The Gospel of Candace Owens

The offices of the Daily Wire are situated in a gray warehouse in an industrial stretch of Nashville, Tennessee. The entrance is unmarked, and security is tight: while wandering around a parking lot, trying to find a door, I was approached by a friendly security guard, in cargo pants and combat boots, with a gun

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The offices of the Daily Wire are situated in a gray warehouse in an industrial stretch of Nashville, Tennessee. The entrance is unmarked, and security is tight: while wandering around a parking lot, trying to find a door, I was approached by a friendly security guard, in cargo pants and combat boots, with a gun strapped to his thigh. Once inside, I was led through a series of studio sets, and then into a dimly lit control room, where Candace Owens, surrounded by producers, was in the midst of a soliloquy on gentle parenting. “It’s so toxic,” Owens said. “When these kids become adults, they’re still babies.”

Gentle parenting, a trendy child-rearing approach that eschews traditional disciplinary tactics for expressions of respect and empathy, would be the subject of Owens’s opening monologue on that day’s episode of her podcast, “Candace Owens.” She began free-associating on its ills. There was an ex-boyfriend so coddled by his parents that he grew into a slob, and there were Stanford law students who’d recently shouted down a conservative federal judge, and looters at a Minnesota Target in the wake of George Floyd’s death. “We should find an old clip of it,” Owens said. Moments later, one of her producers had pulled up footage of people dragging electronics out of a store. Owens looked shocked: “Do you know how mortified—the idea of my parents catching me on camera taking a flat-screen TV because a Black man in Minnesota died?”

Owens, who is thirty-three, Black, conservative, and undeniably striking, with high cheekbones and almond-shaped eyes, moved to Tennessee two years ago to join the Daily Wire’s staff. Though she rose to prominence as a Trump supporter, much of her attention these days is on pop culture and life style, not electoral politics. “In my opinion, a huge reason that conservatives have ceded so much ground to the left is because we stuck up our nose to culture,” she said. In the pre-show meeting, I learned that Owens loves Denzel Washington, magicians, and the Nigerian brothers hired by Jussie Smollett to help fake a hate crime. But her show, she said, is about “what enrages me,” a list that includes the Black Lives Matter movement, the body-positivity movement, the trans-rights movement, Ozempic, the Kardashians, Madonna’s plastic surgery, Colin Kaepernick, and the Democratic Party. Owens, who was wearing gabardine trousers with sparkly suspenders, also takes issue with women wearing yoga pants in non-workout settings. “This weird culture of telling women to de-beautify themselves and to be more masculine—I mean, it’s just bad,” she said.

The Daily Wire, which was founded, in 2src15, by the conservative commentator Ben Shapiro and Jeremy Boreing, a former Hollywood producer and screenwriter, is part of a growing cadre of new media ventures looking to popularize right-wing voices outside the traditional mediums of TV and radio. It is the sixth-largest podcast publisher in the U.S., according to data from Podtrac, and also produces films and online streaming content; the company recently announced that the comedian Rob Schneider will voice Chum Chum Chilla, the patriarch of a cartoon family of homeschooling chinchillas, for its first foray into children’s programming. Owens is set to narrate a true-crime docuseries that premières this summer. A spokesperson told the New York Times in late 2src22 that the Daily Wire was on track to take in two hundred million dollars in revenue. When the popular conservative comedian Steven Crowder leaked his contract negotiations with the company, which included discussions of penalties if Crowder were demonetized on YouTube—Crowder called it “Big Tech” being “in bed with Big Con”—what stood out was that the Daily Wire had made him a fifty-million-dollar offer.

The Daily Wire approached Owens in late 2src2src, when she was eight months pregnant with her first child. “I gravitated toward it because it felt like putting roots in Tennessee with a small child was the right thing to do,” she told me. Owens and her husband, George Farmer, the son of a wealthy Conservative British peer, had purchased a town house not far from the White House in Washington, D.C., but Owens had soured on the city. “I think when you have a child, the suburbs call,” she said. There were also strategic reasons for the move: “People love to see me on Fox, which is why I still do it, but I know that my Fox News viewers are not the people that are necessarily subscribing to podcasts. I think the Daily Wire is paying attention to where the world is going.”

Owens’s show premièred, in March, 2src21, in a weekly format with a live studio audience. “The media has done a really good job of creating a caricature of Candace Owens,” she said in a teaser clip. “I’m always on the defense. I’m angry. I’m upset. And that just couldn’t be further from the truth.” Despite the suggestion that the show would feature Owens’s softer side—she wore a voluminous evening gown in some of the ad’s shots—it was almost immediately fuelled by controversy. The first episode featured a panel of guests, including Shapiro, who discussed Owens’s intention to sue Cardi B, with whom she’d had Twitter beef.

