Tomi Lahren, branded the liberal agitator, is best known for her jeering verbal attacks on ‘snowflakes’ and the left. Lahren has generated a considerable amount of controversy over the past few weeks. The conservative political commentator was dismissed from her show “Tomi” on Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze in late March after admitting on “The View” that she is against government intervention in all cases, including abortion. Seeing as she is a self-identified constitutionalist, Lahren’s comments raise questions about whether being pro-choice is consistent with the conservative values with which she has rigidly aligned herself for the duration of her public life. Now that she is off-air, Lahren’s next professional move is unclear.
Lahren’s rise to video stardom began early in her career. After graduating from the University of Nevada in 2014, she began her first show on One America News Network called “On Air with Tomi Lahren” and promptly moved to San Diego, California. Although Lahren initially contacted the conservative news network specifically to obtain an internship, her opinionated demeanor, youthful confidence, and articulation of Republican values impressed the producers. She gained attention for her widely circulated video on the network in which she speaks about the 2015 Chattanooga shootings and devolves into anti-Obama ranting. This video would set the precedent for her career as a commentator—one of name-calling, flippant insulting, and generalizing based on race and party affiliation.
Lahren made her way to Dallas, Texas just a year later to begin her show on Beck’s network where she began to gain momentum. Since then she has become a household name, amassing a striking 690,000 followers on Twitter and averaging “approximately 5 million views” on her videos. In February 2016, the talking head criticized Beyoncé’s Super Bowl performance for being reminiscent of the Black Panther Party. In doing so she was acknowledging the existence of “white domination” while criticizing Beyonce’s attempt to undermine it. Later that year, Lahren also released a video criticizing 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during NFL games in an act of protest against racism. Most recently Lahren went head-to-head with comedian Trevor Noah on “The Daily Show.” On the show, Noah amicably questioned Lahren on her fierce opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement and her racially charged rhetoric on “Tomi.” Other similar instances of controversial behavior have gained Lahren a reputation as a racist, an Islamaphobe, and a “white power Barbie,” three labels which she continues to reject.
A dedicated fan base has come to Lahren’s aid countless times throughout her career, enabling her in her inflammatory behavior that would have been enough to end the careers of other media personalities. The clips from her controversial, rant-like talk shows that often spread rapidly echo the attitudes of other sensationalist conservative media platforms. Unfortunately, Lahren is rarely held accountable for her racist, even borderline white supremacist, remarks.
President Trump’s public expression of gratitude for Lahren’s “fair coverage” of him on Sean Hannity’s Fox News Show is just one instance of the positive reinforcement she has received, that has lent her statements some legitimacy. As a well-known conservative pundit, she surprised the all-female panel and conservative viewers alike with her disclosure of her pro-choice stance on “The View.” This begs the question: amidst all of her contentious statements, why did this one stand out enough to result in her dismissal?
For many Americans, abortion has and always will be a moral issue. The major arguments about abortion are often based on a fundamental disagreement on whether fetal tissue should be considered a human being; many also debate the role a mother should have in deciding what happens to such a fetus. In recent years, the Republican Party has shifted in the favor of more conservative values. This has emboldened those who believe that fetuses have the right to life regardless of the mother’s wishes.
While the GOP is technically split on this issue, religious conservatives within the party have an influential foothold whereby they continue to portray abortion as diametrically opposed to any sound moral doctrine. Anti-abortion sentiment has thus permeated the policies supported by the GOP and made it reasonable for fiscal conservatives to target government-supported institutions like Planned Parenthood. This movement is a burden to anyone who wishes to align themselves with the party but disagrees with the pro-life component. Here arises Lahren’s dilemma.
Even though she never explicitly claimed to be pro-life in the past, conservatives have taken her upfront pro-choice stance as a major affront on her political views. A self-described Christian, Lahren has mentioned time and time again that abortion is not one of her primary concerns and that she is socially moderate. She has often stated that being a millennial has given her a more personally relaxed perspective on issues related to sex.
Last October, Lauren expressed her approval of the more secular direction the conservative platform has moved in in recent years. Hence, any criticism that she receives from religious conservatives for being hypocritical is unfounded, as she never maintained that her beliefs were based on anything other than her interpretation of the Constitution.
Lahren’s tenuous relationship with abortion is further evidenced by her equivocal attack on Lena Dunham’s abortion comments last year. In reminding her viewers that the decision to have an abortion is a “difficult choice” while criticizing Dunham’s communication style, Lahren came off as defensive of the pro-choice movement. She even hinted at a distinction between being pro-choice and anti-abortion.
When questioned, Lahren has responded with consistency. Whether or not her fellow constituents pay attention to her views on abortion is another question. But even if Lahren had previously identified herself as being pro-life, recent backlash only speaks poorly of right-wing news and their tolerance for varying opinions. Response to Lahren’s statements also reveals the hypocrisy of a network that claims to defend freedom of speech against the threat of left-wing media.
In the eyes of her conservative critics, Lahren’s pro-choice stance stands in contrast with the rest of her views. It is by their standards that her statements have taken a toll on her credibility, especially in the wake of an increasingly bipartisan era unforgiving of political flip-flopping. The issue of abortion has long been a third rail in conservative politics, and the Republican Party often refuses to welcome people who do not identify with their prevailing traditional standpoint. The only time that Lahren has ever clearly outlined her stance towards abortion has been through her disapproval of the government’s role in funding it—an approach that many modern-day, business-oriented conservatives hold.
Nevertheless, Lahren’s termination from TheBlaze’s network speaks to the uncompromising direction in which conservative media is moving. As soon as she publicly broke from the norm by deviating from their narrative, the network was quick to shut her down. Lahren has fallen victim to a system that has fed off of her willingness to create controversy. This time, she miscalculated from where that controversy would stem. It is unlikely she will receive much sympathy from either side, but we can hope that she has learned a lesson about the open-mindedness of the media sphere she defends so fiercely.
While we may never understand why she decided to express her views at this exact moment, it is important to take her comments with a grain of salt, as she persistently maintains: “I’m controversial, and I don’t back down from being controversial.”
Since being terminated, Lahren has been mocked by her former employer Glenn Beck, been involved in a legal battle for rights to her official Facebook page, and sued Beck and TheBlaze for wrongful termination. However, with her massive media following and hundreds of her infamous “Final Thoughts” videos circulating the internet, it is unlikely that Lahren will go quietly. While we cannot disregard her hate speech, Lahren does provide a voice for young conservatives and is looked up to by younger girls (despite her persistent rejection of feminism). For now, Lahren’s tweets communicate her optimism she will be back to inciting media storms in no time. Her penchant for being unconventional and ruthless in her delivery will outlive this episode, and soon she will be back to her fast-talking commentary. Hopefully, Lahren will do this with a more advocacy-based approach in which she will be open to talking about her thoughts on abortion and its funding, as well as how her ideas relate to the new administration.
Taking Lahren’s actions as a first step, public officials and other media personalities should encourage the discussion of abortion with more openness on both sides of the partisan divide and promote the idea that individuals are not obligated to adopt the entire platforms of their preferred parties.