
Sure, there have been incidents. Just like how there have been incidents of black cops being racists towards white people, or hispanics, or hispanics being racist towards black.
I think the BLM argument would be the percentage of white cops being racist towards black citizens is far greater than the inverse.
To say that, you have to be mindful of the statistic that a police officer is 18.5 times more likely to be shot by a black person than a black person is to be shot by a police officer. They’re in these communities. They’re in the hotbed. So incidents occur, but I can’t say it’s always because of racism. It would be glossing over the problems in the communities to say that the biggest problem facing African American communities are police officers.
In July, you deleted a tweet where you said: “Meet the new KKK, they call themselves ‘Black Lives Matter,’ but make no mistake their goals are far from equality.” You tweeted this in the aftermath of the Dallas police shootings. Looking back at it, do you stand by this statement?
I think it was a mistake to put it on Twitter, which is why I deleted it. Because it didn’t come with an explanation. I couldn’t explain the true feelings behind it, which is why I deleted it. Like I told you, I think Black Lives Matter started off as a well-intentioned organization looking to bring social justice for what they saw as young black teens being unfairly treated by police. Whether that’s true or not, that’s the issue they were trying to draw attention to. So any time you want to draw attention to something or start a conversation, I think that’s positive. However, when they turned it into, “Fuck the police” and “Fry em’ like bacon" and the stepfather of Michael Brown said “Burn this bitch down,” calling for more violence. That’s when they started to become ugly. They need to get their organization in order, because if they don’t, and more incidents like this happen where five police officers lose their lives, Black Lives Matter is heading in the direction of a hate group like the KKK. I’m not saying you can compare the short history of BLM to the long and disgusting history of the KKK, but if you don’t want BLM to be synonymous with a domestic terrorist group, get yourselves back on track. Don’t riot and burn your communities. When you call for violence against police or white people, you are becoming a domestic terrorist group like the KKK. I honestly don’t think that’s controversial.
The comparison enrages your critics because the subtext is that Black Lives Matter, if pushed to the extreme, is an organization that targets and kills white people based on the color of their skin. Is that the point you’re trying to make?
Well, that’s what happened in Dallas. The gunman said he was targeting white police officers. The KKK targeted African Americans. I’m saying that if this organization doesn’t get back on track, the message you’re delivering is causing some people that follow your movement to believe that targeted attacks are what your organization is about. For example, I’ve had individuals that follow me use racist or bigoted language, and even if they’re in support of me, I block them because there’s no room for that.
Your work at OANN and TheBlaze hasn’t focused on Beltway politics. You’ve been similar to Bill O’Reilly in the sense that you’ve focused on cultural issues. What for you is the most important cultural battle you’re waging?
I think race in America is a huge one. I think that’s something that needs to be confronted, certainly.
You have to acknowledge that pro-choice means a choice. By not acknowledging that a choice exists, you are a baby killer.
How are you confronting it?
Starting a conversation and saying that it’s okay for white people to talk about those issues as well. For so long it’s been, “Those are black issues that white people can’t talk about them.” Okay, but if you’re calling me a racist and saying white people don’t understand you, wouldn’t white people inherently have to be a part of that conversation? I actually had a conversation with Charlamagne [tha God] about this, that there are white people who are afraid to talk about race because they don’t want to be labeled a racist, so they don’t want to talk about the issues; they don’t even want to talk to black people because they’re so afraid they’ll slip up and be offensive. Which is a huge problem. We’re segregating ourselves because we’re afraid we’re going to offend each other.
Your critics argue that the words you use have a psychological effect that can either hurt or galvanize. Do you find yourself watching what you say, or do you just unleash without considering how your words might trigger people?
I watch some of the things I say. I might read something and realize that that’s not really what I mean by that. It’s not, “Oh, I shouldn’t go there.“ But I will say this: We need to get past the notion that words hurt. We need to get past the notion that you shouldn’t say something because it might trigger someone or hurt someone else’s feelings. I thing we need to get over this. I talk about this during my college campus speeches. This notion of safe spaces on college campuses; this notion of trigger warnings. I call them “snowflakes,” and this notion that words hurt, so other people’s free speech should be limited because you might hurt someone else’s feelings. Bullshit. The only way you correct speech you feel is inflammatory or offensive is by more speech. Tell me why I offended you and let’s have a conservation about it. Instead of just saying that you can’t say something in order to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. The world does not care about your feelings.
