|REAL Chamber:||At 24 years of age, Tomi Lahren is the youngest political talk show host in history.
She’s best known for her signature “final thoughts” on everything from Beyonce to President Obama and, of course, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Her segments have been viewed on Facebook over 570 million times, in the last year alone, and her self-titled primetime television show, Tomi, airs nightly on Glen Beck’s The Blaze TV.
Controversy is her specialty, but for Tomi it’s all about faith, freedom, family, and, of course, final thoughts.
Tomi, thank you for joining us today.
|Tomi Lahren:||No, thank you for having me.|
|REAL Chamber:||We’re doing this interview on the day after International Women’s Day. With that in mind, what’s the best piece of advice your mother ever gave to you?|
|Tomi Lahren:||Outwork everyone around you.
I grew up with a mom that did go to work every day and worked very hard. When she got done with her nine-to-five job she came home and she worked more, at home. On the weekends she worked then, too.
I learned that there’s a lot of pride to be taken in hard work and a strong work ethic. If you want something you’re going to have to go out and get it because no one’s going to hand it to you.
I’m very blessed to have that kind of a woman, who showed up to work every day of my life, and certainly showed up to work yesterday, as well.
|REAL Chamber:||You were born and raised in Rapid City, South Dakota. Why, and how, did you end up going to college at UNLV in Las Vegas?|
|Tomi Lahren:||It would have been the easy choice to stay in South Dakota and go to a state school. But I knew that I wouldn’t be able to grow and learn, and I wouldn’t be exposed to true diversity of thought, color, idea, anything by staying in South Dakota.
I wanted to venture out, and I had taken a couple of trips to Las Vegas. For my 16th birthday, actually, my family took me to Las Vegas for a quick celebration.
I kind of fell in love with the city. It was a different city. It was unique. It was nothing I ever experienced before. And there was so much there, and it was concentrated in such a small area. It was fascinating to me.
I was told I would be able to get a pretty good scholarship for academics and I thought, “Why not?” I want to challenge myself and go outside of the box.
It was a good place, as well, for what I wanted to do – which was media and communications, political science. I said, “What the heck. Let’s go to Las Vegas.” I spent four years there, and I learned a lot.
|REAL Chamber:||While at UNLV you hosted a political roundtable talk show called The Scramble. How did you get involved in that project, and what did you learn from it?|
|Tomi Lahren:||The thing about UNLV that I loved is that we had such a great program for journalism and media studies. And we also had UNLV TV there, at our disposal.
I knew I wanted to get into media. I knew that political science was where my heart and soul was, and that media was the way to really express my political views.
When I heard that there was a political roundtable show that was a forum for all different voices around campus to be able to express their opinions and give their commentary, it sounded like it was tailor-made for me.
I started off as a panelist, and then quickly became the host, as well as producer, of The Scramble.
I really do credit that opportunity, and that experience, and what I was able to get from that to landing me my first job right out of college. I’m very grateful to UNLV TV and that program for allowing me to do that. It was a great headstart.
|REAL Chamber:||After college, you returned to Rapid City to intern for congresswoman Kristi Noem in her district office. How did you land that job and what did you learn from it?|
|Tomi Lahren:|| I landed that job kind of like I do everything else: I go and I put myself out there and I’m persistent and I’m relentless. And, I also have an ability to write a great resume and great letters. That’s what I did to get that position.
I wanted to come back to Rapid City, and I wanted to work for Kristi Noem because I was very excited that she was elected. I was going to be able to take that position as a freshman coming in off those 2010 midterms.
It was such an exciting time for the conservative movement, especially in South Dakota. She was taking over for another female who was a Democrat, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. I wanted to be a part of that. I wanted to be one of the first crops of interns that she had.
I applied for it and I wrote a great letter and they ended up choosing me. I think that my qualifications were pretty great, as well. I did very well in college and I had an emphasis in political science. So that helped me.
Going back – it was great to return to my hometown. It was the summer after my freshman year of college. That was a perfect time for me to come home.
The thing I learned from being a political intern was that I did not want to be in politics on that side. I knew very quickly that I did not want to do politics; I wanted to talk about politics.
