Foxs New Progressive Star Jessica Tarlov Talks to Mediaite About Being Outnumbered – Mediaite

Posted: December 4, 2019 at 5:43 pm


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Regardless of your political identity, there is a good chance you see clear bias in political media, especially cable news. But while media bias is a wholly subjective debate, there is an objective bias to which all cable news networks slant, and that is towards conflict.

It is in this milieu that we take note of Jessica Tarlov, who may very well be the unlikeliest of the rising cable news stars this year.

As one of a handful of progressive voices on Fox News, Tarlov has consistently provided a sharp and dispassionate voice that serves as a compelling counterbalance to the reliably right-of-center opinion programming that has made Fox the top rated cable news outlet.

While Tarlov often gives voice to moderate liberal policies and engages in well-thought and often spirited discussions (that often lead to Mediaite posts) she also undermines critics who oversimplify Fox News as state-run TV.

Mediaite sat down with Tarlov at the recently decorated commissary on the 44th floor of Fox Corporation in Manhattan a space that felt inspired by a Copenhagen-set remake of Succession. We talked at length about the private charm of her ideological foe Sean Hannity, how she manages to deal with big piles of disinformation out there, persuadable voters on Fox News, and her standing among the ranks of fellow Fox News contributors.

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

MEDIAITE: How did you get first get on Fox News?

JT: I came home from working on Boris Johnsons mayoral campaign right before Obamas reelection campaign to work for Doug Schoen, who is a Fox News contributor and Bill Clintons pollster and now works for Bloomberg. Doug encouraged me to start doing media to make me a better public speaker and to get more exposure. So Doug was really enthusiastic about the opportunity. And I started coming on Fox and they liked me and I liked them. And so, Ive been here for about four years, since before the 2016 election. And about three years ago, I left working for Doug to move over to Bustle Digital Group, and I run their research outfit.

MEDIAITE: Your first big, most visible hits were on Hannity, where you continue to contribute. What would a progressive audience hate to hear about Sean Hannity?

JT: He is the nicest dude Ive met. He is the most generous and caring. He remembers the little details about everybody. He takes everyone out all the time. Hes just gracious and lovely and so open. Also, with his own experience and his story of how he got to where he is and genuinely wants to know also about how you got to where you are.

MEDIAITE: Can you explain how your role as a panelist is different from of monologists like Tomi Lahren or Dan Bongino?

JT: Yeah, I think I mean, with a show like Outnumbered, which is an ensemble show that I do quite regularly, a little bit of your personal ego has to go away to support the greater good of the show.

MEDIAITE: Youre such a socialist.

JT: I am a socialist in all ways! (Editors note: a joke) You know, you want to make sure that everybody gets in and you also want to make your colleagues feel good about the points that theyre making. And thats just important to the dynamic. You have to say we have one lucky guy who is our guest. So your first priority is to bring out whatever information they came there to offer to your audience. Right. If they have a specialty, you want to make sure that youre highlighting that. But for the viewer at home, if youre just screaming at each other, its not good TV.

MEDIAITE: Outnumbereds conceit is featuring a panel of four women and a male cast as the one lucky guy. Yet, ideologically, very often YOU are outnumbered. How do you deal with that inevitable frustration that comes with being ganged up on?

JT: Breathing. not to get too therapeutic about it is a big part of it. And to really take a moment to think, is this an avenue that I really want to go down or is this a hill to die on, like where I want to raise the decibel level to, you know, 100 versus 50 and something like that. I keep in mind the fact that I truly believe what Im saying. And that also my views represent a majority of Americans, not the views of many of the people that Im on with.

MEDIAITE: Like what?

JT: If you look at the polling on things like a womans right to choose or raising the minimum wage or how we do an impeachment, how we deal with immigration in this country, right? Democrats are in the majority here and there. Their platforms actually could be sourced right out of current polling and it would do a hell of a lot better than what the president has put forward.

MEDIAITE: Since much of opinion programming on Fox News is very pro-Trump, do you feel like you have a greater responsibility to carry a big part of the progressive burden?

JT: I take it really seriously and I know that people are watching. And its a complete myth that liberals dont watch Fox. Right now the polling goes anywhere between 10 and 20 percent are liberals and then a good 20 to 30 percent are independents that are right. So those are persuadable voters. Its a really big number, and I think that that word on the street has kind of been that this is just an echo chamber for President Trump and Mick Mulvaney to sit around and eat popcorn and watch Fox. But thats not whats going on here. I feel like thats a complete fallacy. And I do also feel a responsibility to the liberal Twiterrati to say Im here and Im doing a really good job. But Im not backing down. Im not being mealy-mouthed about this. Im not bashing Hillary. Thats something that I take really seriously. I think there are too many liberals that go on TV and kind of feed Republican talking points about how bad her campaign was. I do feel like I have something to prove.

MEDIAITE: Do you ever catch hell from progressives for cashing a check fromFox News because theres so much animus towards the network?

JT: Theres been an evolution in the perception of me from when I started to now. I think that doesnt have to do necessarily in a change in my belief system, but how Im able to advocate my beliefs. So when you start out doing TV youre less sure of when you can jump in, and like, how hard can you push, youre not as comfortable with theseyou find your rhythm like I know more or less the boundaries of how far I can go with X host. And also what makes good TV and what makes bad TV and when you should cut someone off and when you shouldnt.

JT: The first rule of television: have your talking points and get them out. And they should be short and succinct. And its really hard if you feel like there has been a big pile of disinformation thrown out there.

MEDIAITE: A big pile of disinformation? You clearly have a different point of view than your fellow Outnumbered panelists.