You’ve openly said that you’re not a feminist. You’ve also accused feminists like Lena Dunham of being crybabies or attention seekers. Do you think feminism today is good or bad for this country?
Bad. To say that a woman can be simplified into wanting free abortions or free birth control, and by using a false statistic like the 77 cents on the dollar bullshit; to say that that’s what female empowerment is? That’s discrediting and insulting to woman like myself. Saying, “Give me, give me, give me” is not female empowerment. As a woman, I care more about immigration than I do free birth control. Does that make me anti-woman? No, it just means that I don’t wake up everyday and think of myself first and foremost as a woman. I think of myself as an American, as a daughter, as a friend. I don’t wake up and think, “What can I get for free today because I’m a woman” or use my gender to further some kind of entitlement for me.
During a “Final Thoughts” monologue last year, you were discussing Dunham, and describing that you felt like she was glorifying abortion, which led to you referring to her as a “baby killer,” because, according to you, she was not acknowledging that abortion is a difficult choice, and “wished she could have murdered a fetus.”
If you’re saying “I wish I could have had an abortion,” you are a baby killer. People have been twisting this around and saying I’m a hypocrite, which makes me so mad. What I said is you have to acknowledge that pro-choice means a choice. By not acknowledging that a choice exists, you are a baby killer. The fact that they have used that to say I’m a flip-flopper makes me so angry.
Do you believe abortion is murder?
I don’t think it’s a black-and-white issue. I don’t know where I fall on that, I really don’t. I can’t look at somebody who’s gone through rape or incest, and because they believe they should have an abortion, I can’t look at them as a “baby killer.” I believe we have to approach these issues with compassion and understanding and try to help people.
Have you ever been pro-life?
I’m anti-abortion. But I’m pro-choice because I don’t believe the government does most things well, in the same way that I don’t believe a gun-free zone or a weapons ban is going to limit violence. I also don’t believe government-restricted abortion is going to lessen abortion. It’s going to make it less safe and more dangerous for the mother and the baby, which is why I take the position that I’m pro-choice. But personally, I’m anti-abortion.
Do you think that being a pro-choice conservative has been a bad career move following the fallout from your appearances on The View?
I mean, for those willing to discount me or throw me out as such a strong female voice on the right, or discount me because I don’t link up on every item on your check list? I don’t really need you. You can disagree with me, but if you now hate me or turn your back on me because I have this position, I don’t need you.
TheBlaze filed a lawsuit recently claiming your pro-choice comments on The View were not the primary reason for your firing. In fact, they claimed you weren’t fired at all. Do you believe you were fired because you came out as pro choice?
Well, I went on The View on the 17th and I was fired on the 20th, so I’ll let you make of that what you will.
There’s also been some talk that your firing from TheBlaze was partly the result of “diva”-like behavior that made you too demanding and difficult. These reports were leaked to the media recently.
One thing my parents never raised me to be was a diva. I’m pretty low maintenance. I’m the hardest worker you’ll ever meet. Anything to the contrary, I would look at the source and ask what their motivation is for saying this. Are they doing it because they really think that or are we in a lawsuit and they’re trying to smear me?
Do you believe it’s hypocritical of conservatives who criticize the left for being too politically correct to then turn their backs on you for taking on a position they’re not comfortable with?
I wouldn’t say it’s hypocritical. But I feel like if the right is not a champion for free speech and independent thinking, who will be? Also, the left is watching how the right treats women, and we are doing their work for them. We can’t silence, diminish, and shame a strong female voice because she takes an opinion that maybe we don’t like—even if she stands for conservative values in every other way but this one issue. I think the left looks at us and thinks, “Oh, good, you’re doing our work for us by taking down strong women on the right.”
At times, your intense display of “America First” patriotism can seem dangerously obedient, to the point where you’ve been accused of xenophobia or pandering to the alt-right. Your critics would argue that this kind of patriotic zeal is symptom of white supremacy.
