The life of Laura Ingraham: How a young conservative became a national figure, then a Fox News firebrand

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Political talk radio host Laura Ingraham delivers a speech on the third day of the Republican National Convention on July 20, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Chip Somodevilla/Getty
  • Laura Ingraham, 56, is the host of the “Ingraham Angle” on Fox News.
  • She became a popular radio host in the early 2000s and joined Fox News as an anchor in 2017.
  • She’s made a number of controversial calls, including attacking environmentalist Greta Thunberg, immigrants, LeBron James, and Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Laura Ingraham isn’t afraid to stir the pot.

As an undergraduate, and editor of a right-wing newspaper, she sent an undercover reporter into a gay university organisation to report on who was there.

From the early 2000s, she helmed her own radio program. She got 5 million weekly listeners, across 300 syndicated radio stations, before she joined Fox News in 2017.

Now, she’s the most-watched female news anchor in America.

Here’s her life and career, in photos.


Laura Ingraham was born in June 1963, in Glastonbury, Connecticut. It’s a wealthy suburb, but her upbringing was working class: her mother was a waitress, her father owned a car wash. Her family were patriotic, too — they flew the American flag all year round.

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An intersection in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Jessica Hill / AP

Sources: The New York Times, HuffPost, Washington Post, Newsweek, Hartford Courant, IMDB


She grew up with three brothers, and told C-Span, “they were pretty rough and tumble,” so she got used to clashing with people. She also wasn’t political at school, but she was athletic.

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Laura Ingraham in 1995. Robert A. Reeder/The Washington Post / Getty

Sources: The New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, Hartford Courant, C-Span


One pivotal moment in her youth came watching Vietnam War protesters burn the American flag on the news. She asked her mother why they were doing it, and her mother answered: “Because their parents didn’t teach them about respect.”

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Anti-Vietnam war demonstrators burning the American flag during demonstration in New York City’s Central Park. Leonard Detrick/NY Daily News Archive / Getty

Sources: Newsweek, C-Span


In the mid 1980s, she went to Dartmouth College and became the first female editor of The Dartmouth Review, a controversial right-wing newspaper. She liked the contrarian position, and told the Hartford Courant that “the Review took over my life.”

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Students walk across the Dartmouth College campus green. Jim Cole / AP

She said: ” Here you had all these ’60s liberals – who used to be storming administration buildings themselves – in power at Dartmouth, and they didn’t know what to do with this conservative independent paper.”

Sources: The New York Times, Washington Post, HuffPost, Hartford Courant


She was sued for libel by a professor, William Cole, after she wrote that his class was “the most outrageous,” on campus, and called him a “used Brillo pad.”

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Talk show host Laura Ingraham speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2016. Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

Source: AP News


Cole, who is black, claimed during the suit that the article titled, ″Prof. Bill Cole’s Song and Dance Routine,” was racially-motivated. Ingraham and the paper were defended by a law firm pro bono.

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A more recent, and also controversial, edition of The Dartmouth Review in 2006. Jim Cole / AP

Cole eventually dropped his case. Afterwards, both parties said they were vindicated.

Cole, who was promoted to full professor during the case, said: “I’m doing what the college pays me to do, and the fact that I was promoted is an indication of that.”

Ingraham said, “I’m not sure who won but I feel I’ve made a point. It is a tremendous breakthrough for investigative journalism in the classroom.″

Source: AP News


Most famously, she sent an undercover reporter into a gay students’ alliance meeting. The meeting’s transcript was published, and the student officers were named. She wrote in the magazine that all the group’s members were “cheerleaders for latent campus sodomites.”

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Laura Ingraham in 2005. Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic / Getty

She said it was done to ensure the group’s spending of a college grant was transparent.

Sources: The New York Times, Washington Post, HuffPost, CNN


Years later, in 1997, she wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post about her which explained why she’d reported on the gay association at Dartmouth.

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Radio host Laura Ingraham delivers remarks during the Value Voters Summit at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, in 2017. Mary F. Calvert / Reuters

She wrote that it was to find out how student funds were being spent and to “demonstrate the double standard Dartmouth had created by funding the group.” She said the newspaper “adopted a purposefully outrageous tone.”

