Go ahead, MAGA influencers: Trash L.A. for likes. We'll always beat you at the fame game

For the record:
10:04 a.m. June 19, 2024: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the Skinny Confidential was an OutKick podcast. It is not.

Los Angeles is a wicked, dangerous city, where treasonous depravity lurks behind every Pride flag, pupuseria and EV charging station, according to MAGA pundits. We’re a blue city, in a blue state, which in Fox News-speak means we’re a perilous hell pit. Think Mordor or Flea Bottom but with bike lanes and prettier people.

Right-wing media never miss an opportunity to “report” on the nation’s alarming rise in crime (though rates are in fact dropping), especially in blue states, and particularly on the left coast. Angelenos are “legitimately in danger” from “thugs, felons, and unhinged green-hairs,” said Tomi Lahren on Sunday, joining the hoarse chorus of conservative commentators who insist L.A. is a 24/7 loop of “Training Day” thanks to its liberal policymakers and leftist electorate.

Never mind facts or data. Sean Hannity and lesser-known personalities (OAN, NewsMax, etc.) are beholden to ratings, and nothing moves the needle like fear of The Other and the salaciousness of Los Angeles. Promoting lockstep hatred of the West Coast — not just its politics, but its people — is now a requisite for anyone hoping to stake a claim in the right-wing mediaverse.

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Lahren took her turn Sunday, lamenting the “crap hole blue state” of California on The Skinny Confidential podcast. The former South Bay resident said she avoided going to L.A. because “it would be violent” … but her examples of the dangers that good folks face in the antifa breeding ground of L.A. say less about crime than about the profound intellectual dishonesty of the argument.

Disingenuous conflations of crime rates and political leanings are performative politics at best, not substantive debate, but if you’re going to take the low road at least come prepared with powerful examples of L.A.’s wickedness.

Lahren showed up with tales of a passive-aggressive ice cream vendor, suspect Vons shoppers and “mean girls.” When asked where she felt the most threatened, the Fox Nation personality cited Santa Monica, particularly the Bungalow cafe (“A haven for social connectivity and creative collaboration,” according to the website. Margaritas start at $20). “People would be screaming at me,” she said of her experience at the trendy seaside eatery.

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The podcast host of OutKick’s “Tomi Lahren Is Fearless” said she was followed around Vons, accosted by a woman at Hermosa Beach’s the Tower (“a beach-town casual kitchen”) and targeted during her man-on-the-street assignments in West Hollywood for Fox’s “Hannity” show. “The Salt & Straw there would give free ice cream to people if they wouldn’t talk to me,” she said of the harrowing experience. She never mentioned the chain’s great culinary crime, Strawberry Honey Balsamic With Black Pepper ice cream.

Lahren is a B-list right-wing commentator and influencer who’s rattled around various platforms. In 2019, when she still lived in the L.A. area and was calling Gavin Newsom “greasy Gavin,” she told The Times in an interview she was on a rescue mission. “I love California. I think it needs to be saved. Things that happen here trickle down. California is a cautionary tale for the rest of the country.”

Now, that love seems to be long gone.

When the podcast interviewer asked Lahren if she still feels unsafe, she said no because she now lives in Tennessee. “I feel badly for a lot of these people who don’t have the protection of living in a place like I get to live in,” she said. “There’s a lot of people out there right now that are legitimately in danger and it’s right here in L.A. and it’s in New York and it’s in Washington, D.C., and it’s in Portland.”

But with a pivotal election at stake, crime rates are increasingly in the eye of the beholder. Where one conservative commentator sees Sodom and Gomorrah, data and trends paint a different picture. According to a 2022 study, Tennessee ranked above California in its violent crime rate, with 621.6 incidents of violent crime per 100,000 residents. The Southern state was topped only by New Mexico (780.5 incidences), Alaska (758.9), Arkansas (645.3) and Louisiana (628.6). And Memphis, Tenn., had the highest violent crime rate of any city that reported to the FBI in 2022.

Los Angeles has always been a magnet for those seeking fame, even if that means serving as a bogeyman for opportunistic pundits.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.