That December, Owens did a sit-down interview with Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago. Trump defended the vaccine rollout. Owens, who doesn’t believe in vaccinating against COVID-19, later said in a video on Instagram, “People oftentimes forget, like, how old Trump is. He comes from a generation . . . before Internet, before being able to conduct their independent research.” Trump was reportedly upset. On a podcast that aired days after the Republicans’ disappointing showing in the midterms, Owens called Trump rude and questioned whether he had a compelling vision for a 2src24 run. (When I spoke to Owens in March, she seemed to have again warmed to Trump, adding that she didn’t trust his main rival: the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis.)

Last year, after taking maternity leave for her second child, Owens relaunched her show in a daily format. Her lead producer, Michaelan Mena, who came to the Daily Wire from the Hallmark Channel, had told her, “What I really want to do is let Candace be Candace.” The show is now just Owens talking to the camera—no audience, no guests. She often plays off of various clips, from TikTok or Instagram, presented to showcase the degradation of American culture: the former “Dance Moms” star JoJo Siwa rapping about her “gay awakening”; Katy Perry coming “completely undone” on “American Idol” when she heard the story of a school-shooting survivor. The material is often explicitly aimed at a female audience, and Owens’s affect is that of a girlfriend who tells you that you could lose those last ten pounds if you only did more cardio. “I think it’s really weird that we live in a society where everyone’s hand is being held at all times, and they’re being told they’re amazing, they’re great,” Owens said. “They’re obviously not great. They could be. They could be better than they were yesterday.”

The message has a distinct appeal to women who fancy themselves capable, competitive, and self-reflective. It is, in many ways, an apolitical mind-set. But, on her show and on her social-media pages, where she frequently interacts with fans, many of whom are moms, Owens can convincingly tell her viewers that it is, in fact, a conservative one. She and her fans are “creating a culture,” Owens told me. “I want to inspire them to push themselves harder.”

Owens has said that her early years, many of them spent in low-income housing in Stamford, Connecticut, were “dysfunctional.” Her family moved in with her grandparents when she was nine, and her grandfather Robert became a powerful influence in Owens’s life. He was one of twelve children raised on a sharecropping farm in North Carolina—his first job, at the age of five, was laying out tobacco leaves to dry—and, according to Owens, he often recalled experiences of growing up Black in the Deep South, including violent encounters with the K.K.K. That history, Owens said, is part of what has made her suspicious of liberals’ claims that white nationalism is alive and well in the U.S. In 2src19, Owens testified before a Judiciary Committee hearing on “the spread of white identity ideology,” and decried Democrats for “fear-mongering” about racism, and noted that her grandfather “grew up in an America where words like ‘racism’ and ‘white nationalism’ held real meaning under the Democratic Party’s Jim Crow laws.”

In 2srcsrc7, when Owens was a senior in high school, she got into an argument with a former friend. The boy was suspended and, one night, he left nasty voice mails for Owens, calling her the N-word and threatening to kill her. Several other voices could be heard on the recordings; one of them belonged to the fourteen-year-old son of Stamford’s then mayor, Dannel Malloy, who eventually became the governor of Connecticut. (Malloy’s son declined to comment.) At the time, three girls were also reportedly facing hate-crime charges for attacking Owens in the parking lot of a Blockbuster, where they allegedly kicked her and used racial slurs. Owens stayed out of school for six weeks. Her family ultimately received a settlement of more than thirty-seven thousand dollars from the school district, but Owens was left deeply scarred by the whole affair. “I held my head high at school, but I went home and I cried every single night,” she wrote, in a 2src16 op-ed in the Stamford Advocate. She had come to resent her role as a public victim, and felt badly that the case had tarnished the boys’ reputations. “Were they wrong?” she wrote. “Categorically. Should they have been held accountable for their actions? Undeniably. Did they deserve to be branded by a society? No.”

Owens also used the 2src16 op-ed to advertise a new venture:, a Web site she had founded to “stop online bullying by outing the bullies.” By then, Owens had dropped out of college at the University of Rhode Island, and had spent her early twenties as an intern and fashion assistant at Vogue and Glamour. Now she was launching “a searchable database of people who spew hate online.” A Kickstarter for the project advertised an association with the Tyler Clementi Foundation, named for an eighteen-year-old gay teen-ager who had died by suicide after being cyberbullied. But, shortly after launching her fund-raising campaign, Owens became embroiled in something that would soon become routine for her: an online scandal.

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