For many media outlets, right-wing political commentator Tomi Lahren's admission on Saturday that she is still on her parents health insurance — and thus benefits from Obamacare, despite her criticisms of it — was headline-making news. However, the young provocateur made what is perhaps a much more significant remark in that same public appearance: Lahren also voiced support for Trump's transgender military ban.
"For me, reinstating the ban on transgenders in the military was a very positive step," Lahren said when speaking with Chelsea Handler at Politicon on Saturday. "It's not because I have anything against trans people. I don't care what the hell you do, I don't want to pay for it." She went on to say that the military is "not the place for a social experiment."
The revelation that Lahren is still on her parents' health insurance, even though she has lambasted the Affordable Care Act, is the easier news to write. It's a simple sort of hypocrisy that any journalist is likely to seize on, because it doesn't necessitate that the journalist writing the story make difficult judgement calls; it brings one fact (Lahren criticized the ACA) together with another fact (Lahren said she's on her parents' health insurance because of the ACA), creating just enough tension for a decent headline.
"Tomi Lahren reveals she personally benefits from Obamacare, threatens John McCain for not repealing it," read a Salon headline, for example. "Conservative Firebrand Tomi Lahren Admits She's Benefitting From Obamacare," Fortune proclaimed on its website.
Conservative Firebrand and Obamacare Opponent Tomi Lahren, 24, Admits She's Still on Her Parents' Insurance Plan https://t.co/1FeqtF3VLy— People (@people) July 31, 2017
But given that, thanks to Sen. John McCain, the Republicans' Obamacare-repeal efforts are mostly dead. And so, the most important moment of the Lahren-Handler debate is Lahren's support for President Donald Trump's announcement that he plans to reinstate the ban on transgender people serving in the military, since it is this policy move — not the moribund ACA repeal — that stands to affect a significant number of people. Therefore, Lahren's wrong-headed comments about transgender people (whom she demeaningly called "transgenders") should have been the focus of the news cycle.
Some may have shied away from focusing on the transgender military ban because hypocrisy is shooting-fish-in-a-barrel easy or just because journalists are wary of making any sort of judgement call in this fraught media environment, in which White House correspondents aren't even allowed to televise some press briefings. Nonetheless, Lahren's comments about transgender people is a kind of ignorance that stands to affect the lives of average Americans who just want to serve their country and join the armed forces.
It's also important to note that though Lahren describes herself as a "constitutional conservative," she's really a social conservative. Up until she came out as pro-choice, Lahren was a host for Glenn Beck's network The Blaze, and it was there she made far-right comments that earned her the nickname White Power Barbie. She, for example, harshly criticized Colin Kaepernick's national anthem protest and compared the Black Lives Matter movement to the white supremacist Klu Klux Klan.
In covering right-wing provocateurs like Lahren, who recently joined the pro-Trump Great America Alliance Super PAC, it's far more important to focus on the comments they make that stand to affect everyday Americans (transgender or not) rather than the logical fallacies of their platforms — especially since Lahren is not known for rigorous, fact-based arguments anyway.
She's merely a commentator meant to rile up conservative crowds via emotional appeals; what's the sense in treating her any other way?