BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Laura Ingraham, with all the media you have done, where would you rate your radio show?
LAURA INGRAHAM, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: As far as interest or interesting or…
LAMB: Yes, I mean, of all those things you have done, how do you put it on the scale of things you have enjoyed the most?
INGRAHAM: The best. Radio for me is what TV can‘t be because of image. I mean, television is great because you see the face, you see, you know, the way someone looks, you see the clothes. By the way, nice tie, Brian, love it. It looks great.
The radio is just a voice. And it‘s what you do, the theater of the mind with the way you describe a scene or you mimic a voice or you play a sound bite. People in their car or listening at home, they have to pay attention, because that‘s all they hear is the sound.
And there is none of the distracting images of television, which for me doing cable television, which I still occasionally do, you miss. You miss people really riveted on the content.
And Larry King once said to me, he said, Ingraham, you‘re going to like radio better than anything you have ever done. And Larry King was right.
LAMB: When did you start your show?
INGRAHAM: I started in September of 2000 - excuse me, April of 2001. I‘m thinking of September 11th, doing the show that night, which was amazing. That‘s when my show was on in the evening.
LAMB: We‘re going to show a clip quickly so we can give the audience that has never heard you a sense of what you do on the show. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYA ANGELOU, POET: Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes, and lightning rattles the eaves of our houses. Flood waters await in our avenues.
INGRAHAM: It the tsunami here! And it‘s New Orleans, it‘s the tsunami, it‘s global warming, and it‘s all Bush‘s fault!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would have gotten an "F" for this poem if I submitted it in high school to my literature class.
INGRAHAM: Yes - no, we all would have failed, 800-876-4123. Should we do as Maya Angelou, national treasure? Yes, no, or I don‘t know who she is. Or should we do one word to describe her?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, one word.
INGRAHAM: One word?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
INGRAHAM: OK. And you also can call in about the Xeroxed Christmas letters. OK, don‘t even think about calling in about the Pentagon paying people to write stories in Iraq. I don‘t care about that. I think it‘s fine if we do that.
By the way, my quote of the day on lauraingraham.com is from me. So France announced that did a success face transplant, now they need a spine transplant and now everything will be fine.
All right. Let‘s go to line 7. Retta (ph). Retta, your 7-year-old was just listening, what did she think?
LAMB: How many cities in America can hear you?
INGRAHAM: We are on 340 stations nationwide.
LAMB: What time of day?
INGRAHAM: The show is live on 9:00 a.m. to noon East Coast. And any station can run it any time of the day. Some choose to run it live, others delay it. So depending on what time zone you‘re in, you can drive around in your car and you will hear it at different times throughout the country.
LAMB: Between the Web site that you have and listening to you on the radio, you tell the audience almost everything about yourself.
INGRAHAM: I do. Radio, I think, doesn‘t work if you don‘t bring in part of your own personal experiences. Over the weekend I went to see a special screening of the C.S. Lewis movie "Narnia," "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe."
And I happened to go with eight or nine kids. And I like telling those stories because people want to know that you‘re a real person, that you have real fears, you have real problems, you‘re coping with a lot in addition to trying to do a daily show.
And I think for me people notice and remember that stuff, when I go across the country. They always say, hey, Laura, how‘s Troy doing? And I‘m thinking, oh my God, how does this person know the name of my dog? And I think, oh yes, I talk about him on my show, of course they know the name of the dog. But they remember that stuff.
And I think it draws the audience closer to you.
LAMB: Do they know about your cancer?
INGRAHAM: They do. On April - I think it was April 23rd - I should know the date, April 23rd of this year, I - before I went into surgery, the first surgery I had for - to remove a nine millimeter tumor, I called into my show because someone had to host it for me because my surgery was - started at the same time as my show.
And I had known for a few days and didn‘t tell anything to the audience. So I called then and I said, well, guys, this is an unusual opening for the show, but I have this little issue crop up. And I asked for people‘s prayers because it was a hard time. I didn‘t disguised the fact that it was a hard time.
I don‘t like talking about myself and I don‘t want to be identified as a cancer person, but I‘ve got to tell you, I‘m glad I asked for prayers, because people - I felt so blessed for the last several months. It was a tough several months, but people put me on prayer lists, community prayer groups.
I received prayer cards, nuns, people from all faiths, and it really was amazing. So selfishly I feel like I shared that story, because I needed help. And it brought me back down, I think, to where sometimes we forget when we‘re in the media where we are, which is just like everybody else.
LAMB: You told them about your fiancee.
INGRAHAM: I did. Yes. He…
LAMB: And then he‘s no longer your fiancee.
INGRAHAM: Yes. It‘s - you know, the thing about being in the public eye, which I know that you also have to deal with, is it‘s wonderful because people come up to you and they say, hi, I love what you do, or sometimes they don‘t like what you do. And that‘s nice, and it‘s wonderful, and it‘s a blessing.
But sometimes when things happen, which aren‘t pleasant and are unhappy, you know, by the fact of your personality or your celebrity, you have to share that. And so I decided to - you know, share the fact that, you know, I was engaged a couple of weeks earlier and then was unengaged a couple of weeks into the cancer. But, you know, it was for the best and he‘s actually a good guy and I love his family. So we‘re both good.
LAMB: Let me show another little snippet from your show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is she picked to do this poem? Why is she representative? I never heard of this woman. I mean, for the whole year, and now she‘s doing this awful poem.
INGRAHAM: Well, Jerry, you missed her at the Clinton inauguration in ‘92? Don‘t you remember Maya Angelou got up there and it was: Mr. Frog, stand on my back…
INGRAHAM: … to the sun, the sun, Mr. Frog, the sun. Don‘t you remember that? Or frog or turtle? Mr. Turtle, get on my back. Don‘t you remember that poem?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She shows up for inaugurations and events like this, I don‘t get it. Somebody makes these decisions, I would like to know who it is.
INGRAHAM: Well, I mean, why do we have to inherit Maya? I‘m sure she‘s a nice woman, but she was Clinton‘s poet laureate, wasn‘t she?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And now she‘s Hallmark‘s.
INGRAHAM: Now she works for Hallmark. I mean, we could do a Christmas poem better than that.
