By Mark Davis
The Dallas Morning News
Things can get pretty ugly when broadcast organizations show talent the door. Mix big companies with big personalities and a big audience wondering what happened, and the stage can be set for some tense drama.
Tomi Lahren’s banishment from Glenn Beck’s “The Blaze” features healthy doses of mutual antagonism even before the lawyers get fired up. Throw in the latest battle of court filings, and the rodeo is on.
Beck yanked Lahren’s show after a March 20 appearance on “The View,” in which she not only revealed a pro-choice mind-set, but suggested that a pro-life view is hypocritical for someone advocating limited government.
This understandably offended pro-lifers, who list protection of the unborn as a thoroughly proper government function. But what mattered professionally was whether a primarily conservative media outlet was going to tolerate that opinion from one of its rising stars.
Can opinion broadcasters lose jobs if their employers are disenchanted with their expressed views? Of course. We bring a commodity into the marketplace, and if that commodity changes, so might our employability. Suffice it to say if I begin to pine for the good old days of the Obama and Clinton presidencies, I will be looking for another radio gig, and rightfully so.
But Beck made clear on his own radio show that he had no qualms employing talent with occasionally varying views. So why did her show vanish?
Answering Lahren’s wrongful-termination lawsuit, Beck’s attorneys now say she was such a nightmare employee they had already decided not to renew her contract.
Maybe. But the description of her offenses, even if accurate, was no worse than a lot of folks I’ve known in the industry, many of whom are tolerated for far worse if they are a success. And on the subject of marketplace impact, let’s just say I’ve heard more about Lahren in the last year than anyone else at Beck’s network, including Beck.
(Full disclosure: I know them both, a little, from a few events with Beck, whom I always found cordial, and as a guest on Lahren’s show, twice.)
She wants to move on to the next phase of her media life, which has a thoroughly plausible likelihood of success. She has her admirers and detractors, but she is a genuine phenomenon with a massive online following, on the fuel of her rapid-fire, sharp-elbowed conservatism in a generally uncommon 24-year-old female package.
She wants access to her massive Facebook following, which “The Blaze” says is its property. “The Blaze” is likely to prevail on that point in court, but one would think she could reconstitute a massive fan base on a new page if she started one tomorrow.
She is asking to be freed from her employment contract. “The Blaze” is clearly done with her, so that seems reasonable. But so are company concerns that she will launch her next gig with a barrage of condemnations of “The Blaze” and Beck.
So how about this idea: “The Blaze” lets her go, and lets her keep her Facebook following, which was built totally on the power of her appeal. But she is enjoined from bashing Beck and his company, which would actually serve her well, because few things are as tedious as disgruntled employee exit-ramp stories.
Then “The Blaze” can find a new talent to fill the Tomi Lahren slot, perhaps vetting the new hire to prevent further ideological surprises.
Mark Davis is a radio host in North Texas and a columnist for The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.