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Laura Ingraham's Fox News debut had a lot of 'self-loathing'

Ken Tucker
Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
Laura Ingraham (Photo: Fox News)

Laura Ingraham commenced her new prime-time Fox News show The Ingraham Angle on Monday night with a segment that was intended as a statement of purpose, a tone-setter for viewers, so they’d know what they were getting at 10 p.m., after a full hour of Sean Hannity’s screeching. Ingraham tried to contrast herself with the excitable Hannity by coming across as quieter and more thoughtful. Her opening theme was “What Is America?” which took its title, she said, from the Frank Sinatra song — a song actually titled “The House I Live In,” and one notable for its liberal message of inclusion, which stands in contrast to Ingraham’s message of anti-immigrant divisiveness. (Among her metaphors this night was a complaint about a southern American border “more wide-open than Harvey Weinstein’s robe.”)

“People at the end of the night want a safe harbor to dock into,” Ingraham had told The Hill in an interview about her new show earlier in the day. “I think people don’t want conflict for an hour at the end of the day.” But then Ingraham began her first segment by announcing, “There’s a self-loathing in the air — can you feel it?” Why no, I can’t, Laura. Pretty soon, she was deep into a lamentation about the removal of public monuments by various offended groups, “erasing our historical memory… American monuments, works of art, literature” were being eliminated by special-interests groups, she said, denying us our “right to a complete record of what went before.” Ah, now the Ingraham “angle” was becoming clearer: Laura Ingraham is stoking the same culture wars that Tucker Carlson inflames every night, while also tossing in her own long-standing variation on Breitbart News/Steve Bannon-style nationalism. “Every night, we’ll answer the question, ‘What is America to me?’” she said, but I think the question is already answered.

The headline from Ingraham’s opening night was getting chief of staff John Kelly, in her heavily hyped “exclusive interview,” to say that he would “never” apologize for smearing Rep. Frederica Wilson for her comments about President Trump’s insensitive phone call to a grieving widow. “Oh, no. No. Never,” said Kelly. “I’ll apologize if I need to, but for something like that, absolutely not. I stand by my comments.” Beyond that, Ingraham asked Kelly to comment on her historical-monuments obsession; looking mildly perplexed, he said something patriotic even as the chyron beneath him yelled, “John Kelly On Historical Monuments Uproar.” The only uproar, though, was the one Ingraham was trying to manufacture.

Did you notice what was missing from The Ingraham Angle so far? It was the thing that was in short supply all across Fox News on Monday: Robert Mueller’s indictments of Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates. She had asked Kelly a brief question about this subject, to minimal reply. Then a little more than half-way through her hour, Ingraham brought up the day’s biggest news in a separate segment, but rapidly twisted her discussions with former attorney general Michael Mukasey and Rep. Devin Nunes into the usual Fox News obsession with Hillary Clinton, the Russian dossier, the Uranium One deal — you know the drill by now.

It’s impossible to tell what a new show will be like based on its first episode, of course. But I’d be willing to bet that the soothing, Frank Sinatra-crooning Laura Ingraham on display during the Ingraham Angle premiere is not the Laura Ingraham we’ll have for very long. For all her talk about how people don’t want conflict at 10 p.m., I’m sure she’s going to discover that you don’t attract substantial ratings on Fox News by being a “safe harbor.” You do it by churning the waters — creating your own monsoons. Keep your rain slicker handy, viewers. I think it’s only a matter of days before Ingraham starts raining down fury upon her treasured American audience.

The Ingraham Angle airs weeknights on 10 p.m. on Fox News.

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