Let‘s go to line 10, Tom, what do you have in common with Maya?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unfortunately I know what Jain is as well. But how scary is that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
INGRAHAM: OK. Let‘s go to line 4, Rich.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m discombobulated, Laura. I have nothing in common with that. I wish for your poll question you would add another category, that yes I knew who Maya Angelou is, if you think she is an American treasure, great, I don‘t care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAMB: Now you‘re talking there about a poll, where is that done?
INGRAHAM: We have a Web site, lauraingraham.com, which we have a poll question every day. Usually has something to do with politics, the culture, or something we‘ve covered on the show, and that particular one was about Maya Angelou.
Everyone is going to think all we talk about is Maya Angelou with these clips. I mean, we don‘t just talk about…
LAMB: Well, I wondered if there is an underlying kind of a political theme to this.
LAMB: Is there?
INGRAHAM: Oh, Maya Angelou? No, not really. I just think it‘s funny that in the culture and in music and in film, sometimes people become brands without any sort of verifiable talent. And that‘s going - and I‘m not applying it to Maya Angelou.
It‘s just - whether it‘s music or film or - you‘re famous because you‘re famous. And I think that‘s amusing. And I think a lot of people don‘t really pay attention to that, whether it‘s someone like a Jessica Simpson or any of the kind of modern pop icons today. And we on our show try to combine politics, the culture, focusing on what happens in the media.
By the way, I‘m calling "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy." They‘re coming in and doing the set over, poinsettias, we need a line of white poinsettias on the set. I mean, I know this is not-for-profit, but you can do something about the set.
LAMB: You don‘t like our set?
INGRAHAM: No. There‘s - did you get this at Marlowe Furniture? Where did you - this is inherited from my old MSNBC set. I saw that upstairs on…
LAMB: What‘s wrong with Marlowe Furniture?
INGRAHAM: Nothing. But I - nothing. I stand corrected.
LAMB: If you get on the Google and put your name in, you find some interesting things.
INGRAHAM: Oh God, here we go.
LAMB: Have you ever done it?
INGRAHAM: I don‘t Google myself. But do you Google yourself?
LAMB: No, but I Googled you.
INGRAHAM: Oh, great.
LAMB: This is an article from 1997 by Eric Alterman.
INGRAHAM: Oh yes, my friend. He and I are very close.
LAMB: Do you remember this? Do you remember this article?
INGRAHAM: I remember somewhat. We worked together at MSNBC.
LAMB: He was talking about an interview you did with Shimon Peres.
INGRAHAM: I didn‘t interview him. I think he came on MSNBC when we were sitting around at a roundtable.
LAMB: And you were talking about: "Laura wanted to know if Peres thought it was a good idea for the U.S. to bomb Syria or Libya in response." Do you remember that story back in…
INGRAHAM: I sort of do.
LAMB: Then he says: "Peres clearly thought she was nuts and did his best to explain that no one even knew if foul play had been involved yet."
INGRAHAM: Two words: Eric Alterman. Didn‘t he do a book called "Punditocracy" after making like millions…
LAMB: He did.
INGRAHAM: … off of being a pundit? I don‘t know.
LAMB: But what is it like? I mean, you do - you throw things around like that…
LAMB: … and then he throws him back.
INGRAHAM: Right, you dish it out, you‘ve got to take it. I mean, since I was in college, when I was editing at a conservative newspaper at Dartmouth, I mean, we were - as student journalists we were being threatened by professors. We were threatened with disciplinary action by the college.
I mean, this is just - it‘s par for the course. And I don‘t - you know, I grew up with three brothers, they were pretty rough and tumble, so it doesn‘t really bother me.
LAMB: Did a professor sue you?
INGRAHAM: Yes, he did. Professor Cole, William Cole. It was first introduction to the legal system in the United States. I was a sophomore at Dartmouth and I had written an article about his music class where I made the mistake of quoting him at length. And I attended a couple of his classes auditing them.
And so I quoted him at length and it was called "Professor Cole‘s Song and Dance Routine." I still remember the title. And he sued me, Dinesh D‘Souza, who was the editor of the Dartmouth Review at the time, and a couple of others for, I think it was only like $2.4 million.
My mother, who was a waitress until she was 73, was - how much? How much are we being sued for? And a couple of years it went away and nothing happened.
LAMB: Completely went away?
INGRAHAM: Yes. I think it was - I think we had a dollar settlement or something. I don‘t what happened. But we had - a big New York law firm represented us pro bono. It was an early case of kind of conservative students taking on the liberal faculty establishment at a college and in my mind winning because it was - you know, we published a weekly newspaper that was independent of the school.
And we were irreverent and often sophomoric, but we - you know, we made a difference. And I love seeing students making a difference and - on college campuses that are supposed to be places where free exchange of ideas take place, except when you happen to be a conservative and you‘re trying to make a point.
So the Review was a good training ground.
LAMB: Can you put a finger on where you learned to be a conservative, where you felt like you were a conservative?
INGRAHAM: My best memory of when it really seemed solid, most solid in my mind, was when I was in high school during the election - I think it was ninth grade, and the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. The college cafeteria - the high school cafeteria, Glastonbury High School, it was - we had an election night party, and there were all these tables for Jimmy Carter.
There were, I think, two tables out of - and we had a big class, 430 in my class, they were two tables for Reagan. And the best as a I can recall, it was a bunch of math geeks and then it was me and a couple of other people.
And I‘ll never forget watching the returns come in, and a number of the teachers we really bummed out, and I remember getting on the table and just going, yes! Like I just pumped my fists and go, yes!
And it was just a great - that and Bucky Dent hitting the home run over the Green Monster in, you know, the big playoff with the Yankees was the best, best moments I remember in high school.
LAMB: Why conservative?
INGRAHAM: My parents were kind of - had grown up conservative, but not all that political. My father was an engineer at Pratt & Whitney, and my mom, as I said, was waitress and a homemaker.
And they weren‘t really that political. My brothers aren‘t political. But I don‘t know, I somehow - I gravitated toward it because it seemed to me to make the most sense. It seemed to me the way of looking at the world that gave the most power to the people, and not to big bureaucratic institutions.
And Reagan really spoke to me at that age. And I think that this city, Washington, is filled with people my age, you know, now 40 and above, who, they wouldn‘t be here if it weren‘t for Reagan. He really changed the political landscape and gave us all a sense that, wow, we don‘t have to feel bad that we‘re Americans.