But the op-ed didn’t end matters. According to CNN, Jeffrey Hart, the faculty adviser for the Dartmouth Review, wrote to the Weekly Standard after she published her op-ed and called it a “phony political confession.” He also said she had held “the most extreme anti-homosexual views imaginable.”

Sources: The New York Times, Washington Post, HuffPost, CNN


In 1984, Ingraham was out partying with her conservative friends when she watched Ronald Reagan win his second election in a landslide. She told Newsweek she enjoyed watching the “seething leftists,” and added, “God. I loved the 80s.”

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President Ronald Reagan gives a thumbs-up in Los Angeles as he celebrates re-election in 1984, with first lady Nancy Reagan. AP

Although, according to the Hartford Courant, she was in a cafeteria and it was maths-club geeks who were cheering with her.

Source: Newsweek


After college she was brought into Reagan’s White House to work on topics like abortion and school prayer. She was most surprised at how big her office was.

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Radio host Laura Ingraham addresses the Republican National Convention in 2016. Michael Robinson-Chavez/The Washington Post / Getty

Sources: Washington Post, The New York Times


In 1988, she started working as a speechwriter for the Secretary of Transportation. But she was aware that a career in bureaucracy wasn’t for her. She told The New York Times: “I think if you stay in Washington, you forget what mainstream America is all about.”

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Laura Ingraham in 2016. Andrew Harnik / AP

Sources: Washington Post, The New York Times


She got a law degree from University of Virginia School of Law. While there, she drove a Honda, and let people know her political views via her number-plate, which said “FARRGHT.”

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A statue of Thomas Jefferson on the campus of the University of Virginia. Steve Helber / AP

Source: The New York Times


She then clerked for a federal judge named Ralph Winter in New York, before clerking for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

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Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas addresses the Federalist Society in Washington, in 2007. Charles Dharapak / AP

Sources: The New York Times, Newsweek


From 1993 to 1996, she worked as an attorney at the Wall Street law firm Skadden Arps. At that time, she was still unsure what to do with her life. So, she started writing op-eds, and quickly made a name for herself. In 1995, she and a few others were on the front page of The New York Times Magazine as young conservatives.

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Laura Ingraham in her studio after her radio show in 2004. Rich Lipski/The The Washington Post / Getty

Sources: The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, Virginia Law, Hartford Courant


That same year, she organised the Dark Ages conference, a conservative New Years weekend. It was in response to a Clinton-run holiday known as the Renaissance Weekend.

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Then-President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton depart Andrews Air Force Base for a three day family vacation in Hilton Head, to attend the Renaissance Weekend in 1998. Joyce Naltchayan / AFP / Getty

Between political sessions, attendees could kick and punch boxing bags, which had images of prominent Democrats taped to them.

Sources: Hartford Courant, Newsweek


In 1996, she started appearing on cable news, via MSNBC. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Clinton Lewinsky scandal had made space for a new type of political pundit — young conservative women, known as the “pundettes.”

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Former White House intern Monica Lewinsky leaves the family home in Los Angeles, in 1998. AP Photo/Nick Ut

These included Ingraham, along with Ann Coulter, and Kellyanne Fitzpatrick (later Kellyanne Conway).

Sources: The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, Virginia Law, Hartford Courant


It didn’t take her long to make headlines. In 1997, on MSNBC, one Democrat asked “What does that mean?” five times. Then she said: “No one wants to see fat people on the cover of magazines in swimsuits.”

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Laura Ingraham speaks in 2008 at the Nicollet Island Inn in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Scott A. Schneider/WireImage / Getty

Source: The New York Times


She was young to be on television, but to anyone who was critical, she told The New York Times: “It’s not just like I showed up blond and in a miniskirt and said, ‘Hire me!'”

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Laura Ingraham on the red carpet in 2009 in Washington, DC. Brendan Hoffman/Getty

She said: “If I’d known it was going to be that easy, I never would have clerked for the Supreme Court and worked for a prestigious firm and written as much as I have. All that’s as valuable as covering fires in Des Moines.”

