This year has been strange for all of us, but especially for Shelby Talcott, The Daily Caller’s media reporter and field correspondent.
Talcott spent much of 2020 traveling across America to report on the race riots and protests. Today, Talcott joins “Problematic Women” to share what it was like to be in the center of the conflict as businesses were burned and looted, and even her own experience of being arrested at one of the demonstrations.
Plus, we discuss the Lifetime Christmas movie “Feliz NaviDAD” with Mario Lopez and why we all love to watch Hallmark and Lifetime movies, despite them being cheesy and predictable. We also crown our “Problematic Women of the Week” and take a moment to recognize that the holidays are a challenging time for many as we remember lost friends and loved ones.
Enjoy the show.
Virginia Allen: Well, it has been a crazy year for everyone, but I think it has been especially wild for one reporter, Shelby Talcott, who is The Daily Caller’s field correspondent and media reporter. And she joins us now to share about her experiences during 2020. Shelby, welcome to the show.
Shelby Talcott: Thanks for having me.
Allen: So, 2020 has been marked by violent riots and protests following the death of George Floyd. And you have actually spent most of the year traveling from city to city all over America, from Kenosha to Portland to D.C. You’ve been reporting on these violent riots. So if you could summarize your year in one word, what would that word be?
Talcott: I mean, that’s a good question. I guess, insanity. We’re in a global pandemic. There’s been, as you said, protests and riots around the country. And again, the pandemic just sort of adds to an already insane year. So insanity is probably the perfect word to describe it.
Allen: Yeah. And how exactly did you become one of the key reporters at The Daily Caller who was going around in the middle of the violence reporting on these riots and protests? Have you always been a field correspondent?
Talcott: No. I started at The Daily Caller on the News Foundation side as a fellow. And then at the end of last year, I switched over to the for-profit side to be their media reporter. And as these protests and riots sort of began, I essentially just went up to my boss, Geoff Ingersoll, and said, “I want to be out there.” And yeah, he said, “Sure, go ahead.”
Allen: That’s really bold to kind of be the one raising your hand and volunteering, like, “I’ll go.” … Obviously you have that curiosity as a journalist, but it’s a little scary, isn’t it, to be kind of putting yourself willingly, often, in positions that feel somewhat dangerous?
Talcott: Yeah, it definitely can be scary and you constantly have to be alert. You always have to be watching your back and sort of knowing what’s going on around you. But I think that was also part of what drew me to it.
I played professional tennis before this and when I played professional tennis, I traveled a lot. I was in these crazy places as well. So that was sort of my adrenaline a little bit. And now this has become, obviously, a different sort of adrenaline, but the same thing.
And I really do like being out on the ground and providing live coverage and really bringing Americans the coverage that nobody else is bringing them, because it’s true the legacy outlets and these traditional media publications are not covering this and they haven’t been all year.
Allen: Well, I’m personally so thankful for your coverage, Shelby. I know multiple times throughout the year, I would hear like, “Oh, there’s a riot going on in this city.” And I would just get on Twitter and be like, “I’m sure Shelby’s there. What’s she reporting?” And sure enough, every time you’re like, “Oh, good, here’s five videos. Shelby’s on the ground. She’s filming. I can see what’s actually happening. I can get the firsthand coverage.”
So I’ve been so thankful for people like yourself that you’re cutting through the media bias and you’re just telling directly this is what is happening.
Talcott: Well, thanks. I appreciate that. And of course my teammates, Richie McGinniss and Jorge Ventura, they’ve been out there too, and they’ve been doing a great job. I’m sure you’ve seen their coverage as well.
And there’s a few other really good independent reporters who are doing great work. But it’s largely the independent reporters and the small publications that are doing all of this and have been all year, as I’m sure you know.
Allen: Yeah, yeah. Shelby, take us back to the first riot that you attended. What was that? Tell us the situation. What was your reaction? What were your thoughts at that very first one that you went to?
Talcott: The first one I went to was actually right after George Floyd died and it was in D.C. So there were thousands of people. And I think this was … either a Friday and a Saturday or Saturday and Sunday, but it was one of the first weekends after Floyd’s deaths.
And we didn’t know what to expect, right? It’s Washington, D.C. You don’t expect, especially when this is your first time going out there, that I would need a gas mask and a helmet. But sure enough, it’s like just this chaos started happening.
I mean, people were throwing firecrackers at police, police were tear-gassing people, people were running up and throwing materials back at the police officers. There were rubber bullets going off everywhere. … And then the looting started. And so that’s that weekend in D.C.
If you remember closer toward the beginning of the year where there was just mass looting. And I sort of went around the city all night, watching people break into stores. It was like there [were] no laws. You know what I mean?