We don‘t have to live like this. We can actually be proud of our military, proud of where we have come from and proud of our traditions, and fair, and fair to the people who need help and we can still be conservative and feel that way.
LAMB: So you‘ve - radio show for the last couple of years. You - what is in your mind when you think about the audience and how do you put it together day-to-day, because from watching you, you clearly have to be "up" all the time?
INGRAHAM: Yes. I have to say that‘s it‘s a team effort. You know, Matt Fox, Lee Habeeb. Lee is the executive producer of the show. Matt is indispensable, producer on the show. Matt is an absolutely whiz on the digital sound editing. I think he‘s the best in the United States, in radio.
Lee went to law school with me, and he and I used to talk late at night on the phone, just like, did you watch that Brian Lamb interview he was doing the other night? God, did he blow it with Justice Breyer. No, I‘m just kidding.
But, you know, we would be watching something on television, and Lee would say, oh, Charlie Rose and Sting, are they loving - they are in love in with each other, this interview was so cozy.
So we would have a running commentary like on the phone at midnight. We would just be laughing…
LAMB: So how do you get the sound bites then?
INGRAHAM: Oh, then - but that was before the show started. And then we - and then when I decided to do the show, I thought Lee was the person to do it with me, because we were on the same track of looking at the culture and politics.
LAMB: No, but I mean, how do you get the sound bites from the shows and you put them on your - you know, the little clips? And people seem to be doing more and more of that.
INGRAHAM: Right. Digital sound editing has changed talk radio, at least it has changed our show. I mean, when we first started out trying radio, we had - we actually used a tape machine, like the old big reels. And now it‘s all done with a Cool Edit program that - where the wire goes right into your computer from the television.
And you can - you have big sound WAV files and you take little snippets out and then you organize them. That‘s why I held up this thing, because this is a lot of pages. This is like probably 30 pages of sound for just one day.
LAMB: We‘ve got, and it‘s some tape before the program is over, of a couple of interns sitting there, and somebody in the back looking at television sets and all that. Do you record everything?
INGRAHAM: We record a lot. Without - by the way, without C-SPAN, we wouldn‘t have as much material as we have because what C-SPAN has done for us is provide a look into things like these - some of the anti-war rallies in Washington, these speeches that - the State of Black Union Conference that‘s done every year, the debate between - or discussion with Stephen Breyer and Justice Scalia about foreign law and whether it‘s appropriate.
I mean, you might not think that that would make people stop and listen on the radio, but as C-SPAN did it on television, we try to take a lot of the great stuff that you and then CNN or MSNBC, FOX finds and cull it together in a way that tells a narrative that speaks to the people.
And maybe it makes them laugh a little, laughing is important to the show, Brian, and learning. We got - I told you I would get you to laugh. I‘ve gotten you to laugh five times on this show already. So I‘ve already won our bet.
LAMB: All right.
INGRAHAM: That‘s how we do it.
LAMB: So how did you know you had a hit?
INGRAHAM: With the show? Well, I still don‘t know if we have a hit. I mean, I think we - our show has done well, and we continue to try to do new things with it and change it and infuse people. Some days I‘ll come in and we won‘t have any guests and we will just - you know, we‘ll just riff for three hours with the listeners.
LAMB: Do you have ratings?
INGRAHAM: We do. Ratings go market-to-market. And, you know, some markets you do great, other markets, you know, you aren‘t doing as well as you thought. It depends on what station you‘re on in a market.
Radio is changing a lot, like television, it‘s changing with satellite, traditional radio, and then people are streaming on the Internet. So there are three things converging with radio.
LAMB: And you charge for the Internet?
INGRAHAM: Yes, we do.
LAMB: Is that a profit center for you?
INGRAHAM: A little bit. It costs a lot to stream the show and then to archive 30 days of it. We have 30 days of the show like you guys have C-SPAN all the time where people can go back and look at things. It‘s not cheap to do that and to maintain it.
And so we couldn‘t do it for free. We are a profit-making enterprise.
LAMB: Go back to when it all started. How did your radio program begin?
INGRAHAM: I was at MSNBC and then no longer at MSNBC. I was not renewed. This was in the summer of 2000.
LAMB: Did they tell you why?
INGRAHAM: Not really.
LAMB: You had your own show every day.
INGRAHAM: Yes, I had my own show, but then they cancelled that in January of ‘98. We started it in August ‘96. We were the first show - "Watch It! with Laura Ingraham," was the first show that MSNBC did out of Washington. And I‘ll have you know that we had no teleprompter for the first few months.
We had an easel, and I still have that easel at home, I never gave it away, with paper, that my producer would flip - Lee Amaco (ph), would flip, and they would have the topics of the day. And so I would just riff for an hour. And we would have guests and it was fun.
It was a great time. We tried to do it like a mini interview, a little bit like "The Daily Show," we would have "separated at birth," I mean, it was random. It was odd, very ambitious and a lot of fun.
But they cancelled that in January of 2000, right, you know, as the election was really heating up. I was pleased about that. But that‘s kind of the way MSNBC goes. You know, you‘re on for - we were on for a good while for MSNBC standards. And so then we did some pieces for them as a kind of a roving commentator, analyst-reporter kind of thing for maybe six months.
And then I decided, you know something, radio is where I feel most like myself. And "Imus in the Morning," Don Imus really is - he probably hates to hear this, but he is really responsible for my radio show. If it weren‘t for him, obviously Rush Limbaugh is the person who started this whole thing with the conservative talk radio, I wouldn‘t be doing it.
But I used to do these monthly appearances on Imus‘ show, and I had so much fun. And most of it was joking around with him, teasing him, his teasing me back, and it was - it could get pretty vicious, but funny. And I noticed when I would go around country giving speeches, people would say, oh Laura, I loved what the - when you Don Imus he looked like Mrs. Doubtfire, that was really funny, or something like that.
And I didn‘t even remember saying anything like that, but I noticed that people remembered the humor part of it. And so when I thought about what I would do next, I knew I wouldn‘t go back and be lawyer again, because I just - I didn‘t care for that.
But I thought, you know something, I might try this radio thing. And people laughed. They said, you‘re never - you can‘t start a show from nothing, it‘s not going to happen. But at the time, Westwood One took a chance on me, and Joel Hollander, who was running Westwood, and he said, we have a slot at night from 7 to 10.