Source: The New York Times


Political punditry was also changing. In 1997, for Salon, Eric Alterman wrote: “More than anyone else alive, I fear, Laura Ingraham speaks to the Zeitgeist of the contemporary American media.”

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Laura Ingraham makes a face as she goes on stage with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in 2015. Alex Wong/Getty

He wrote: “She is young, sexy and ambitious. She argues politics the way lawyers argue cases, as if there can be no possible interpretation other than her own, and what can possibly be the matter with her pathetically out-to-lunch opponent?”

Sources: HuffPost, Salon


Alterman also wrote that she beat him in an argument by laughing. She later relied on humour on her radio show. She used sound effects like a monkey screeching when a politician spoke, and segments with names like “Deep Thought of the Day,” and “Lie of the Day.”

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Laura Ingraham delivers remarks during the Value Voters Summit at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, in 2017. Mary F. Calvert / Reuters

She played the “Flipper” theme song at any mention of former presidential candidate John Kerry.

Sources: HuffPost, Salon


She was often inflammatory in her language. For instance, when she covered immigrant news, she called it an “illegal immigrant sob story.”

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Laura Ingraham speaks at a fundraiser in Virginia, in 2006. Mark Wilson/Getty

Source: Washington Post


In the late 1990s, she got her own television show on MSNBC called “Watch it.” She told the Hartford Courant that if Republicans wanted to be relevant they needed to get fashionable, and understand musicians like Lauryn Hill. Despite playing Bob Dylan when they went to commercial breaks, the show was cancelled after 17 months.

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Laura Ingraham in Washington, DC, in 2013. Michael Kovac/WireImage / Getty

She later said it should have been called, “Watch it Get Cancelled!”

Sources: HuffPost, Hartford Courant


In 2000, she published her first book, “The Hilary Trap.” One of the book’s main points was that Clinton had damaged women’s rights by demanding that they get gender privileges.

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Hilary Clinton. Getty

According to The New York Times, she “turned Hillary into a stand-in for everything she dislikes about the legacy of the 60’s, from old-line feminists to people who oppose school vouchers.”

She’s published frequently since. In 2003, she published “Shut Up and Sing: How Elites from Hollywood, Politics, and the UN Are Subverting America.”

Sources: HuffPost, NPR


In 2001, she launched her radio show, titled, “The Laura Ingraham Show.” It was a success. In the early 2000s, it was syndicated to more than 200 stations, and it ended up being syndicated to 300 stations, with an estimated 5 million weekly listeners.

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Laura Ingraham in her studio after her radio show, in 2004. Rich Lipski/The Washington Post / Getty

Sources: The New York Times, The Hollywood Reporter


She began to break away from the mainstream GOP in the early 2000s, according to Newsweek. While she had been a fan of Reagan’s politics, she didn’t agree with some of President George W. Bush’s decisions, in particular how the Iraq War was handled, and nominating Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court.

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Former President Bush meets with radio talk show hosts in the Oval Office in 2006, including Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity. Eric Draper / The White House / AP

Ingraham thought Miers was too liberal. According to the Washington Post, Ingraham, along with her conservative peers, “didn’t sink the Harriet Miers nomination on their own. But in the blink of a news cycle, they turned against their president, framed the debate and provided the passion that undermined her case.”

In 2005, Miers withdrew her nomination.

Ingraham’s relationship with the mainstream GOP didn’t improve with presidential candidates John McCain or Mitt Romney, who both lost to Barack Obama.

Sources: Newsweek, The New York Times


In 2005, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. On the day of the surgery, she called in to tell her listeners about the cancer, and she asked for their prayers. She recovered from the cancer, and called herself a “thriver” rather than a cancer “survivor.”

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Laura Ingraham speaks in Manchester, New Hampshire in 2014. Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Sources: CBS Philly, C-Span


In 2007, she released her third book, “Power to the People.” According to Publisher’s Weekly, she wanted Americans to take back the phrase back from groups that had made America, “a slave to fringe groups, political correctness, expanding bureaucracies, and our own consumerism.”