Even though there were police officers there, the amount of looting and raiding going on was just overwhelming. The police officers couldn’t go to every single store and stop people from looting. It was madness.
Allen: What was running through your head that night?
Talcott: I don’t even know if I was thinking about what was going on in the moment. In situations like this, a lot of times I feel like, especially when you’re new at it, you’re just like, “What the hell? What is going on?” And I feel like that was sort of my reaction all night.
Everywhere I looked there was something insane happening that you don’t see when you’re walking down the streets normally. And it’s become the new normal this year. So I don’t even know if I had any specific thoughts. I just was shocked at the behavior of people.
Allen: Did you think on that first night, “Oh, I can see that this is going to become a much larger situation where we’re going to see this in other cities”? Or were you thinking of this as this is an isolated event of violence and of riots, that we probably won’t see this in dozens of other cities across the country?
Talcott: Well, we had seen some rioting in other cities at that point, but it was still so early on that I really thought, “OK, maybe this is just an extreme emotional reaction from people, perhaps, and it’s going to quiet down.”
I certainly didn’t think that it was going to continue until nearly 2021 now. So I really didn’t think it would be as long-winded as it has been. I didn’t think I would be jetting off in a global pandemic all across the country to cover all of these riots.
Allen: How many have you covered by now?
Talcott: I don’t even know the number, but I’ve been to New York City, Minneapolis. We’ve been to Portland. We’ve been to Seattle. We’ve been, obviously, to Washington, D.C.; Pennsylvania. So we’ve been coast to coast pretty much.
Allen: Yeah. Been around. Wow. Now that you’ve kind of been in these situations so many times, are there certain cues or signs that you look for in a crowd to kind of know, “OK, if I see that I know that things are maybe about to get violent or about to get more heated or intense”?
Talcott: Yeah, for sure. So it depends on where you are, really. So, for example, any time—we’ve seen this in multiple cities, so we saw it in Kenosha, we saw it in Portland—when they erect a sort of wall around a federal building. That always really angers the protesters and rioters.
And so as soon as, in those situations, the people start sort of banging against the barriers and escalating, I know, “OK. It’s probably time to put my gas mask on and get ready,” because that’s when the police will come out and react.
And then in terms of when people are marching, when it starts getting dark, so I’ve seen this, this is sort of when the looting happens. They’ll start with small things like banging on stop signs or breaking some small stuff, or just sort of breaking windows. And that’s when you have a good indication, this could really escalate very quickly. And sometimes it doesn’t, but as we’ve seen, sometimes it does.
So there’s small cues of you just have to read the crowd and it’s almost like you’re figuring out their anger levels. And that’s a good indication of when things might escalate.
Allen: So then as you’re watching that and you’re [going], “OK, the crowd is doing this and this,” how are you balancing, “I’m a reporter. I’m here to capture this. I want to capture this. Also, I don’t want to get hurt myself”?
Talcott: I don’t know if I do that the best. I don’t know if anyone on my team does that the best. Richie in Kenosha was right behind the first victim in the Kyle Rittenhouse situation. So it’s definitely something we could work on.
But my first thought is always, “How can I get the best footage?” But there is definitely a part of me that’s like, “All right, if a situation is getting too out of hand, I’ll maybe back up.” And I think I learned a little bit more about that when I got arrested in Louisville.
Allen: Can you tell us about that story? Because I was going to ask you about that next. I know you kind of got caught in the cross hairs. What exactly happened in that situation?
Talcott: Yeah. So, essentially, I was reporting and it was a past curfew, but journalists are exempt from the curfew. If we’re not, who’s going to report and who’s going to tell people what’s going on? Because these situations almost always happen after curfew, if there’s a curfew in the city.
So I returned toward the main protest area and there [was] sort of a scattering group of protesters. And I didn’t hear anything from police and neither did my co-worker, Jorge [Ventura], who got arrested as well. But essentially, we followed the protesters because we’re reporting on the protesters at that point.
And as the protesters looked like they were going to start kind of dispersing, police came from all four sides and did a kettle, which is when they essentially don’t let you leave. And they had us all get on the ground. They arrested us. We went through processing. I ended up being in jail for 16 hours and I was in a jail cell with, I think it was 27 protesters.
It was eye-opening, honestly. I mean, it should’ve never happened and journalists should never be arrested. But on the flip side, it was definitely a learning experience for me and really highlighted that there are issues with police.
I don’t think anyone is saying that police are perfect or that the system’s perfect. Should they be completely defunded and abolished? I don’t think that’s the answer. But could they be improved? For sure. Absolutely.
And so I actually became friendly with one or two of the protesters in there. And the two girls that I got friendly with, turns out they’re hardcore activists and they travel all over the place. So they do this for a living.
