Ben Shapiro's Fox News elections show doesn't cover elections

The Ben Shapiro Election Special is long on culture war, short on campaign coverage

Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

To kick off the first episode of his limited-run weekly series on Fox News, Ben Shapiro observed that “we are in the midst of the one of the most important election cycles of our lifetime.” This is true insofar that every federal election cycle is important and the current election cycle is indeed happening while we are alive. But this election cycle is so important that Fox News created a special show for Ben Shapiro to talk about the upcoming elections: a show it calls The Ben Shapiro Election Special.

Some of you might have questions, like: “Why is Ben Shapiro hosting a show about elections?” and “What the hell does Ben Shapiro know about elections?” and “What can I possibly learn about elections from a guy who ‘doesn’t seem to care very much about facts’?”

These are all reasonable questions. They’re also completely moot, given that The Ben Shapiro Election Special neither covers nor cares about the election cycle that supposedly justifies its existence. As I wrote when the show was first announced, it’s all just a flimsy pretense cooked up by Fox to audition Shapiro as a replacement Sean Hannity. The network wants to capitalize on Shapiro’s hilariously inapt reputation as (in the words of The New York Times) “the cool kid’s philosopher.” The end product is functionally indistinct from the rest of Fox News’ prime-time programming -- hyperbolic attacks on liberals, factual errors, rigid ideological conformity -- with just enough lip service paid to its gimmicky “elections” premise to emphasize how absurd it is.

Six minutes and fourteen seconds: That is the total amount of time Shapiro’s first hour-long program devoted to what could be generously described as election-specific coverage. Those six minutes and fourteen seconds were divided between two segments: a one-on-one interview with pollster Scott Rasmussen that was devoted to an inch-deep discussion of the national generic ballot and Democrats’ chances to take over Congress, and a two-minute panel discussion featuring sports journalist Jason Whitlock, crime novelist (and podcaster for Shapiro’s website The Daily Wire) Andrew Klavan, and “conservative millennial” pundit Allie Stuckey.

Again, you’re probably asking yourself what electoral insights could have been gleaned from this panel. Whitlock provided the answer when Shapiro solicited his 2018 election predictions, and he demurred because he -- like everyone else involved -- is not an elections analyst.

The vast bulk of the first episode of The Ben Shapiro Election Special was instead devoted to stuff that falls more into Shapiro’s comfort zone: attacking liberals. The first half of the show was just an extended monologue lashing out at “the left” for the handling of reports that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh committed sexual assault; accusing Democrats of dirty tricks; and attacking the credibility of professor Christine Blasey Ford, who reported that Kavanaugh assaulted her.

“Ford’s lawyers are now demanding that for her to testify, Republicans should make Kavanaugh testify before she does,” Shapiro said. “That’s insane. It’s obviously a poison pill. There is no legal proceeding in America or any other civilized country where the defendant testifies before the plaintiff.” That’s a sound rejoinder but for the facts that a Senate hearing is not a legal proceeding, Kavanaugh and Ford are neither defendant nor plaintiff, and back in 1991, Clarence Thomas testified before Anita Hill.

“The real agenda here obviously has nothing to do with whether Brett Kavanaugh actually attempted to sexually assault a girl 36 years ago,” Shapiro said of the Democrats’ handling of the Kavanaugh allegations. “It has everything to do with painting a picture, a picture of evil Republican sexists who don’t care about women who are sexually abused.” Amusingly, a couple of minutes later Shapiro stepped on his own point by noting that President Donald Trump “didn’t help things” by attacking Ford’s credibility, which “makes Republicans look insensitive.”

From there, The Ben Shapiro Election Special veered off into a harangue about the evils of “social justice” and one-sided relitigations of the Clarence Thomas and Robert Bork nominations. Shapiro deployed some harsh broadsides against columnist Ana Marie Cox, comedian Chelsea Handler, former Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid, and several other people whose shared characteristic is that they are not running for any elected office in 2018.

The panel discussion featured more of the same, with Shapiro and his guests giving their takes on Google’s alleged bias against conservatives and mocking a transgender woman who, per Vice, “has undergone extreme body modification to become a dragon.” Zero insight -- electoral or otherwise -- was gleaned from the discussion, though Whitlock’s joke that he self-identifies as Denzel Washington did elicit some fantastic awkwardness from Shapiro:

I could go into more detail, but there isn’t actually any point. If you’ve seen anything Fox News has aired in prime time over the last 20 years, then you’ve already seen The Ben Shapiro Election Special.