I don’t think patriotism can be white supremacy. There have been patriots who have fought for this country who are people of color, and many who are serving in our military now who are fighting for this country. To say that patriotism is a function of white supremacy is really a disgrace and discredits the sacrifice made by people of color who’ve sacrificed for this country. It is also not racist or xenophobic to say that Americans should come first in our own damn country. I’m someone that will stand by that all day long. And when I say Americans, I don’t mean white people. I mean Americans, and it means legal immigrants. The thing that I have such a frustration with is when people say that we don’t want Mexicans to come in here. No, I said I don’t want illegal immigration, and if you identify that as Mexicans, then you’re the racist because it’s an activity, not a race. When I look at those who oppose our border wall or strengthening our deportation policy, I take it as slap in the face of legal immigrants who’ve spent a lot of time and money trying to come in the right way, who’ve waited in line and respect our rule of law. If you don’t respect our rule of law, how could you call yourself an American? You’re an illegal immigrant and you’ve already said, “Fuck you, we don’t give a fuck about your immigration policies. And by virtue of not liking our lives here, we are entitled to break into your country.” I’m fundamentally opposed to that.
I’m not going to label myself an alt-righter, especially if alt-right means white supremacy.
Why do you think so many young conservatives keep distancing themselves from the alt-right label?
Because alt-right is nasty. There’s people like Richard Spencer, who coined the term. And the fact that they’ve taken that term and made it so it means white supremacy is disgusting. So of course I’m not going to label myself an alt-righter, especially if alt-right means white supremacy. It’s so frustrating when people lump in Trump supporters or conservative millennials as part of the alt-right faction. If this is what alt-right has been deemed to mean by the mainstream media, or by white supremacists who’ve coined the term—then I don’t want any part of it.
Conservative commentators have made the point that capitalism creates a meritocracy where racism cannot thrive, making the larger point that institutional racism no longer exists in this country because free-market capitalism doesn’t allow it. Do you believe this is the case?
To say that racism no longer exists would be a falsehood. But I think by focusing on it, throwing out the card constantly and being a victim and taking the victimhood narrative and making that your life’s message is debilitating. Which is why capitalism is so wonderful: the Ben Franklins in your pocket don’t give a fuck what color your are.
But do you think institutional or systemic racism still exists in his country?
No. I think through affirmative action and the quota system, seeking to correct the problem, we’ve gone overboard and way too far in the other direction. Quota systems don’t allow the best person that fits the job to get the job, but the person who fits the quota. I’ve heard that time and time again, even in police departments, where if you’re a white male, it’s going to take you a hell of a lot longer to join the force, but if you’re a female Hispanic you’re gonna get in three days.
Which police department specifically is that the case in?
Your critics have accused you of being a scripted mouthpiece for the Trump administration—a kind of “mini-Trump.” How do you respond?
Well, I rejected the opportunity to be a Trump surrogate. I also wasn’t originally a Trump supporter; I was a supporter of Marco Rubio. And then I became a Trump supporter because we need a businessman from the outside to run this country like a business, as opposed to a function of the establishment. But beyond that, I write every word I say in my “Final Thoughts,” so to say that I’m scripted doesn’t account for the five million views I got from my kitchen, and nobody wrote that for me. People think that other people write those for me, that that’s a function of my success. Clearly not.
I think the argument is that you write your “Final Thoughts” as an advocate, as opposed to a journalist.
I’m not a journalist. I’m a commentator. But my answer to that is if people think that I do what’s popular or that I operate by talking points that I think I must fill then they clearly haven’t seen what’s been going with me in the last month. I’m not afraid to break out of the box, say something that’s unpopular, or offend my political party. If Trump does something I disagree with, like if he doesn’t build the border wall or put together tax reform, I will be a critic. But he hasn’t done anything that I hate yet. He’s only been in office for 100 days. How long were liberals in their honeymoon phase with Obama? Seven-and-a-half years?
Do you believe the President Trump will build his proposed border wall?
Well, Congress has to play ball. We’ve seen an obstructionist Congress on both sides. Repeal and replace ObamaCare is another example, which is on the shoulders of Republicans who were elected to do just that, and what they came up with was insufficient; it was not up to standards. But Republicans are in the best position we’ve ever been in so we have to do something.
