Fox News host Laura Ingraham reportedly has her eyes on the microphone of Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree and former Sleep Number mattress advocate Rush Limbaugh should President Donald Trump come up short on Election Day.
Ingraham — who has been called a "Neo-Nazi fan favorite" by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.; a "white supremacist" by Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas; and a "monster" and a "racist" by her own brother — allegedly told a group of dinner guests recently that "we have to be prepared for Trump losing."
The mealtime banter took place in recent weeks at the Palm Beach mansion of Elizabeth Ailes, the widow of dead Fox News kingpin and alleged sexual assaulter Roger Ailes, Vanity Fair reported Wednesday. Ingraham apparently told fellow diners that she had been in talks to take Limbaugh's place if Stage 4 lung cancer forces him to hang up his mic.
"Laura's really interested in Rush's job," an individual close to Ingraham reportedly told Vanity Fair. A Trump loss could compel the Murdochs, Roger Ailes' more liberal successors, to make major changes at the network.
Limbaugh, by his own account, may need to press pause in the near future.
"There have been many cycles, but this is the third wave," the 69-year-old right-wing radio host said Tuesday on his radio program. "And this current wave, I have to tell you, is kicking my ass."
"For the last seven days, I have been virtually worthless — virtually useless," he continued. "I haven't left the house. I haven't done much of anything."
Limbaugh added that listeners may soon hear a "best-of" series or guest hosts — in the event that his health does not bounce back.
"I hope that that doesn't happen . . . but I do feel the need to keep you informed," he said.
The conversation which took place at Ailes' home was reportedly somber. The pandemic, protests over racial injustice and weak poll numbers have conservatives speculating about the increasing unlikelihood that Trump will be able to salvage his campaign, a source told Vanity Fair.
If Ingraham has indeed begun to read the tea leaves, she does not appear to be the only one. Network colleague Tucker Carlson, who in June posted the highest ratings in the history of cable news, appears to be positioning himself for a post-Trump world. Indeed, Carlson's show has in recent weeks taken on such an iconoclastic bent that some have begun to outwardly speculate about his presidential ambitions. The Fox News host has dismissed white supremacy as a "hoax" and "not a real problem."
Elected conservatives also appear to be eyeing an exit ramp. Frequent Trump golf partner Lindsey Graham, the Republican from South Carolina, has broken with the president on at least six times since June 20. The issues include the administration's decision to freeze work visas; Trump's attack on Black NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace as he defends the Confederate flag; the president's failure to address Russian bounties on American soldiers; and his refusal to encourage Americans to wear face masks amid a spike of coronavirus cases in Graham's home state.
Graham even blocked one of Trump's nominees to become a U.S. attorney.
"I don't think Bubba Wallace has anything to apologize for," Graham told Fox News Radio host Brian Kilmeade on Monday, adding that "you saw the best in NASCAR. When there was a chance that it was a threat against Bubba Wallace, [the drivers] all rallied to Bubba's side. I would be looking to celebrate that kind of attitude more than being worried about it being a hoax."
Beyond Graham, Republican Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine have all announced they will not physically attend Trump's official nomination event, which remains slated for next month in Jacksonville, Fla.
Vanity Fair studded its report with several more thorns, including internal White House opposition to a possible commutation for longtime associate Roger Stone, which could reportedly precipitate a "mutiny" at the Department of Justice; a potential shake-up at the highest levels of the Trump campaign, which would oust campaign manager Brad Parscale in favor of a longtime Republican strategist; and a general pervasive sense of resignation that Trump's stubbornness may prevent anyone from attempting to talk some sense into him.
Should all else fail, Trump may look once more to senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner. But Kushner even seems reluctant to step up this go around, reportedly telling people: "If I go to the campaign, Trump might not let me back into the White House."