And I kind of went, oh, night. I was bummed because it was 7 to 10 at night. But it was an amazing opportunity. And they gave me a great opportunity, and we did that for about two years.
And then I wanted to move the show to the morning because I‘m a morning person. And Mark Masters of Talk Radio Network bought our show. And he just took it from a small show to a very - you know, in the rankings of radio, we‘ve done well.
And that‘s in two short years, really, in the morning.
LAMB: Where are you in the ratings nationally?
INGRAHAM: I think we‘re about - last time it was done, I think we were about five, number five, so, you know, Rush and Hannity are - you know, are huge. And Howard Stern obviously is legendary huge, Michael Savage, and I think we‘re somewhere in that ranking.
I think the top five if I‘m - I might be wrong but I think that‘s right.
LAMB: So is there a serious purpose behind all this?
INGRAHAM: Yes. What we try to do on a daily basis is I hope we help people learn a little bit about something they might now have already known. Sometimes political, maybe it‘s a great book, whether it‘s this new biography on the Beatles that Bob Spitz just wrote, which is fantastic, or whether it‘s a person, John Croyle from the Big Oak Boy‘s Ranch, who could have been a pro football player, instead, decided to take care of kids for the last 25 years.
Or whether it‘s pointing out something Dick Durbin, that was outrageous, something he said about Pol Pot and our troops. We try to - you know, we try to give people a sense that there is a place you can go and we will try to respect your intelligence and your values and remember where we came from and never get to that place where I think I‘m better than any of the people listening to my show.
So serious to give people a sense that they can call in and they actually have a home on our show. And we love to highlight the troops. And we are talking to a lot of the troops in Iraq in the last three or four weeks. And I get teared up, I get - it‘s very emotional for me to talk to these men and women.
And I‘ve - a couple of times on my show, I have not made it through a segment because it‘s tough. You know, it‘s tough to hear about their sacrifices and hear about the fact that they don‘t feel supported by some of the things that are said these days.
LAMB: What kind of a grade will you give George Bush?
INGRAHAM: Oh gosh, I‘m not a good grader. On - I don‘t feel like I‘m in a position to grade George Bush. I think that history will tell. This is situation in Iraq is obviously difficult. I think if it turns out to be a success five years back with looking at the way things develop, he will - people will be calling George Bush a genius.
If it continues to become difficult, progress is not made, then that will be, you know, his presidency. This is going to be all on Iraq, his presidency. And that people might say that‘s not fair, but, you know, when you have 2,100 men and women who have lost their lives and a lot of our national treasure going to fight this war, it is the big kahuna when it comes to this administration.
I think he‘s a bold and courageous president in many ways. I think that he hasn‘t been out ahead of the curve PR on branding this war and branding this effort, making people understand why it‘s best for us here in this country to be fighting that war.
A lot of conservatives who talk to me are frustrated because they think, why is it that like Internet bloggers and talk radio and cable television hosts are doing this work for the administration in many way, I mean, talking about what - the importance of the war on terror?
I think now you‘re seeing the administration do a much - be aggressive and do a much better job. That was the "Duck of the Day," by the way, I didn‘t answer the question on grading George Bush.
I don‘t feel - I think those are kind of silly questions. I don‘t know, we‘ll see how he does.
LAMB: Well, the reason I ask you is compare him with Ronald Reagan and your beliefs in Ronald Reagan, do you have the same beliefs in George Bush?
INGRAHAM: See, Reagan to me, I think it was a different. It‘s almost not fair to compare Bush to Reagan. I mean, we‘re all looking for the next Reagan. And there is not going to be another Elvis. There is not going to be another Reagan.
I mean, they‘re - different times require different things of our leaders. And I wish that, you know, George Bush had the ability to rally the troops, not the military, but the conservative troops in the same way that Ronald Reagan did.
But then again, Ronald Reagan was only one of the best communicators of our time, so it‘s not fair. And I think there have been moments where George Bush just - he hits it out of the park. And I introduced him at a rally in - emceed a rally in St. Paul, Minnesota, during the campaign.
There were 15,000 people in this indoor stadium, and I‘ll tell you something, he has enormous talent when it comes to talking directly to the people. Doesn‘t like talking to the media so much, but when he‘s talking directly to the people, he connects.
And, you know, I think this war in Iraq has, I think, made it much more difficult for him on the domestic level and a lot of his domestic programs. Social Security just - I mean, that went down the tubes early on. And we‘ll see about, you know, where he - you know, what progress he makes in some other areas.
Just, it‘s tough when you‘re down at 37 percent in the polls. It‘s hard to get anything done.
LAMB: Let‘s watch some more of the tape from your show.
INGRAHAM: Or more Maya Angelou! No, I‘m sick of this now at this point.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
INGRAHAM: All right, now, I asked Lee, when we had Major Garrett booked, I said, he had better be coming into the studio, right? And we have our C-SPAN cameras here because they‘re going to sit-down, hour sit-down with Brian Lamb - is going to interview me for an hour on Monday. It‘s going to run on the 11th, December 11th, we‘ll put it up on the Web site.
And so I think, wait, but they‘re doing all this B roll (ph) of our studio. We‘ve never let a camera into the studio ever. We don‘t like it.
MAJOR GARRETT, FOX CORRESPONDENT: The inner sanctum.
INGRAHAM: And I thought, why isn‘t Garrett - why isn‘t Major Garrett in here…
GARRETT: Otherwise known as Major.
INGRAHAM: Otherwise known as Major, in here for this extravaganza. And then, like boom, I say it and you walk in. You‘re here.
GARRETT: You seek, I deliver.
INGRAHAM: By the way, one word to describe Maya Angelou.
GARRETT: It‘s hyphenated, but it‘s still one word: chronic fatigue syndrome.
INGRAHAM: She did this thing, Major, not to veer away from the important stuff that you cover, but she did this thing at the Pageant of Peace…
GARRETT: Oh please, veer.
INGRAHAM: The Pageant of Peace, she was the biggest downer at the Pageant of Peace. She was talking about the flood waters swallowing us all up. And it was just such a negative.
(SINISTER MUSIC PLAYS)
INGRAHAM: Listen to the music.