Politico recently wrote a piece about how Trump is abandoning his promise to put “America First” and pulling the nation into foreign entanglements such as Syria in what they described as a “Clintonian” approach to foreign policy. Are you in support of the current “Trump Doctrine”?
President Obama drew the red line. It was reasonable for President Trump to follow suit. It was less about Syria and the chemical attack. This was about Trump making a statement as a new President and saying that if you test me, I will act, unlike President Obama, who let his own red line be crossed several times. This was, “I’m President Trump, don’t fuck with me,” and it was the message that needed to be sent out. Now, if there are further entanglements in Syria where we get in the way of the Civil War, I will be critical. It’s not our place to pick winners and losers; it fails every time. So I give him a pass on that because I understand the logic behind it. He needed to make a statement.
Let’s talk about the revised travel ban or “Muslim Ban.” Do you support it?
Yes. Absolutely. And I said on The View, that if you think this is a “Muslim Ban,” then how many billions of Muslims have packed themselves into six countries? If this was a Muslim ban, then India would be included on it with their high population of Muslims. These are areas that are Jihadist, war-torn countries that want to establish a caliphate under Sharia. And to say that we shouldn’t be monitoring those places is being completely tone-deaf to what’s going on in the world. Look at Europe. They’ve said, "Bring them all in,” and look what’s happening there? It’s a fundamental transformation.
Why do you think Iraq, the birthplace of ISIS, was removed from the list? Why isn’t Saudi Arabia on it?
Yeah, I think Saudi Arabia should be included. I think we’ve had a relationship with Saudi Arabia where we scratch their back and they scratch ours as pseudo-allies. It’s also the birthplace of Wahhabism, and a lot the problems that stem from Islamic radical terror have begun in Saudi Arabia. So I don’t understand why Saudi Arabia wasn’t included. I don’t understand why Iraq was taken off. I’m not a foreign policy expert, but it’s a good start.
I think it’s admirable that you never duck appearances on left-leaning platforms. During your appearance on The Daily Show, you made a point that “true diversity is diversity of thought” and then proceeded to say, “I don’t see color.” The audience and host were both shocked. Some would argue his was yet another symptom of your unchecked white privilege, where you have the luxury to never confront color in your daily life, or deal with it.
Oh, really? I don’t have to deal with it? Because I have people calling me racist every single day. So I think I have to deal with it.
Why do you think “I don’t see color” angered so many people in the audience, including host Trevor Noah?
Well, I think others have said that before in another context. I prefaced it by saying “true diversity is diversity of thought.” I go after Obama, Hillary, Colin Kaepernick, Beyonce, Rachel Maddow, Bloomberg… I go after people on every side of the rainbow, who I criticize for their political positions, not what percentage of black they are. Which is what they liked to laugh about on The Daily Show when I said that I don’t see color. Literally, I do see color. What I’m saying is that when I criticize someone I don’t base it on color. It has nothing to do with it.
Noah asked you why you were so angry all the time. Joking that you’re the “racist uncle.” Do you find this characterization to be fair?
Unfair. Oftentimes, people confuse passion and anger. So if you’re a conservative and you’re passionate, you must be angry. Just like when MSNBC’s Van Jones goes into hysterics on election night. They would classify that as passion, but when I say what I say, it’s anger. No.
Speaking of Van Jones, how would respond to his election night rant that President Trump’s victory was the result of a “whitelash” spurred on by a racist undercurrent developed during the the Obama years?
It’s just plain identity politics. It’s what lost them the election. It’s also super insulting to those African Americans and people of color who voted for Trump. It’s also insulting to say that white working-class Americans who voted for Trump have some pent-up racism. Maybe they just care about American jobs? Maybe they just care about the economy and immigration? To classify that as a “whitelash” is just insulting.
Following Beyonce’s Black Panther tribute at Super Bowl 50, you attacked her in your “Final Thoughts” monologue for “ripping off the cultural Band-Aid” and saluting a “terrorist organization.” You were then viciously attacked on social media by her fanbase the “Beyhive.” Why did the performance bother you and why do you think it’s so dangerous to be critical of Beyonce?