So I got to hear stories from them about where they’ve been and what they’ve been doing. And it was interesting because we at The Daily Caller, oftentimes these people won’t talk to us. And so it was an interesting experience for sure. I wouldn’t do it again, but …
Allen: Yeah, I mean, that is wild to, in some ways, think, “OK. It took me sitting in a jail cell, being arrested, getting put in jail to actually have a real and honest conversation with some of these individuals who are violently rioting.” Because yeah, they’re not willing to talk with you on another kind of playing field, so to speak.
So, … what was going through your head as you’re being arrested, as you’re sitting in jail? How were you kind of processing that whole situation?
Talcott: I was really frustrated and I didn’t understand how they could arrest someone. The Daily Caller had verified to the police department that we were reporters and they were arresting reporters.
One of the police officers actually walked up to Jorge and said, “We know that you guys are legitimate members of the press, but you’re going to get arrested and charged anyway.”
And so I was just angry. And luckily they arrested so many people that night that they couldn’t put us all into individual jail cells. So we ended up being in a holding cell, which meant that there was a phone.
So the phone, you had a five-minute limit and then it would just hang up. I only had my parents’ numbers memorized because it’s 2020. So literally for 16 hours, I bugged my dad and he was sort of the middleman between me and people at The [Daily] Caller.
But it was frustrating. I mean, it was gross. It was cramped. Not everyone was wearing masks. They were letting people out who had told me that they had criminal records before me, which I thought was crazy too. It was really frustrating. It was a frustrating night.
Allen: Yeah, yeah. That is really frustrating. You mentioned this a little bit, but how do you feel like your perspective on the police and law enforcement has maybe changed over the past six or seven months as you have really seen both sides as you’ve been in the thick of it and been all over the country to these violent protests?
Talcott: … I think I’ve always thought this, but perhaps it’s become more clear to me this year, there are definitely police officers who should not be police officers. There are definitely police officers who are out there who can’t handle or don’t know how to handle these intense, these crazy situations.
I mean, we were in Wauwatosa, which is this tiny town. Those police officers, I looked on their website and their most asked questions are literally like, “What do I do if my pet runs away?” Or, “What do I do with my expired medication?” These officers are not trained to handle these situations, and therefore, a lot of times, they end up abusing their power.
And so I do think that there is an argument to be made that police officers could be trained better and there could be a better, tougher process for becoming a police officer. I don’t know what the answers are, but these are suggestions that I think, “How can that hurt?”
Again, I don’t agree with defund the police. If somebody is at my house and I feel threatened, I’m not going to want to call a social worker. I’m sorry. You know what I mean? I’m going to want the police there. But at the same time, that doesn’t mean that the police are this invincible structure that can’t be improved.
Virginia Allen: Yeah. No, I think that’s been such a key argument through all of this is like, “OK, yes, there are areas that need to be improved.” But, like you say, if I’m in a moment where I need help right now, I want to know, without a shadow of a doubt, I can pick up the phone, I can call 911, and an officer will be there and he’ll be there quickly because their staffed well enough for that. So, so critical.
Shelby, I do want to pivot just for a minute and ask you about your perspective as a member of the media. You’ve been in the thick of it. How have you thought that the mainstream media has covered these riots over the past six or seven months? What’s your perspective?
Talcott: I think overall, the legacy outlets have done a really poor job of covering it. And this isn’t me just saying this. If you look, this is backed up. I feel like this is a factual statement at this point.
I mean, you had a CNN reporter on air saying, “I want to make sure that you guys know this. This is mostly peaceful protest.” And there’s literally fires burning behind him.
When we were in Kenosha, there was another CNN reporter [who] said, I think it was “fiery, but mostly peaceful protests.” Again, fires behind him. That’s not a thing. I’m sorry.
So these liberal legacy outlets have gone to the other extreme of sort of downplaying every single protest and riot until, it was interesting, because that happened until they figured out that it was hurting [former Vice President] Joe Biden and it was hurting the Democratic Party. And at that point, you saw a few people in the media sort of stand up and be like, “OK, Joe Biden needs to condemn these.”
But it’s interesting because that was when it shifted. And it’s so clear to me that there is an agenda there that’s not just, “Hey, let me get the news out to the American public and let them decide.”
I think that’s the great thing about going on the ground and being able to record videos is I’m literally just giving you the videos. The American people are intelligent. You can figure out what’s going on based on these videos. And instead we have the legacy outlets just sort of twisting things.
Allen: We’ve talked about that a lot this year at The Daily Signal, that it’s been really discouraging that over the past several years, we’ve seen this shift in mainstream media from being very focused on trying to report the facts to now it feels very much more so like there’s just a narrative that they’re trying to push and they’ll sort of mold the facts to fit the narrative.
