After many denounced Fox News host Laura Ingraham as a bully for her remarks about a young gun control activist, a story has resurfaced from her college days involving what some called bullying behavior toward a campus gay group.
In 1984, as editor of The Dartmouth Review, a conservative student newspaper at Dartmouth College, Ingraham sent a reporter to secretly record a support group meeting for closeted gay students, then published a transcript in the paper with accompanying text that referred to gay people as “sodomites,” Newsweek reports.
“It was a profound form of bullying,” Jay Berkow, who was a leader of the Gay Student Association at Dartmouth at the time, told Newsweek.
Berkow and another leader of the group, Jeff Sidell, who were both out, had set up the meeting for closeted students after receiving several requests. “What was said in the room was supposed to stay in the room,” Newsweek notes.
But Ingraham sent student reporter Teresa Polenz to go undercover to the meeting, where Polenz claimed to be questioning her sexuality, all the while recording everything that was said. The Review then published the transcript, although with no names but Berkow’s and that of another officer. “They were trying to shame us by outing us,” Sidell told Newsweek. “But we were like ‘We’re already out!'”
Still, Berkow said, the actions of Ingraham and Polenz were “reprehensible” and “hurtful to the gay community and personally hurtful to me.” If names of other students had gotten out, it could have been very harmful to them — one was on an ROTC scholarship that could have been revoked.
Ingraham, asked by Newsweek for comment, referred the publication to a commentary she wrote for The Washington Post in 1997. “Part of what we did was journalistically justifiable: The group received college funding but, unlike every other student group receiving a college grant, refused to make public its membership or budget,” she wrote wrote. “We wanted to find out how student funds were being spent and to demonstrate the double standard Dartmouth had created by funding the group. But in doing so, we adopted a purposefully outrageous tone — occasionally using, for example, the word ‘sodomites’ to describe campus gays.”
She added, “I now regret that at Dartmouth we didn’t consider how callous rhetoric can wound ... not to mention how it undermined our political point.”
In that Post piece, Ingraham also discussed her relationship with her gay brother, Curtis, whose partner, Richard Smith, was then seriously ill with complications of AIDS (he died later that year). She said she had come to a better understanding of the situation of gay people after seeing the benefits the couple missed out on due to lack of marriage rights, and that she was moved by her brother’s devotion to Smith. She claimed at the time that her opposition to marriage equality had lessened, but that didn’t stop her from saying in 2015 that “redefining” marriage could lead to legal recognition of polyamorous or even incestuous relationships. She has made many other anti-LGBT statements over the years.
Now host of The Ingraham Angle on Fox News Channel, she was recently in hot water for criticizing David Hogg, a 17-year-old who survived the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that killed 17 people. He has since become a highly visible activist for gun control. Last week she mocked him in a tweet, saying Hogg “was rejected by four colleges to which he applied and whines about it.” She also derided his grade-point average, a very respectable 4.2.
After advertisers began pulling out of her show, she issued an apology of sorts, saying, “On reflection, in the spirit of Holy Week, I apologize for any upset or hurt my tweet caused him or any of the brave victims of Parkland,” and saying he should be proud of his GPA. Hogg said he did not accept her apology, as he believed it was motivated only by the loss of advertising.
Berkow told Newsweek it’s hard to say if Ingraham’s actions 34 years ago inform who she is now, but that the situation with Hogg indicates she may not have learned any lessons since the Dartmouth incident.