One month after the Sandy Hook shooting, Ben Shapiro undid the liberal anti-gun argument on live TV.
It was a time of mourning, but Democrats had made guns control the topic du jour. Liberal CNN host Piers Morgan was their hatchet man, and invited Shapiro on his show likely hoping to score an easy win for the anti-gun side.
Instead, Shapiro dismantled Morgan – and by extension, leftist anti-gun rhetoric – by being calm and cogent, and by using Morgan’s bias against him.
The video of the exchange has gained millions of views on YouTube, but the key scene comes right at the beginning, as Morgan tries to put Shapiro on the defensive – and fails.
“So why am I off the rails, Mr. Shapiro?” Morgan asks, flipping his head up condescendingly, referring to a column Shapiro had written.
“You’ve kind of been a bully on [guns],” Shapiro replies, calmly. “What you tend to do is you tend to demonize people who differ from you politically by standing on the graves of the children of Sandy Hook saying that they don’t seem to care enough about these dead kids.
“I think we can have a rational political conversation about balancing the risks and rewards of all these different [gun control] policies, but I don’t think what we need to do is demonize people on the other side as being unfeeling.”
His success in that Jan. 10, 2013 debate revealed the hollowness and political opportunism of anti-gun Democrats (and of Morgan) and lifted Shapiro’s profile.
“For a lot of folks, it was sort of a turning point, politically,” Shapiro recalled recently. “In the aftermath of the 2012 election, so many people were depressed and upset. Obama jumped on [Sandy Hook] and used it as an opportunity for political browbeating.”
Shapiro still receives positive emails and tweets about the exchange.
Now, Shapiro is bringing his unique rhetorical voice to Seattle. Today, his weekday afternoon show debuts on KTTH. Though only 29, Shapiro has been working in national conservative media since age 17, when he began writing a syndicated column. He has earned a reputation as a fair, intellectually curious social and fiscal conservative.
He’s looking forward to working in Seattle, especially, for its thoughtfulness.
“It’s a thinking market,” he says. “I like being in areas that tend to be more left leaning because I like the debate.”
Growing up conservative
In an ironic bit of foreshadowing, there is a video on YouTube of Shapiro in 1996 at age 12 playing violin at the Israeli Bonds Banquet. The man who introduces Shapiro is Larry King, whose show on CNN Piers Morgan took over in 2010.
Even at 12, Shapiro knew he was a conservative, and was interested in politics. As King announces in the video, Shapiro had aspirations to be the first Orthodox Jewish U.S. Supreme Court justice.
Shapiro grew up in an Orthodox Jewish home that was conservative on social issues, and on Israel. But his parents did not force him to think rightward. He made sure to study the views he held.
“I grew up doing my own research,” he said. “I always thought it was important to know the basis for my beliefs.”
Incredibly precocious, Shapiro entered UCLA at age 16, a decidedly liberal institution that challenged – or perhaps mocked – his conservative ideals. During one of his first classes, the professor showed an illustration of a fat man urinating on a crowd of poor people with the caption, “trickledown economics.”
Experiences like that inspired Shapiro’s first book, “Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America’s Youth.” The book documents liberal bias at American universities. It was published in 2004 at the urging of David Limbaugh, Rush’s brother.
“Brainwashed” touched a nerve, selling well, and was perhaps the first book to document liberal bias at college since National Review founder William J. Buckley Jr.’s “God and Man at Yale” from 1951.
“It surprised me at the time for sure,” Shapiro said at the success of the book. “It wasn’t like we paid for heavy publicity.”
For his next work, Shapiro wrote “Porn Generation: How Social Liberalism is Corrupting Our Future,” a book dripping with outrage at an American generation addicted to sex and drugs and enabled by liberalism.
“Shapiro cleverly examines the not-so-subtle inundation of today’s youth with the mixed bag garbage that the mainstream media attempts to force feed it,” wrote one “Porn Generation” reviewer on Amazon.com.
A rightly friendship
At UCLA, Shapiro wrote for the UCLA Daily Bruin, and his work drew the attention of a then-lowly minion of Matt Drudge named Andrew Breitbart. The two young SoCal conservatives met, and struck up a friendship that would last 11 years, until Breitbart’s death in March 2012.
“We met at greasy taco joint in Westwood, he ate tacos, and I starved – because I keep kosher,” he remembered.
After UCLA, Shapiro continued his career in conservative media while furthering his education. He entered Harvard Law School in 2005, and simultaneously wrote two books, “Project President: Bad Hair and Botox on the Road to the White House,” and “Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV.”
The publishing of “Primetime Propaganda” gelled with Shapiro’s appointment in 2011 as a fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, founded in 1988 by Horowitz to “establish a conservative presence in Hollywood” and “[combat] the efforts of the radical left and its Islamist allies to destroy American values.”
Also during this time, Shapiro was appointed editor-at-large at Breitbart.com, a post he still holds today.
It was near the time of the now-famous Piers Morgan debate that Shapiro published his latest book, “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences Americans.” The thesis of the book is that the main political and rhetorical tactic of the left is to make conservatives look evil, which is exactly what Morgan tried to do to Shapiro.
“Ben Shapiro shows once and for all that the left is the single greatest source of bullying in modern American life,” wrote Sean Hannity in a review of the book.
Drawn to Seattle
That debate with Piers Morgan sums up the essence of Shapiro’s media personality. He’s willing to engage, think, talk, and, if necessary, fight. He welcomes Seattle’s overt liberalism, and looks forward to the challenge of being a thinker in such a blue place.
If Charles Krauthammer is a thinker and Rush Limbaugh is a fighter, Ben Shapiro is their intellectual son.
“Seattle is known for having an intellectual bent, as a place where people consider their arguments and philosophies – I’m looking forward to moving into that area.
“I like being in areas that tend to be more left leaning because I like the debate.”