ANGELOU: Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes, and lightning rattles the eaves of our houses. Flood waters await in our avenues.
INGRAHAM: (INAUDIBLE) but the kids were crying as far as I could tell.
GARRETT: Yes, because one of the kids, I‘m sure, wrote something very similar for a fourth grade essay.
INGRAHAM: Oh man, so I turn on FOX last - over the weekend - you‘re a big fan of Maya, I thought we got rid of her with the Clinton administration, but apparently she‘s still out there working for Hallmark, making tons of money, I might add. She‘s a nice woman, I‘m sure.
GARRETT: She‘s a very nice woman.
INGRAHAM: But she‘s such a downer.
GARRETT: I just think you need to elevate a little bit.
INGRAHAM: I mean, come on, a little rhyming on occasion would be good, just an iambic pentameter or two or three.
GARRETT: A countervailing thought, a continuation of a thought, not just one repetitive word.
INGRAHAM: Yes, remember when the Clinton administration was like…
(END VIDEO CLIP)
INGRAHAM: Again, you‘re going to think - people are going to think all I talk about is Maya Angelou. By the way, I love Maya Angelou, I take it all back. She should be our permanent poet laureate.
LAMB: Does it - I mean, here you are looking at yourself when you did this, we‘re out of context with when it happened…
INGRAHAM: Yes, I should have let you guys stay for the whole three hours. Didn‘t I kick you out after one hour?
LAMB: You did, yes.
INGRAHAM: See? That‘s - I‘m to blame.
LAMB: But you say that this is the first time cameras had ever been in there.
LAMB: Why is that?
INGRAHAM: I don‘t know. It‘s just like when cameras are - cameras were allowed in the House of Representatives, people start giving speeches. And oddly enough, that is the way we do the show. It‘s kind of rollicking. And we don‘t usually focus on Maya Angelou for the hour.
But cameras can change the way people are. And our show is very organic. And with a camera on you, you don‘t feel the same, it feels different.
LAMB: Give me an example of why? We‘ve got some video on there that‘s shot through the glass from the control room so people can see there…
INGRAHAM: Oh, I‘m dancing there, oh good. I‘m doing like an Ellen DeGeneres dance, fantastic.
LAMB: And your Matt Fox is right in the picture here.
INGRAHAM: Matt, there‘s Matt. There‘s his hand, oh wait, there‘s his head. Oh, he needs a shave in the back with that neck. Oh, he‘s looking good. Twenty-five years old, talented boy. Lee is somewhere, I don‘t know where Lee went. Heather (ph) is gone too.
LAMB: Lee is off behind him, yes.
INGRAHAM: Oh, Lee is standing behind. Yes, I just - we‘ve been asked about putting a camera in the studio. You know, I still toy with the idea of going back to television. I‘m not ruling anything out at this juncture.
But I‘m not hankering - I‘m not just hungering to have a camera in there.
LAMB: But how does television change once a camera comes in and…
INGRAHAM: Oh, they‘re looking at you. Brian, for your cameras, just for you, for Brian Lamb - by the way, your name, "Wolflamb (ph) Jack" is out. Everyone knows now, his nickname is "Wolflamb (ph) Jack" because of your radio career in college.
Because the cameras are in there, people looking, OK, did she have make-up on? For her hair, what is she wearing? You know, the studio, look, all the studio is a mess. There are things all over on the floor. We don‘t even have things hung up in our studio.
If we had a camera in there, we would have to worry about, you know, paper on the floor, everything is a mess.
LAMB: Well, when Don Imus first went on simulcasting, they left it alone, and now he has moved to the studio and…
INGRAHAM: No, I would never - I would - no. I couldn‘t - I don‘t think cameras will - I shouldn‘t say that. Watch cameras be in there next week. So now you have gotten me all thinking about this.
I don‘t know. Somehow it‘s just our little - it‘s our little place where we do our show and it‘s a little mystery surrounding it. Now you‘ve ruined the whole mystery.
LAMB: Now you alluded to this earlier. You have been - you graduated the University of Virginia Law School.
LAMB: And then you were - Ralph Winter, what circuit, Second Court?
INGRAHAM: Federal Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Ralph K. Winter, one of the legal giants, a great, great man.
LAMB: You were his clerk.
INGRAHAM: I was, yes.
LAMB: What year was it?
INGRAHAM: That was ‘91-‘92, when I graduated.
LAMB: And then Clarence Thomas on the circuit court?
INGRAHAM: Supreme Court.
LAMB: Oh, when he was in the Supreme Court.
INGRAHAM: Yes, ‘92-‘93.
LAMB: And you have come all the way from that kind of an experience to radio.
INGRAHAM: Yes, isn‘t that funny? I was talking to Justice Thomas about this and we were laughing about how I‘m his only - you know, all these other clerks have gone on to become law professors at top universities, and be these high-powered attorneys, working in the solicitor general‘s office in the Justice Department.
And I‘m doing this daily radio show where, you know, we do what we do. And it‘s - I don‘t know, it just happened that way. It was one of the best jobs I‘ve ever had, both working for Judge Winter and working for Justice Thomas. I always felt like I was the person who somehow got hired and was not supposed to be there because I was surrounded by all of these incredibly brilliant young legal minds.
Each justice has four clerks. And it‘s a real, you know, small group of people with - we have a lot of responsibility. And it was great. It was for a year and I can‘t believe how long ago it was now. But it was a lot of fun.
LAMB: I asked Justice Breyer whether the court should go on television, and now that you‘ve been inside as a clerk and seen it and talked about television…
LAMB: … should it go on television?
INGRAHAM: No. I don‘t - I agree with Justice Scalia. I think Justice Scalia has said he was not in favor of that. I think what tends to happen with cameras is that people showboat for the camera. And that just - it‘s kind of human nature a little bit.
I don‘t think we need that on the court. We can - you guys can do that mischief with - or you can have another C-SPAN channel just for the court, I know that‘s what you‘re doing.
LAMB: Don‘t need it. Don‘t need it. We‘ve got - you know, you only have 80 arguments a year, an hour each, that‘s 80 hours, there is plenty of time.
INGRAHAM: Yes. You can - that‘s true. I still think you guys should do a reality show for your life, that would the best thing. C-SPAN5, Brian Lamb gets dressed in the morning, eats his cereal. Now that would something you guys should do.
