It’s just before two in the afternoon at the FM NewsTalk 97.1 studios in downtown St. Louis, and talk show host Dana Loesch is getting ready to go on the air. She’s got a lot of things on her mind and she’s about to let the rest of the world know exactly what she’s thinking.
Loesch stops to shake my hand and apologizes for not getting back to me sooner. She explains she’s been really busy. She grabs a cup of coffee, double-checks that her guests are lined up for her show, and also is probably also making sure that her two sons are safe at home practicing piano. Then she’s off to the microphone, filling the airwaves with her unabashedly conservative views.
The past several years have been a wild ride for Loesch, who has become arguably one of the most influential politically centered media women in the nation. Along with her highly rated radio show, she’s the editor-in-chief of Big Journalism.com, a regular contributor on CNN, a sought-after political pundit for major news networks and the co-founder of the St. Louis Tea Party movement.
In this highly charged 2012 election year, Dana Loesch’s life is likely going to get even more hectic. She tells me she loves what she’s doing, but also is humbled by her meteoric rise. “I never thought I would be in the position I am now. I thought I would be a writer, working on screenplays and magazine articles, sitting behind a computer all day and that would be it. I never had any plans to be behind the mike or in front of the cameras.”
She was born in Festus in 1978, grew up in Imperial and graduated from Fox High School, where she says her interest in politics started. But it wasn’t as a Ronald Regan-young Republican, Loesch says she was a liberal who planned to vote Democrat as soon as she was old enough. She also was a big fan of President Bill Clinton. “I thought he was so cool because he played saxophone on the Arsenio Hall Show.”
But along came Monica Lewinsky. “I said, of course, he’s telling the truth. He’s the president, why would he lie? That’s when I had my first heartbreak when I found out he actually did lie— that was the first crack in my liberal veneer.”
After that, Loesch says she looked at politics and government in a more skeptical way. “I began questioning everything. That’s when I first realized that just because you have people elected to higher office, it doesn’t mean they are going to be honest with you.”
In 2000, Loesch believes she became one of the first people to actually make money as an Internet blogger. That soon led to some local newspaper writing and cable TV work, a radio show, and then came the Tea Party. Loesch was asked to speak at a conservative rally—an event she thought was just a one-time ‘protest’—which turned out to be the birth of the St. Louis Tea Party. Dana Loesch was suddenly its matriarch.
“I was happy to help grow it and help whatever way I could. If you have a megaphone and if you see bad stuff happening, use the megaphone.”
However, in a surprise move last month, Loesch announced she was severing her ties with the Tea Party. She says she had been warning that it was becoming more of an established political entity, rather than a grass-roots movement—and that’s not what she believes it was intended to be. “When we think of the original Boston Tea Party, it didn’t turn into a group that had committees, it simply was a physical expression of frustration toward tyranny.” She’s just as concerned that some Tea Party groups were becoming too organized in their backing of candidates. “If you have a movement, then you either have to become a political party or you will be co-opted and turned into something completely opposite than what you started out: You’ll end up becoming the very thing that you protested.”
Loesch says she is moving forward, on to even bigger challenges, and plans to announce her new ventures early this year. She won’t say exactly what she has up her sleeve, but when I ask if she’s planning a run for elected office herself, she just laughed, “Oh my gosh, no! Can you imagine me as a candidate? I would be a public relations nightmare! I have zero desire to run ever—I think there are people who are far more patient than I am and more capable.” For now, Loesch plans to kick her radio show into overdrive.
After all, Election Day is less than a year away. I have a feeling that we’re about to find out exactly what she has on her mind.