July 22, 2009

Uninformed Ingraham

Dr. Gottfried’s recent post “GOP ‘Hate Facts’” reminded me of the dark time at the beginning of my sophomore year in college when I was an unpaid intern for the Laura Ingraham Show. I had not yet discovered Nisbet or Kirk or Mencken or Burke. To me, right-wing Gospel came from the mouths of Levin, Hannity, and embarrassingly enough, Coulter. But this isn’t about me. It’s about Laura.

So every morning I would wake up at 5:30am, ride the Metro to Union Station, and walk to the headquarters of the Heritage Foundation, where Laura’s studio is located. Her show went live at 9am and interns were expected to arrive around 7. Laura was never there. She would arrive around 8 and head to the gym in the basement of Heritage. In the meantime, interns would be reading every major newspaper in the country in search of news that she could talk about. All the content was developed by the producers and transcribed by the interns for her: a funny anecdote from Wichita; some out of context quote from a war opponent; any piece of audio from Capitol Hill or from broadcast news.

Right around 8:58 Laura would come storming in, still wet from her after gym shower. The producers would quickly brief her on what she was going to say and by 9:05 she would be talking about what she “read in the Post this morning.”

I don’t write this in order to trash the show. I could excuse her berating an intern for getting her latte wrong or attacking another intern on the air for misspelling a word if she had genuine talent. The producers there are smart and funny and genuinely kind to all of the interns and guests. But even they made it very clear to the interns that anyone could do what Laura does. “Our job,” one producer once said to us, “is to make what she does look difficult. It’s not.” If she was just an entertainer then all of this would be superfluous, but she is a best-selling author and what passes today as a public intellectual. Yet she doesn’t even read the paper herself.

It shows. Rush shows up to his studio hours before his show begins and does most of his own research. He is prepared when his show goes live and as a result he is an engaging host and an informed commentator, despite his poor understanding of many issues. Laura, other than being a woman, offers little that is different than the drivel heard from the typical talk-radio personality. And now she gets to sub for Bill O’Reilly in the highest rated timeslot in cable news.

Power to the (ignorant) people!

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