LAMB: It would be a total ratings flop. Now go back to Supreme Court clerk, practiced law.
INGRAHAM: Yes, I worked at Skadden Arps in Washington. It‘s a big New York firm, but it has a pretty big Washington office. I worked for Bob Bennett. I‘m the only person alive, I think, who worked for both Bennett brothers.
Bill Bennett when he was secretary of education, I worked for his undersecretary, Gary Bauer, at the time. And then I worked for Bob Bennett at Skadden, who is one of the top partners in white collar criminal defense. So I was defending all these wrongly-accused corporations and individuals.
LAMB: So what did you learn all through this process about the law?
INGRAHAM: I - at Skadden I think I learned that you shouldn‘t get accused of anything, because if you‘re just accused, it can ruin your life. And that‘s the unfortunate situation we have with the way our system works, is that, you know, it works most of the time.
But as you can see with some of these big prosecutions, and I won‘t name names, but, you know, big, huge prosecutions going on now, the instinct is, you know, to indict, accuse, drop a subpoena, turn your life, your business upside-down, maybe a few months later they will decide, oh no, there‘s nothing here.
And remember the old line, where do you go to get your reputation back? It‘s not easy. So that‘s why we have Skadden Arps and all these other law firms out there. There is a lot of work to be done because there is a lot - you know, there are a lot of these investigations going on and obviously some of them are absolutely necessary and critical.
But we live in a litigious society. Everybody is suing everyone else. And I think we have too many lawsuits and probably too many lawyers. So I thought it was a good thing for me to reduce that number.
LAMB: You mentioned earlier your mother being a waitress until she was 73. Did she die when she was 73?
INGRAHAM: No. She was 79, six years ago, my mom passed away of lung cancer. And it was - that I think was for me harder than getting cancer myself. And the only saving grace of my mother dying was that she didn‘t have to see me diagnosed, because, you know, a mother seeing a child, I think that is so hard and she would have - you know, she would not have had a good time throughout that.
But, yes, she was diagnosed in October of 1998 and died in May of 1999. And she was very healthy and fit. My mother was a riot. You would have loved her, Brian. Actually, she did like you. She used to watch you, I‘m remembering now. She liked you. You would have liked my mother. She was about five feet tall and packed a punch.
LAMB: And you say she was a waitress until she was 73?
INGRAHAM: She was. Willie‘s Steakhouse in Manchester, Connecticut, also the Golden Goblet in Glastonbury, and also she ladled out food at my elementary school, which, when I was in kindergarten and first grade, my mom worked in the cafeteria.
LAMB: Why would she work that hard with her husband at Pratt & Whitney?
INGRAHAM: Well, my dad was - you know, he did well at Pratt & Whitney, but you know, we weren‘t - we didn‘t - you know, we weren‘t rich, and I have three older brothers. And, you know, putting them all through school tip money came in handy. So we lived in a one-bathroom house and two bedrooms for all these kids. So it was crowded.
LAMB: Is your dad still alive?
INGRAHAM: He is. And he has been incredibly supportive of me and my career and is insanely proud and, you know, watches. And I know he will be watching.
LAMB: And your brothers, where are they?
INGRAHAM: My brother Jimmy works at MIT. He‘s a smarty-pants. He lives up in Massachusetts. My brother Curtis, who is hysterically funny and also just so brilliant, he is a teacher in San Francisco, teaches math and French. And my brother Brooks teaches English in Seoul, Korea. And he is coming home for Christmas, and I haven‘t seen him in three years. So I‘m happy that Brooks is coming home.
LAMB: And what impact did they have on you when you were growing up?
INGRAHAM: They were just there for me. I was a lot younger than my next youngest brother, seven years. Although, everyone says Curtis looks younger than I do, and it‘s really irritating.
They say, how much younger is your brother than you? But they were just there for me. And I was a bit of a tomboy and always getting into some type of, you know, altercation with someone, verbal or otherwise. So my brothers were always there to tease me or make it worse.
No, they were - we had fun. My oldest brother Jimmy was 11 years older than I, so he was out of the house, you know, pretty soon. And I think I cried for three months when my brother Jimmy went to college.
LAMB: What‘s your own prognosis for your cancer?
INGRAHAM: It‘s good. They caught the cancer, thank goodness, stage one. I went in to get an exam, and I hadn‘t been in - like a complete and utter moron, I hadn‘t been to the doctors in three years. And just doing an exam and everything looked great, and then he said, I feel a little something. I‘m sure it‘s nothing.
And these little blessings happen along the way, but Dr. Russell Bridges (ph), and if he didn‘t find it, I don‘t know if I would be here today or not. But he found it and I went and got an ultrasound.
And didn‘t show up on a mammogram, went and got an ultrasound. And it looked like a little lima bean, and the radiologist looked at it, said, Laura, I think it‘s a fibro-adenoma, it‘s probably nothing. But I decided to opt for a biopsy.
Got it biopsied and I was leaving for the weekend to go on retreat. And Friday afternoon, I‘m checking my messages really quickly, I‘m running out of the studio, and I checked, it‘s like: Laura, this is Dr. Troy and can you call me back.
And I almost dropped the phone. It was one of those things when your starts to boom-boom, boom-boom, and I was instant message with my friend Pat Cipollone, who is also my godfather, one of the most brilliant lawyers in Washington, I e-mail him, I said, Pat, I think this is bad news.
And he said, no, it‘s fine, it‘s fine. And he was trying to - and then I called her and she said, you have invasive ductal carcinoma. And I said, can I have a translation on that, Doc, please? I‘ve got to buy a vowel on what that is.
She‘s like, you have breast cancer. And I said, OK. And I didn‘t say anything, then I hung up. And Lee was - and Matt were still in the other room.
LAMB: Your producer and…
LAMB: … your technical support.
INGRAHAM: Yes, both producers were in the other room. And I just, tears started coming down my eyes - my cheeks, and Lee ran in, and he said, what the heck happened? And I told him and then kind of my whole world changed.
And so friends said, baloney, you know, my friends, my then-fiancee, they all converge on the studio, and then we developed a battle plan. And it‘s - I had such great friends, Brian. My friends were - and my family, obviously, were just amazing.