She’s Beyonce. She’s got a cult-like following. It’s because I went after Beyonce, period. Had I gone after her for lipstick she wore they would have hated me anyway because there’s a following behind people like Beyonce who feel like they’re friends with her, that they’re close to her and she’s their icon. Also, they felt like she was making some kind of black-power moment. She wasn’t saluting Martin Luther King Jr.; she was saluting the Black Panthers, who have a sketchy history, and history of violence towards police. And to that at the Super Bowl, at a time when the nation is so divided, when people are trying to come together to say “fuck you police officers” and salute the Black Panthers? I just thought that was so inappropriate. That’s why I was so impressed that Lady Gaga was able to avoid that by leaving the political bullshit out of it.
During a “Final Thoughts” in August, you attacked San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the National Anthem. Kaepernick said he was protesting the oppression of black Americans; you viewed his act as unpatriotic, calling him a “crybaby” and saying that black communities needed to take some “responsa-damn-bility” for their problems. From the left’s perspective, some of the problems of the black community are in fact linked to oppression at the hands of the white community.
Is that why there’s black-on-black violence? I don’t believe in blaming your the problems in your communities on white people. Again, that’s not taking responsibility for the actions in your own community. Especially in the United States of America where we’re afforded the greatest liberties and given this gift of capitalism and this society where we can all rise to the top, in relation to other countries where they wouldn’t even have that opportunity. To sit back and say you’re not accomplishing something because of white people, especially Colin Kaepernick, who was raised by white people when his own parents didn’t want him. For him to sit there and tell me there’s systemic racism? You’re the poster child of America coming together! The poster child for anti-racism, and look what you’ve been able to do with your life as a black man making $19 million a year to throw a football. I just don’t think the cards are that stacked against you. And even if you think that they are, the fact that he used the anthem and the flag as the outlet for his aggression or resentment? That flag, for him, might be a symbol of white supremacy, but to a lot of individuals, including people of color who’ve fought for it, or come back him in a casket covered in one, it means a little bit more. That’s what angered me.
You recently gave a speech at ECU (East Carolina University), and there was a small protest leading up to your appearance. Have you ever considered speaking at more unsympathetic campuses like Berkeley, where there have been aggressive protests against conservative speakers (or what the left might characterize as “white supremacists”) like Milo Yiannopoulos?
I’ll go anywhere, so yes, I’d love to. They seem to want to combat what they see as “white supremacy” by burning down their own campus is beyond me. It’s this whole notion that they want to silence what they don’t like. So destructive. A college campus should be the number once place where you hear speech that you might not agree with, that might challenges your worldview. If the thought of listening to these people disgusts you, don’t fucking go. It’s not mandatory. You’re not getting school credit for it. If your response to throw rocks at people and hit people with Trump hats on or spray pepper spray in their face? Really, that’s your response?
The Berkeley protesters and Antifa believe conservative rabble-rousers like Milo and Ann Coulter are drawing “white supremacists” and “hate speech” to the Berkeley campus. Should they even have a platform at Berkeley?
Well, free speech is clearly defined by the constitution. It isn’t just saying what you want to hear, it’s also saying what you don’t want to hear. So the flag burner has just as much right as the flag waver. These people cannot be the judge of deciding who is alt-right or who is a white supremacist—that they are the word of God on that. That they are the decider of who is awful or racist: bullshit. Especially after these people were praising Fidel Castro after his death for the atrocities that he committed. It’s Fidel Castro.
Bill O’Reilly was recently ousted at Fox News because of sexual harassment charges. Before Tucker Carlson took his 8 PM time slot, a lot of people on Twitter were asking Fox to hire you. If the opportunity is presented to you once your contract at TheBlaze is up in September, would you consider working at Fox News?
Of course I would. I mean, that’s the Mecca. But I don’t care what the outlet is. I would work for MSNBC if I could be me and be authentic and genuine, and do what I do. That’s the thing about me: I can learn and I can grow, but you’re not getting some empty vessel that you can make with it what you want. I think I’ve proven time and time again that I’m not easily tamed. I would consider going anywhere. But I just want to be able to pursue what’s next. I want the freedom to find that out.
Additional reporting by Leila Brillson
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