It was an experience that I learned a lot from, but I realized that it wasn’t really what I wanted to do. I guess you learn more what you don’t want to do sometimes than what you do want to do.
I had a great opportunity to see it from the other side and figure out what I really wanted to do – which was talk about what was going on with congress and politics.
|REAL Chamber:||You, then, applied for another internship at the One America News Network in San Diego. But instead, you ended up actually hosting your own show. How did that come about?|
|Tomi Lahren:||Well, it was about two months before college graduation and I knew I needed some kind of an internship.
I actually applied first, here at The Blaze – where I now work – but my internship was rejected. They ended up choosing someone else for that position.
But I wasn’t one to be easily discouraged. So I went on Google and I looked for other conservative news outlets and One America News popped up.
I heard that it was going to be kind of an alternative to Fox News – another voice in the arena. And I thought this might be a perfect place for me. So I applied through their website – really, a contact form is what it was.
I was told when I called that they didn’t accept interns, but perhaps I could come in for a paid position; maybe interview to be a writer or to do something in that capacity.
I went to San Diego – the first time I’d ever been in California. I drove myself there, five hours from Las Vegas, in my Chevy Cobalt.
I interviewed for a position and ended up speaking to the owner of the network. For some reason, he was impressed with my potential and he thought that I might be able to handle my own show. He offered me the opportunity to cultivate my own program and really plan it out from start to finish.
I went back to UNLV, finished up my last two months of college, and then I moved right to San Diego, and I started work on my first show at 21 years old.
I was incredibly blessed to have that opportunity, but it just goes to show that if you want something no one’s going to hand it to you. You’re going to have to go out and search for it. You’re going to have to be relentless. That’s what I was.
|REAL Chamber:||How long were you at One American News?|
|Tomi Lahren:||A little under two years. Actually just over a year.
I was on One America News and had a video that I did, which is a segment of my show to this day. It’s my last segment. It’s called final thoughts.
I had done this segment every day for over a year. But there was one day in particular – we experienced in the United States the horrible attack in Chattanooga.
Muhammad Abdulazeez decided to open fire on a military recruiting center. That really just struck a chord with me. I didn’t appreciate Obama’s response to it. I also felt like Obama’s no-strategy strategy to deal with radical Islamic terrorism was part of the problem.
I had a rant – if you want to call it that – about what I felt was inaction by the Obama administration, as well as really a deep sadness for those that lost their lives that day in Chattanooga.
Apparently, others felt that way, as well, because they shared that video millions and millions and millions of times on Facebook. It went viral. That landed me here, at The Blaze. I guess it caught Glen Beck’s eye as well. He thought, maybe, I would be a good addition to this network.
|REAL Chamber:||It seems you really burst onto the conservative stage in a big way after your appearance on the Daily Show with Trevor Noah shortly after the 2016 elections. Tell us about that experience.|
|Tomi Lahren:||I’m one to challenge myself. I think that we as individuals, and even as political activists, can’t learn and grow and have meaningful conversations if we’re not willing to go into the lion’s den, as I call it.
I knew this would be an opportunity for me to do so. I knew that Trevor Noah and I would probably agree on very little. But I wanted to have the conversation.
I had a good experience. I will say the media, take it for what it’s worth, there were good articles and bad articles; good commentary and bad commentary that came out after that appearance. But I’m proud of what I did on that show.
I entered a situation, and I was around an audience that certainly was not hospitable to me. Certainly, did not agree with me on anything. They were actually pretty hostile in many ways – interrupting and booing me. But I stood my ground. I finished the interview.
We ended up going for over 23 minutes – and that extended version was put up online. It made a big splash. I think it was because two voices that were opposed to one another were able to sit down and have a discussion.
We largely had a civil discussion. We didn’t interrupt each other. We were able to get into the meat of the issues and discuss them with true honesty from both perspectives. So I’m very happy with my performance and I think that I opened myself up to a new audience, as well, that may have otherwise never seen or heard me.
And, whether they hated me from that experience, or they loved me, they knew my name. They knew that I had a position that I was willing to stand for. And I’m proud of that.
|REAL Chamber:||Like many conservatives, you’re often called a racist. How do you respond to such attacks?|
|Tomi Lahren:||I’ve learned to stop responding to those attacks and here’s why.