And it is discouraging, but certainly thankful for people like yourself who are on the ground and your goal is to tell the truth and just the facts. And within that, we’ve been hearing a lot all year about Black Lives Matter, about Antifa.
What role did you see Black Lives Matter, specifically, [play] and then let’s switch and talk about Antifa. But first Black Lives Matter, what role did you see them play at these riots and protests?
Talcott: So, BLM is definitely way more organized than Antifa. Antifa even pushes back on the idea that they’re an organization, they say that they’re just an ideology, which I would argue is not true, but another story. So I would say that for the most part, the majority of the BLM people did try to keep the protests relatively peaceful.
And the trouble came in when these people who you could characterize it as Antifa because they weren’t there shouting “Black Lives Matter.” They weren’t there, it didn’t seem like, for a cause. I mean, when the looting started, it almost seemed like in multiple of these situations that there were people just taking advantage of the protests.
We were in Pennsylvania and there was mass rioting and looting on the other side of the city. And there was a pretty calm, peaceful protest going on at the city core. Right?
So these BLM people were at the city core protesting. And while they were protesting and the police were there trying to handle that, a bunch of other individuals who didn’t seem to have anything to do with BLM started looting and rioting.
So I do think there’s an argument to be made that in some cases there’s just a bunch of opportunistic people using this, but certainly there’s the other side of it where, in Portland and Seattle, there are a lot of Antifa members.
I mean, in Portland, there was rioting every night almost throughout this year. And these aren’t people who care about a cause other than to just start a massive mess, essentially. They’re not pushing any sort of particular agenda, in my opinion, from what I’ve seen.
And there’s certainly BLM people who have rioted. I’m not saying that. But for the most part, I would put it a little bit more on Antifa and then opportunistic individuals who are using these protests as a means to just sow discord.
Allen: And are there certain tells that you can pick out like, “OK, yes, that group over there, those are definitely Antifa people”? Are there certain things that you look for or certain identifiers where that individual is associated with or kind of a member of Antifa?
Talcott: That’s really difficult. And that’s part of the reason why I try not to characterize them as Antifa on my Twitter feed when I’m posting these videos, because it is really difficult because it’s not a solid organization.
A good cue used to be, at least, if you’re wearing all black. But now they tell all protesters to wear all black. So it’s difficult, right? There is an Antifa flag. There’s Antifa symbols. So that’s a good cue.
And then the really organized people, there’s always sort of a group that is ready with shields and they’re coordinated. And I would say that is a good sign that they’re Antifa affiliated.
But it is difficult because at this point, everyone’s wearing black. Everyone’s covering their faces. And so it’s hard to single out for sure, “Hey, OK, this person’s Antifa. This person’s BLM. This person’s just a protester.” So it is difficult, but there are some key signs.
Allen: So, obviously, you have experienced what really few of us have this year. You’ve seen the inside of these riots, of the looting, of the demonstrations. If there is something that you want Americans to know, or if you could kind of say one thing to the American people, what would that be?
Talcott: It’s time to look at other sources of media. I think this year has made it abundantly clear that these legacy outlets are not there to give you the straight news. And the American people are intelligent enough to figure out what’s going on themselves.
And I think that this year has shown us, in many ways, not just these protests and riots, that there is a new source of media coming and a new source of media that is really taking a stand and providing legitimate news coverage. And that’s what the American people need to be listening to to get a better understanding of what’s actually going on in the country.
Allen: Yeah. If you had to give the mainstream media a grade, a rating for 2020, what grade would you give them?
Talcott: A failing grade. They would for sure get a failing grade.
Talcott: I mean, it’s not even just with the protests and riots. There’s been so many other news stories that they’re downplaying, underplaying, not reporting at all because it doesn’t fit their agenda.
And that’s not being a journalist. A journalist is reporting the news, whether or not it’s something you believe in. I mean, I’ve reported things that I might not believe in personally, but it’s not my job to insert my personal opinion into news stories or into the coverage.
Allen: Well, Shelby, before we let you go, there’s one question that we love to ask all of our guests on the show. We get so many different answers. But that is, do you consider yourself to be a feminist? Yes or no? Why or why not?
Talcott: I do, I do. … I feel like I’m a moderate feminist, but I think that females can do whatever they want and … I’m a big believer [in] I don’t think you need a man to be successful.
I’m very much independent. I can do what I want. I’ve made my own success this far, and I hope that I can continue to do that.
I think females can do whatever they want if they put their minds to it and you don’t need to follow the traditional path if you don’t want to. If you do, great. But, so yeah, I would say I consider myself a moderate feminist.
Allen: Shelby, thank you. We just so appreciate you coming on, sharing your experience with us. And we just really appreciate the reporting that you have done this year, putting yourself right in the center of what is going on so that we can all know what really is happening. So, thank you.
Talcott: Thank you.