They - people scheduled times to be with me during chemotherapy. I got e-mails from women all across the country who have had much worse situations than I, who cheered me on and said, don‘t you think about quitting your radio show this summer. You‘ve got to fight on.
And I said, you know, darn it, I‘m going to fight on, but I‘m not going to bawl, I‘m not going to say, why me. And I tried to just, I don‘t know, put one foot in front of the other. And there were dark days. But it was a blessing in more ways, oddly, than it was a negative.
LAMB: And this all started in April.
INGRAHAM: It started at the end of April, yes. And my treatment ended in the middle of October.
LAMB: One of the notes in your past is that you converted to Catholicism in 2003?
INGRAHAM: I did. Yes. Pat Cipollone, who I just mentioned, who is a partner at Kirkland & Ellis law firm and an old friend of mine, I went to have lunch with him. He had been general counsel of the Knights of Columbus, and I really - you know, I had gone to Catholic Mass off and on, and just was open to, you know, different faiths.
And I went to an Episcopal church, I kind of sampled a lot of services. And - but I had - my mom was Polish, and she grew up Catholic. I wasn‘t raised Catholic. I was raised Northern Baptist at a little church in Glastonbury, Connecticut.
And I haven‘t written about this yet, because it‘s hard to describe faith, it‘s an odd personal journey that I‘m still trying to figure out, but the Catholic faith ending up speaking to me.
And I‘ve got to say, I was kind of anti-Catholic in a way for a long time. I thought, ah, this whole Rome thing, this pope thing, confession, oh, it‘s just, it‘s silly, ridiculous. And then I go back start reading, you know, the "Confessions," or going back and reading Thomas Merton or Aquinas.
And it wasn‘t an intellectual thing, but it was a combination spiritual, intellectual, faith-driven, and very personal for me. And I will write about it someday. But it was the - without a doubt, the most important thing I‘ve every done, the best thing I‘ve ever done, and without my faith, I would not have made it through the summer or certainly this year. It was a true gift and a blessing.
LAMB: Do you know what tripped it?
INGRAHAM: I think going through my mother‘s death and seeing people rally to my side and to her side in that period of time really touched me, and in a way that I hadn‘t - I don‘t know, I hadn‘t - I went along in life and I don‘t think I really was giving much thought to immortality or the fact that we‘re here for a flash.
Can you believe C-SPAN won‘t be here for eternity? Can you even believe that? So, you know, we‘re here for a flash. What are you going to do when you‘re here? What difference are you going to make? How are you going to touch other people‘s lives?
And I think for me I saw that Christ was working through other people to kind of, you know, reach me. You know, she‘s going over there, reach, pull her back, you know, the lost sheep. So I think I felt like that hand was reaching out to me. And I think it was probably triggered by my mom‘s passing.
And that began the searching. I‘m still searching, though. You search every day.
LAMB: Let‘s go back to you radio show. Why is it that - and I don‘t where it started, you say it started with Rush Limbaugh, that the conservative talk show host took off after the "liberal press," in quotes, and that talk show hosts spend a lot of time being angry with The New York Times. Why?
INGRAHAM: Well, I don‘t know about being angry at The New York Times, but I think reminding people who are busy in their daily lives that because it‘s run under the moniker of "All the news that‘s fit to print," doesn‘t necessarily make it so.
I don‘t think we need to prove now that the media has a liberal bias. I mean, I worked at "CBS Evening News," I worked at MSNBC, I‘ve done stints on CNN, I know the folks at FOX, and there is just no doubt in anyone‘s mind who has been exposed to it that it‘s liberal.
Talk radio, at least what I try to do is, OK, what are you going to do with it and what are you going to do about it? With it, it‘s fun. I mean, when Dan Rather was saying, not only is there not going to be apology forthcoming, there‘s not going to be an investigation, and you know, standing behind the document, the National Guard document story.
It‘s amusing and infuriating at the same time. And isn‘t that life? I mean, life is funny and frustrating and outrageous at times. And so bringing those snippets to people I think helps some people who otherwise would just look at the headlines, oh, it‘s another disaster in Iraq, we‘re not making any progress there.
Oh my - you know, Judge Alito had said that, you know, abortion wasn‘t a constitutional right. He shouldn‘t be on the court. And sometimes it‘s explaining the full context to people who are busy.
You know, I often say on our show, you have lives and we don‘t, so we go through C-SPAN, CNN, FOX, and we find things that we think you would want to know about. That‘s why one of the reasons we talk about media bias, because people are so busy, some of it they just don‘t notice what is being said or done. And there is no reason for them to.
But we want The New York Times in many ways to be around, because it provides unending fun for us. And we would like to see how those people in Manhattan think. You know, that‘s…
LAMB: Is there anything good about The New York Times?
INGRAHAM: Oh yes. And we do, you know, we highlight reporters and stories that do present, you know, a different perspective, or sometimes even a conservative perspective. And sometime we are amazed, The New York Times will do a piece about home-schooling or something that‘s positive.
And we often say - or Matt Lauer asks a great question or Katie Couric asks a great follow-up to a liberal guest, and we‘ll play the hallelujah chorus, saying, this is great. And so it is important, and I see the point you‘re getting at, is that you don‘t want to be - you‘re not going to get anywhere if all you are is negative, negative, negative.
That‘s why you put the great authors on, or the great musicians, or - you know, whether it‘s a Quincy Jones or a Bono that we interviewed or, you know, someone who started, you know, a great organization to help against hunger. Put these leaders on to talk to the people.
I learned more from those types of people than I do from politicians, people who are out in the world doing something for other people. And we have to check ourselves because you can sit around and you get too insular.
You go, Dan Rather, New York Times, you know, "Good Morning America," and it becomes just a mish-mash of complaints. And that ultimately won‘t hold an audience, I don‘t think. That‘s as predictable as media bias.
LAMB: Where do you think you‘re going with all this?
INGRAHAM: Well, I hope to launch a career as a fashion critic, I‘m working on that, for couture shows in Paris. Actually, they have asked about you. They like this whole…
LAMB: En scene?
INGRAHAM: The whole thing you‘ve done with black.
INGRAHAM: They - I don‘t plan ahead, but I do think that there is a real opening out there for more conservative-oriented entertainment. You know, Jon Stewart does a great job every night on Comedy Central, but we could get him a lot of clips that would make fun of the Ted Kennedys of the world and others in the Senate that he happens to somehow miss on a nightly basis.