I have found that the left, the Democrats and particularly, as I call them, the hard left – what they will try to do is they will try to label their opposition into silence.
The minute that they can call you a name; the minute that they can try to silence you by saying you’re a racist, you’re a bigot, you’re intolerant, you’re a sexist, what have you – then, instead of speaking my message and getting my point across, I’m left to defend myself, over, and over, and over again.
It gets me off topic. It gets me off message. It keeps me from speaking the truth.
I’ve learned to stop answering those labels. To stop speaking to them as much as I possibly can to avoid that. Because I’m going to continue to stand on my truth.
I think what we learned from the 2016 election is that identity politics don’t work. That charade, that tactic that the left likes to go to – it’s not working anymore. I certainly will not be one to be silenced by a label, and I’ve proven that time and time again.
|REAL Chamber:||You’ve said you’re a commentator, not a journalist. What’s the difference in your mind, and do you think too many mainstream journalists are actually commentators?|
|Tomi Lahren:||I’m very proud to say I’m a commentator and not a journalist, and here’s why.
I come with my opinion very, very honestly and in a very forthright way. You know how I feel. You know the position I’m taking. You know that I have opinions to be expressed. You know that I have ideology that is behind that. I’m very transparent with it.
That’s why I call myself a commentator. I don’t claim to be neutral. I don’t claim to be giving you the who, what, where, why, when. That’s not what I do. I take the who, what, where, why, when and I give you my opinion and my commentary from a very honest and transparent place.
Yes, I do believe that there are many in the mainstream media now who try to label themselves reporters or journalists, but they clearly have an agenda. But they’re not honest about it.
I don’t care if you’re a liberal. I don’t care if you have a left-leaning slant. Just be honest about it, because then I know where you’re coming from.
Don’t tell me that you’re neutral. Don’t tell me you don’t have an agenda or a slant. That’s what frustrates me, and that’s why I’ve based a lot of my career on slamming the mainstream media and pointing out the slant in the mainstream media.
I think that Americans are getting really tired of it, as well. And that’s why you’re seeing so many Americans turn to alternative sources and you’re seeing them turn to commentators or Facebook or individuals that are just going to give them their opinion. But they’re going to do it honestly. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.
But I would caution those in the mainstream media from pretending to be neutral if they’re, in fact, not.
|REAL Chamber:||In your opinion, what’s the definition of conservatism?|
|Tomi Lahren:||I think conservatism is changing. I don’t think that one definition is applicable to all conservatives either.
I, myself, have a mixture of conservative values and libertarian values. But more than anything I consider myself an independent thinker. I think most people do. We all exist on a spectrum.
But for me, the conservative values that I have are rooted in the Declaration of Independence. They’re rooted in the Constitution. They’re rooted in the idea that I know what’s best for me more so than the government does.
To me, conservatism is rooted in limited government. It’s also rooted in my tagline – which is faith, family, and freedom. I think those things will always be tied to conservative values no matter how this party, this Republican Party, changes and grows. That, I hope, will always be the basis of what our party stands for.
|REAL Chamber:||I know you have to go so let’s end with an oldie, but a goodie. You can invite any three historical figures to dinner. Who would they be and why?|
|Tomi Lahren:||I will be cliché and say, Ronald Reagan because I do think he was an individual who was able to change the conservative movement, the Republican name, and really just have a lasting impact on conservatism, as well as this country. Ronald Reagan would be one.
Another one actually is Richard Nixon. I think he’s fascinating. I think that he was marred by, of course, a scandal and a controversy. But I think that he also did a lot of great things for this country that are overlooked oftentimes and overshadowed by the scandal. I would love to talk to him and I would love to pick his brain because I think that he’s a very interesting individual in many ways.
Another one would be our American sniper, Chris Kyle. I would love to have a conversation with him, as well, and know the things that he’s experienced and the things that he’s seen.
Kind of a diverse group of individuals there, but I think it would make for a great conversation.
|REAL Chamber:||Tomi Lahren, we’re big fans. We thank you so much for your time. And we look forward to seeing you here in Las Vegas in June.|
|Tomi Lahren:||I can’t wait to come home. Thank you so much.|