JT: Well, Im a hired partisan. Im very happy to be. I mean, people will come to me and say youre not being fair or what kind of journalist are you? Im not a journalist. Im a hired liberal. So I dont have to both sides it. What I think is something I mean, and I revel in that at this moment. I would really hate to be sitting there saying, oh, well, Hunter Biden really shouldnt have had that job.

MEDIAITE: Theres a small group of progressives at Fox News. Do you offer some support or you do stay in touch or do you just sort of like theyre just another talent?

JT: Im definitely closest with Juan and Marie. Juan fills a mentor role for a lot of people in this building. And its something he takes really seriously. And hes wonderful at it. I mean, hes seen everything. Obviously, being a print journalist, moving into TV legend, and youre totally right. And he also in a tough environment where you are the outnumbered one, hes really good at helping you talk through the topics that youre gonna be discussing. Whats the best way to focus on what you really think is important? Its like I mentioned before. Sometimes if a lot of things are going on, you might not even get out the point that you wanted to make because youre busy addressing wherever the conversation went. And likewise, I think that Juan looks to me and to Marie and other progressives that are here to chat about the issues. But its kind of its a fun little fraternity party.

MEDIAITE: Media that covers media is a new thing. Are there moments where you or the set of Outnumbered immediately realize that this is gonna be up on Mediaite?

JT: I think about 90 percent of the time we know what happened, you know, and what kind of headline it will be like, blah, blah, blah, lets loose on or panel erupts over. So you can usually feel it coming. I genuinely feel like the majority of the talent here doesnt care. And its just part of the day.

MEDIAITE: Seems a slippery slope to obsess over the coverage

JT: And I think what people are most conscious of is if they have offended somebody that they care about. Right. Because you dont want to if you have to have a thick skin to do this anyway. But you dont necessarily want a post to go viral that pits you against your colleague in such a way that suddenly theyre being inundated with liberals saying youre terrible, so disrespectful and you dont want it to come in the reverse. And I assume my colleagues are conscious of that visa vis me.

MEDIAITE: After the lights go off, do you ever sort of meet up with people that youve had a spirited debate with and say, like, are we good?

JT: Im a big fan of extra talking and follow up. So I will pretty regularly send a note or a text and just say, like, You know, hope everything is cool. Nothing personal. Or to actually follow up on the point. Ive done that, too. Ive sent links then to whatever study I was citing. To say this is where I got my information out because the truthfulness of the way that you represent yourself on TV is all you have here So if youre putting out data and facts, which is how I like to do it. And if they get disputed on air, I want to make sure that I have a reputation for not making things up, because I think there are people across the whole spectrum of channels that are saying things that arent true.

MEDIAITE: Have you felt moments where you were just like felt like if I dont if we dont wrap this segment, Im gonna burst into tears, or just scream my head off, or youre just like, I cant deal with this anymore?

JT: There was a moment about when Cindy Hyde-Smith made those lynching comments where I just cant understand backing her up in any way whatsoever. And that thats frustrating. Or Im talking about the presidents racism has been something thats really personal for me. I made it clear from very early on that I believed him to be a racist. And there was a lot of evidence for it. Going back to not letting African-Americans live in Trump housing complexes up until the tweets that he sent about Elijah Cummings in Baltimore. But that was something that was really hard for me. Going back to what I said a little while ago about representing a majority viewpoint, the majority of Americans think the president is a racist. That shouldnt be a controversial thing to say at all, that it is the majority viewpoint.

MEDIAITE: And yet thats not really covered that much at Fox News. And so Im curious where do you think Fox is going editorially right now?

JT: Lynne Jordal Martin, who runs the opinion section, is fantastic and a huge advocate of mine. She always wants a Democratic voice on FoxNews.com and asks all of us to write regularly. But one thing that Fox does that, I cant say necessarily about all the other channels, at the same time is like a voice like mine is always there. The news and opinion side is obviously split, but during the day, much to the chagrin of a viewer, someone who thinks like me is showing up and being quite loud about it. So when there are these accusations of State TV I think to myself, I had half the airtime in that segment and I was calling the president a racist. How? How are you backing up that theory?

MEDIAITE: People here at Fox News treat you well.

JT: They do treat me well. Im not best friends with everybody, but I think that people who even abhor my political beliefs, they like me personally. Ive had a lot of dual pairings where its been consistent, like with Tomi Lahren and with Jesse Watters, with Kayleigh McEnany. Any. Those arent conservative wallflowers. They are really passionate about their beliefs and who will go for the jugular if they need to elbow. And I think theres also something thats changing a bit in 220 versus 2016. So I think in 2016 it was a lot of like Bernie flame-throwing types and that was the more appealing Democrat for TV clashes. But I think that if you can make good TV and if you can have a thoughtful argument about the real issues of the day from a more moderate position, which is where I consider myself to be so obviously a Democrat, a liberal part of a progressive coalition.

I think a lot of conservatives have found themselves on the back foot about that because they went in saying its impossible, you know, best economy ever. And guess what? People showed up and voted no one on health care and overwhelmingly said the Democrats were the people that they wanted to lead. Right.

MEDIAITE: Rapid fire to end it Yeah? Yes or no: Will Trump be impeached?

JT: Yes.

MEDIAITE: Will Trump be removed from office?

JT: No.

MEDIAITE: Who is will be the Democratic candidate in 2020?

JT: Joe Biden.

MEDIAITE: Who will be elected president in November 2012.

JT: Very worried it be President Trump. I said on air actually outnumber just a few minutes ago. I think its certainly over 50 percent odds. And I got big natural support from Chris Stirewalt. Well, I mean, its really hard to unseat a president.

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Foxs New Progressive Star Jessica Tarlov Talks to Mediaite About Being Outnumbered - Mediaite

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December 4th, 2019 at 5:43 pm