By Kayla Webley Adler published
Tomi Lahren has made a name for herself by saying whatever she pleases. Since February 2016, when her nightly show, Tomi, debuted on The Blaze—the media entity founded by radio personality and former Fox News host Glenn Beck—the conservative 24-year-old has enraged opponents, who have called her racist and anti-feminist. But after an appearance on The View in March, the criticism came from an unlikely source: her employer. At issue was Lahren's stance on abortion: "I'm pro-choice and here's why," she said. "I'm for limited government, so stay out of my guns, and you can stay out of my body as well." Within days, her show on The Blaze had been suspended indefinitely, and she was told to "go dark" on Facebook, where she has 4.3 million followers. In April, Lahren fired back, suing The Blaze for wrongful termination. Beck countersued, and ultimately, the two parties settled and agreed to go their separate ways in May. Here, in her first magazine interview since the settlement, Lahren—who now works with Great America Alliance, a nonprofit group that aims to mobilize grassroots support for President Trump's agenda—discusses her ouster and why women should always speak their minds.
Marie Claire: Had you been public about your stance on abortion prior to your appearance on The View?
Tomi Lahren: Yeah, actually, I had. It's quite funny that no one seems to have picked up on that before. The New York Times profile on me in December mentions briefly that I'm pro-choice. And I have expressed these views almost on a weekly basis on my TV show.
MC: Given that, were you surprised by the firestorm in response to your comments?
TL: I was floored. I was absolutely shocked. I wish I could have had the chance to explain myself. My view on abortion is not black-and-white—there is a gray area in there, and that's where I fall. I'm anti-abortion, but I'm pro-choice. I would never get an abortion—I would never tell anyone to get an abortion; in fact, I've had friends in that position, and I have tried to counsel them otherwise. But from my view, I just don't feel right having the government tell a woman that she is restricted from having an abortion. I would personally feel like a hypocrite for doing that.
After the first trimester, I do think that there is some room for the government to intervene, because at that point, it is an unborn child that could be viable on its own. But in the first trimester, I can't sit here and judge other women when I have not been in that position myself. I think we need to approach all of these issues on abortion with compassion, first and foremost, and try to put ourselves in the shoes of someone in a situation that, luckily, we've never had to be in. We need to have some understanding for those people rather than having the almighty government tell them what to do. I just don't think there's a place for that, and I don't like it. It bothers me that there are some pro-lifers who don't see that side of it. They don't have to agree with it, but I wish they could see that side.
But I know there are many Republicans who agree with me. You would be surprised by the number of people who have come up to me saying, "Good for you, and by the way, I feel the same way about abortion."
MC: What's your stance on birth control? Research shows that increasing access to contraception reduces abortion, but the Trump administration has allowed states to cut funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides free and low-cost birth control.
TL: I don't think most conservatives are against access to birth control, but they are wary of funding things like Planned Parenthood. That's just always going to be a sticking point. I'm against the funding of Planned Parenthood. I'm against spending taxpayer money on abortion. The Hyde Amendment might prohibit federal dollars from directly funding abortion, but federal money is used elsewhere in Planned Parenthood, which allows other funds to be used for abortion. When we talk about more access to birth control, a lot of times that means more funding for Planned Parenthood, and we know that's a touchy subject, so I certainly see that perspective and agree with a lot of conservatives on it. I can't speak for every woman, but my birth control is covered by my insurance, and if it weren't covered, it would cost $9 a month. I don't know a lot of women who can't afford $9 a month. I can understand that maybe there are some who can't afford that, but I just don't think birth control is so outrageously expensive that government funding for it is necessary.
MC: What happened after you'd finished and walked offstage on The View?
TL: My agent was there and my best friend, who is also my executive producer, and they thought I did awesome and that maybe I won some people over. I started getting e-mails from my fellow employees at The Blaze saying I did such a great job. So I was feeling on top of the world. And then the hammer came down. I saw my employer [Glenn Beck] attacking me on Twitter, and I was disappointed because I didn't think I had done anything wrong. I was also saddened that it was taking place on Twitter—that really hurt me. I would have appreciated a phone call or an e-mail saying, "Hey, we need to have a discussion about this."
MC: When did you find out you were suspended?
TL: I got back to Dallas from New York really late on Sunday night [The View had aired on Friday], and I sat in my kitchen and wrote my show for the next day. My whole show was written around it—I really wanted to explain myself, but I wasn't given the opportunity. I got a call on Monday as I was getting ready. I had one eyebrow drawn on, and I get the call saying, "You're suspended for your comments on The View." My heart sank down to my seat—I couldn't believe what was happening; it was surreal. And I was thinking, What now? I had heard all morning on the radio other employees at The Blaze bashing me, so I knew I was walking into an interesting situation at work, but I never thought they'd pull my show.
MC: Why did you decide to sue?
TL: All I wanted to do is have my freedom. I wanted to say, "Let's agree to disagree, and let me move on. Send me back to my followers on Facebook to talk about Syria and the issues that matter. I don't want anything, and if I'm a disgrace to your network, then let me go."
MC: How did it feel, as someone who thrives on speaking out, to be silenced?
TL: It was hell. Having done what I've done at 24 years old, I'm not the kind of person who likes to be out of work. I work all the time—I don't take vacations; I work weekends—so to not be able to comment on the stuff that's happening, to not have my voice out there, was the worst period of my life. It was the darkest time. I didn't want to leave my house, because in Dallas, I am recognized quite often, so I stayed home, but then all I did was think about it. I'm alone in Dallas—I moved here specifically for this job, so I have no one. It's a very, very lonely feeling. My Facebook fans have become my family in a lot of ways, so when that was taken away from me, it felt like a huge part of me was shut down.
MC: In the aftermath of the suspension, you tweeted, "we aren't meant to agree on everything. We are Americans, not Stepford Wives." What did you mean?
TL: It's a cautionary tale for conservatives. They need to understand that we're going to have some voices, especially from conservative women, that might not fit within the box. We saw that with Megyn Kelly as well—she didn't fit inside the box, and my fellow Trump supporters raked her over the coals for it, and I don't agree with that. Listen, we're going to have strong female voices on the right, and there might be different factions within our party, but we should embrace those factions, because we should embrace the conservative women that we have. Lord knows, there are so many more prominent female voices on the left.
MC: Why don't we see more young, outspoken conservative women like you?
TL: Ha! Well, boy, if we keep treating them like this, we're not going to see any of them, right? That's why this is so troubling to me. You finally have someone like me who is a rising star on the right...and I was cast aside because I don't fit the mold. My message to women is: It's okay not to toe the party line on every issue. You don't have to be a puppet or a mouthpiece for your party on every issue. You can be an independent thinker, you can take it issue by issue, and that's okay. You shouldn't be told, "You can't sit with us."
MC: How are you feeling now that you and The Blaze reached a settlement?
TL: It's a huge victory for me to be able to walk away as a free agent, with my Facebook page that I worked so hard to build. We are walking away amicably, and that's what's best for both parties. I'm not getting rich over this—this was never about money—this is about my freedom.
This article appears in the July issue of Marie Claire, on newsstands now.
Kayla Webley Adler is the Deputy Editor of ELLE magazine. She edits cover stories, profiles, and narrative features on politics, culture, crime, and social trends. Previously, she worked as the Features Director at Marie Claire magazine and as a Staff Writer at TIME magazine.
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