David Hogg's attempt to end Laura Ingraham's career sets dangerous precedent

For Laura Ingraham, there was no choice but to apologize to Parkland school shooting activist David Hogg for her foolish tweet regarding the 17-year-old being rejected by several colleges.

"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," Ingraham wrote on Twitter. "For the record, I believe my show was the first to feature David immediately after that horrific shooting and even noted how 'poised' he was given the tragedy. As always he's welcome to return to the show anytime for a productive discussion."

ADVERTISEMENT
Ingraham had obviously seen this story played out before, almost one year ago, via her friend and former co-worker Bill O'Reilly, a cable news icon who eventually saw too many advertisers flee his program, forcing the network to dispose of the popular prime-time figure who had been with it for decades as the industry's top-rated host.

You know the drill: Once one advertiser goes, it's certain another will follow, given recent history.

And another. 

And another. 

Because once that snowball gets going, there's no telling where or when it will stop, in the fear of a brand being permanently damaged. 

We're now at seven on the Ingraham front as of Friday morning, despite her apology on Thursday afternoon. 

Ingraham, and perhaps those above her on the Fox News food chain, saw the all-too-familiar scenario playing out again after Hogg's boycott call gained momentum in the media and especially on social media. And given all the changes at the network in the past 15 months — the ousters of O'Reilly and Eric Bolling amid sexual misconduct allegations, the departure of Megyn Kelly to NBC, the passing of Roger Ailes, the resignation of his successor in Bill Shine, and all the programming changes that have resulted — the last thing Fox wanted was to lose another host after stabilizing its lineup, maintaining its ratings dominance and putting new management in place at the top. 

So how did we get here? A review of the past 48 hours shows Hogg tweeting out a note about him being rejected from four schools, including UCLA. Ingraham unwisely jumped on board from there to jab Hogg and included an original "Daily Wire" story on the topic. "David Hogg Rejected By Four Colleges To Which He Applied and whines about it. (Dinged by UCLA with a 4.1 GPA...totally predictable given acceptance rates.)," she wrote to her 2.17 million followers.

Hogg responded by listing 12 prominent advertisers of "The Ingraham Angle" in calling on a boycott. He proceeded to expand the list to 100 by sharing a list by Media Matters, which has ample experience in this arena from targeting Fox News hosts before. Notably, Hogg chose to accelerate his boycott effort after Ingraham's apology. 

Hogg expanded the reason for the Ingraham boycott beyond her tweet around his college rejections late Thursday by retweeting a Daily Kos story recounting the host's more provocative and controversial comments over her career.  

So what is this boycott about exactly? Ingraham immaturely mocking a public figure in the form of Hogg around some schools that rejected him? Or is it about Ingraham's career as a conservative talk radio and television opinion host overall?  

Either way, we've entered some dangerous territory here, if boycotts like this one succeed. And not many are speaking out against said danger for two reasons: 

1) Fear of reprisal for criticizing Hogg, who has the benefit of being protected from any criticism while being free to level it. 

2) Fear of being seen as "the person attacking a mass school shooting survivor," regardless of whether there's a basis for such criticism or not. 

When Hogg first appeared on television shortly after that horrific day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, he couldn't look more impressive in terms of his composure, intelligence and ability to report in an articulate, measured way that some adults in this business have yet to master. 

Ludicrous claims of him being a child actor or being coached soon followed and have, thankfully, been dismissed by those not living in a world of conspiracy theories or blinded by pure partisanship.   

Know this: He may be 17 but should be treated like an adult after entering the arena and becoming a prominent voice in what has become the biggest story of the year thus far.

But things have gone sideways since. Hogg has played loose with more than a few facts and has leveled the same kind of personal attacks on which he's basing this boycott. And, through it all, almost all anchors and reporters have allowed him to go unchallenged out of that same fear of being seen as monsters for going after "the kid with the just cause."

There are exceptions to those not willing to challenge Hogg, starting first and foremost with conservative writer/commentator and podcast/radio host Ben Shapiro. "I look forward to Hogg's apologies to Republicans ('sick f***ers'), Dana Loesch (she was 'hypocritical and disgusting' for criticizing Broward Sheriff Scott Israel), and [Sen.] Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP looks to injure Nelson over Russia comments Rubio’s pro-family, conservative family leave policy promotes stability Dems make history in Tuesday's primaries MORE [R-Fla.] (he said Rubio was bribed by the [National Rifle Association] to give away children's lives)," Shapiro wrote in the online publication he founded, The Daily Wire.

"You may not like what Ingraham said. You may disagree with it. I did. But it isn't remotely CLOSE to the level of viciousness with which Hogg has attacked people who disagree with him," Shapiro added. 

And Shapiro is correct. As is Parkland student Kyle Kashuv. 

"The media took interest in [Hogg] to push an agenda," Kushuv, a pro-Second Amendment student, wrote in a series of tweets aimed at Hogg. "They've propped people up and have turned them into shields. I am not doubting anyone's sincerity, but people have certainly been hiding behind my classmates to push an agenda."

Hogg has rejected Ingraham's apology and says he will only accept such an overture if she denounces what he described as the network's attempt to "mudsling at children."  

And therein lies the rub: As stated, Hogg should be treated as an adult. It's the arena he chose to enter and had every right to do so, given his abilities and what he experienced. But if a boycott succeeds here, it sets the kind of precedent that will forever change what the First Amendment is supposed to stand for. 

Ingraham wrote an ill-advised tweet that had zero upside. She's apologized since. 

Hogg won't accept and will continue to push back, via social media and a Friday morning CNN interview, an effort that won't end until Ingraham vanishes from the airwaves.

If someone is offended by her program or her as a person, don't watch or listen and allow the free market eventually to decide if she's worth keeping on. 

But the effort to silence a voice, to essentially end a career, based on something like this sets not only a dangerous but completely un-American precedent. 

Joe Concha (@JoeConchaTV) is a media reporter for The Hill.