Laura Ingraham (AP/Mark J. Terrill)

Laura Ingraham: Is she now the world's most powerful woman?

So much for Fox News moving toward the center. Ingraham's new prime-time show is pitched toward an audience of one


Heather Digby Parton
September 19, 2017 12:05PM (UTC)

On Sunday night's Emmy awards show, many people were dismayed to see former Fox News chair Roger Ailes mentioned in the "In Memoriam" segment, given that he was a truly odious human being who ran a brothel that doubled as a news network for decades. His legacy is hardly confined to his reputation as a cable news pioneer and unique television talent.

I think the Emmys could have skipped the tribute, but there is no doubt that Ailes changed the face of television and was, not incidentally, one the most influential political figures of the last 50 years. We are all living in a political world at least partially created by Roger Ailes.

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Dylan Matthews at Vox.com recently reported on a truly frightening study published in the American Economic Review showing that "the Fox News effect translates into a 0.46 percentage point boost to the GOP vote share in the 2000 presidential race, a 3.59-point boost in 2004, and a 6.34-point boost in 2008; the boost increases as the channel's viewership grew." The study's authors say this alone explains nearly "all the polarization in the US public's political views from 2000 to 2008." You have to assume that this effect only grew during the Obama years.

The other networks had no such effect in persuading people to vote Democratic. Indeed, during the early 2000s they moved right as well, although they didn't have much luck persuading anyone of anything. Whatever the secret sauce was in Ailes' formula, it didn't translate to any other entity. Ailes understood his audience and knew how to draw others into it.

So Fox is a hugely important feature of our political life. But it is also a hideous hellhole for women, as has been amply demonstrated by dozens of sexual harassment complaints against Ailes himself, as well as many of the network's top executives and on-air talent. On Monday, The New York Times reported that yet another woman, Scottie Nell Hughes, filed a lawsuit claiming that she was sexually assaulted by anchor Charles Payne and then blacklisted by the network after she came forward. The most shocking thing about that story is that it's not shocking. There are a few on-air female personalities who never complained but many who have, including such major stars as Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly, both of whom left the network.

None of this dissuaded one female conservative star from joining the network, however:

Ingraham obviously has no problem with men committing sexual harassment in the workplace, since her own failing website Lifezette, originally billed as the right-wing answer to Huffington Post, is reportedly yet another abusive sexist cesspool and she apparently doesn't care.

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Ingraham had been courted by the Trump administration for months and has apparently finally said no. You may recall that she gave a passionate endorsement of Trump at the Republican Convention and as one of talk radio's top anti-immigration zealots, fervently supported him in the election campaign. Immediately after the election, Trump very much wanted an attractive woman in the press secretary job and had offered it to her and later to Kimberly Guilfoyle of Fox News' "The Five."

Ingraham claimed to be considering joining the administration early on, saying, "If your country calls you, if God opens that door, you have to seriously consider it. If I can really help, it is hard to say no to that. If I think I can help, which I think I could." God opened the door but she closed it: "I’m not sure if that’s the role I would pick for myself, but I have a legal background, strategic, you know, political communications planning. I’m not sure the press secretary thing is something I’m dying to do.”

It was clearly beneath someone of her stature to do such a menial task. All those previous presidential press secretaries like Bill Moyers, George Stephanopoulos, Tony Snow and Jay Carney must have felt so embarrassed at having lowered themselves to that level. But it all paid off for Ingraham. She will now have a job that's truly worthy of her talent: nightly Fox News host.

This hire puts to rest any thought that Fox was going to shift to a less ultra-conservative editorial line after Ailes' departure and the toll of all the scandals. The network has lately seemed to be in perpetual turmoil, losing both their visionary leader and their biggest star, Bill O'Reilly (due to yet another sexual harassment scandal). While it has generally maintained its lead in the ratings, it has not been as dominant as it once was. Some people thought that with the rise of Breitbart and the direct supervision of Rupert Murdoch and his sons, the organization would change gears and become more mainstream. Ingraham's hire puts that notion to rest. There are very few people in the media business as hard right as she is.

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Think Progress compiled just a few of her greatest hits:

"On her radio show, Ingraham has attacked the pope for talking about climate changerailed against affirmative actionsaid “the Muslims” never support “the conservatives” on anti-LGBTQ issues, called Planned Parenthood a criminal organization, said many minorities voted for Obama because of his race, and suggested the U.S. should shoot undocumented immigrants who want to re-enter the country, among a litany of other hateful and fact-challenged takes."

I also recall her "comedic" riffs using the "yo quiero Taco Bell" commercial to demean child refugees at whom she railed, “Oh no, you won’t. This is our country. Our borders matter to us, our way of life and our culture matter to us, our jobs and our wages matter to us. No, you won’t.”

Laura Ingraham will now be on Fox for an hour every night, carrying on Roger Ailes' legacy, spreading all that ugly rhetoric to millions of people as the network has always done. But she'll really be speaking to one special Fox viewer, the man who records all his "programs" to watch late at night when he's alone: the president of the United States, for whom nothing is real if it isn't on TV. Laura Ingraham just became one of the most influential women in the world.

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Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

MORE FROM Heather Digby Parton

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