And so I think that there‘s a real opening for not just political commentary that‘s more entertainment kind of focused and funny, but just in entertainment in general. I think there‘s about a third of the country that‘s not going to the movies today for a reason.
And I think you‘re seeing small companies starting that are trying to cater to that crowd. And who knows? I might do something.
LAMB: In the movie world?
INGRAHAM: I hope someday, yes. That‘s an ultimate fantasy.
LAMB: Acting or producing or directing?
INGRAHAM: Acting? Oh God, no. That would be - people would be running away from the movie screens. I‘m talking about it with a couple of people, and, you know, this could be like Matt Damon and Ben Affleck talking about their next film, it will never happen.
I‘m not talking about it anymore. I just hope that what we‘ve done on our show works in radio and that maybe with the ideas that we come up with and some of the humor that we try to share with people on a daily basis that that has a broader following.
How that happens, you know, I have this fantasy about the movie - doing a movie someday, but we‘ll see.
LAMB: Is your humor planned?
INGRAHAM: Most of it is not, no. You know, when we have the sound bites from all these characters, some - I look, I read them quickly and odd things pop into my mind, strange things.
LAMB: We‘ve still got some video left, let‘s…
INGRAHAM: Oh no, if this is about Maya Angelou, I‘m walking off the set
INGRAHAM: Has anyone ever walked off the set before?
INGRAHAM: I could be the first.
LAMB: But this could be the first. Let‘s roll whatever we have left.
INGRAHAM: Right. Great, oh good.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GARRETT: … species long since departed, mark the mastodon, the dinosaur, who left dry tokens of their sojourn here on our planet floor any broad alarm of their hastening doom is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
INGRAHAM: Major Garrett.
LAMB: Major Garrett. What about the news types coming on, and you know, you can get some of these big names that will rather appear on Leno or Letterman or any of these shows than they would come here and talk?
INGRAHAM: Sure. I mean, I like putting people like Major Garrett or George Will or Henry Kissinger or any of these people who you are used to seeing in a particular format, and I like to take them outside of their little box.
That‘s what about television I sometimes don‘t like is that you‘re the "conservative radio person," you‘re over here. And then there‘s a "liberal person," and you‘re supposed to go nee-nee-nee-nee, and fight each other.
I like getting Major Garrett to read, once again, Maya Angelou. And what can he do with it? He has an amazing talent. That guy can do like a cockney, Christopher Hitchens kind of accent with Maya Angelou and sound like Falstaff at the same time. And it‘s funny.
I mean, people are real people with real talents that sometimes aren‘t displayed.
LAMB: Does your show make news?
INGRAHAM: We made news on the Dick Durbin Pol Pot comment because Lee was up late at night with his baby, named Reagan, his daughter‘s name is Reagan, I kid you not, and…
LAMB: Lee is your producer.
INGRAHAM: Lee - I‘m sorry, Lee Habeeb, my right-hand man, my producer, was up late at night watching C-SPAN, and that‘s when Dick Durbin made his comment about Pol Pot and Abu Ghraib. And we led the show with it, and then it became - that was probably the most recent example of the time where we highlighted something and then it kind of caught on. And sometimes that happens.
LAMB: Why has it come in this age, the last 25 years, where people are really calling each other names on talk radio, both sides? Do you listen to Air America?
INGRAHAM: I listen to it on occasion, but not regularly. I‘ve heard a few minutes of Al Franken.
LAMB: But, I mean, it has gotten both - on both sides it has gotten pretty raw.
INGRAHAM: Yes. I guess…
LAMB: Good or bad? Good or bad, does it matter?
INGRAHAM: Yes, I don‘t know. I don‘t - I go back and look at some of the old, you know, broadsheets in the early part of the 1900s, the late 1800s, this stuff is vicious. They were accusing people of, you know, sleeping around, having affairs, you know, hiding stolen horses in their friend‘s stables. I mean, there was all sorts of things thrown around.
So I think it‘s all right. Somehow I think the republic will survive. But it can‘t just be that. I mean, and it can‘t be mean for the sake of being mean, although I‘m sure we crisscross the line and sometimes you‘re in a - you forget sometimes, when it‘s good, you forget you‘re on the radio, and you‘re just talking and you‘re…
LAMB: You have a Web site, you have a radio show, you have books, you speak, do you make a lot of money?
INGRAHAM: Well, how would you define that?
LAMB: I don‘t know, I‘m not…
INGRAHAM: I‘m not answering that.
LAMB: I‘m not going to ask you - I mean, is it…
INGRAHAM: I do fine. Yes, I do well. I‘m extremely blessed.
LAMB: Are you surprised at how well you can do in this?
INGRAHAM: I would have made more money as a lawyer, at least at this juncture I think. So I didn‘t trade in my profession for a more lucrative one yet. But, you know, there is always time.
LAMB: How much of a push is that for you, to make a lot money?
INGRAHAM: Oh, believe me, if that‘s what was important to me, all I would do is churn out books. But I can‘t. I can‘t just churn out a book a year. For me that‘s - you know, that‘s not - I have to have something I really want to say and something that really moves me to write it, because I have to write it. And I can‘t do it just for the money, I just can‘t.
LAMB: Of all those things, which do you enjoy the most? You just talked about the radio show, but speaking and writing your books and…
INGRAHAM: I like doing my show and like going out and meeting people, when we go to different cities across the country, it‘s wonderful. And we - every time I go, whether it‘s to Minneapolis or Denver or Arizona or somewhere in the country, I hear some amazing story from some person who shows up, who came from, you know, far away, who showed because of X.
And it‘s nothing to do with me. It‘s some amazing story about that American. And it sounds really hokey, but something that I heard Tom Wolfe say on your interview program when he talked the nation of parentheses, that the parentheses are the coasts, and that middle part of the country, that‘s American.
And I really - I get - to me it‘s the best thing is to get out of Washington, get out of your natural habitat, and go meet the people. If you don‘t meet the people, you forget where you came from. If you forget where you came from, then you might as well just pack it up and forget whatever you‘re doing, because you‘re going to be - you know, you‘re going to be out of touch with the people who made you successful.
LAMB: Thank you, Laura Ingraham.
INGRAHAM: Thanks, Brian. You laughed, I saw it.