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Laura Ingraham speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2016. Jim Young / Reuters

Sources: HuffPost, Publishers Weekly


In 2008, she adopted her first daughter from Guatemala, called Maria. She later adopted two more children — Dmitri and Nikolai, from Russia.

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Laura Ingraham with her children Nikolai, Dmitri, and Maria in 2017. Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post / Getty

Sources: Washington Post, People


In 2010, she published “The Obama Diaries,” which was a New York Times bestseller. It’s a satirical, fictionalized account of her finding a collection of White House worker’s diaries in the Watergate complex.

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Former President Barack Obama. The White House

Sources: ABC News, The New York Times


In 2011, Ingraham was at the receiving end of a slur by MSNBC host Ed Schultz, who called her a “right-wing slut.” He insulted her after she criticised Obama for visiting Ireland while Missouri was dealing with a deadly tornado. Schultz was taken temporarily off-air, and he apologised. Ingraham accepted his apology.

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Wendy Schultz and Ed Schultz in 2016. Diego Corredor/Media Punch /IPX / AP

Sources: The New York Times, Washington Post, Washington Post


In 2012, she paused her radio show after leaving Talk Radio Network. According to the Los Angeles Times, there had been friction between Ingraham and the network’s management.

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Laura Ingraham in New York in 2016. Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / AFP / Getty

She said: “After much thought and reflection, I have decided to pursue my first loves – modern dance and the xylophone. In the highly unlikely event that these efforts do not prove fruitful, I intend to return to radio.”

Source: Los Angeles Times


Her radio show returned, and while she was never the behemoth Rush Limbaugh was, she was popular. She demonstrated this in 2014 when she backed a relative unknown, David Brat from the Tea Party movement.

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Speaker of the House John Boehner with Representative-elect David Brat and his wife Laura Sonderman, in 2014. Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Brat went on to beat then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor for Virginia’s 7th Congressional District seat.

Sources: Newsweek, Washington Post


Her next big endorsement proved a good bet. She was one of the first pundits to endorse President Donald Trump early in his campaign. It happened by way of a phone-call from Donald Jr. He asked if she’d speak at a convention, when few well-known Republicans were willing.

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President Donald Trump kisses Laura Ingraham as he invites her up on stage in 2019. Andrew Harnik / AP

Source: The New York Times, Newsweek


She agreed, and spoke at the Republican convention in Cleveland. Later, once Trump took office, he considered making her the White House’s communications director.

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Laura Ingraham speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2016. Jeff J Mitchell/Getty

Source: Newsweek


As Trump rose, so did Ingraham. In October 2017, Fox News debuted her show “The Ingraham Angle,” at 10 p.m. Fox News was trying to stabilise after losing Bill O’Reilly, and according to The Guardian, by choosing Ingraham it “picked a side in the Republican civil war.”

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Laura Ingraham speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2016. J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Sources: The New Yorker, Washington Post, Newsweek


Around that time, the Washington Post, called her “Trump before Trump” and pointed out the parallels between Ingraham and the president. Both were wealthy, based on the East Coast, and yet both said they spoke for the “heartland.”

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President Donald Trump invites Laura Ingraham on stage during a speech in December 2019. Andrew Harnik / AP

Source: Washington Post


Fox News hired her even though management was aware of past clashes she’d had with producers. According to Vanity Fair, she caused disputes on-set so often that newsroom staff watch the muted monitors for the drama.

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Fox News. Fox News

Source: Vanity Fair


She had also entered the inner circle of Trump advisers, like Steve Bannon. In late 2017, at Breitbart News HQ, the far-right media group, Bannon hosted a party for the launch of her latest book “Billionaire at the Barricades: The Populist Revolution from Reagan to Trump.”

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Steve Bannon and Laura Ingraham speak at a campaign rally for Arizona Senate candidate Kelli Ward in 2017. Ross D. Franklin / AP

Source: Politico


Then, in 2018, she had a run of controversies. First she insulted NBA stars LeBron James and Kevin Durant. She said: “It’s always unwise to seek political advice from someone who gets paid $US100 million a year to bounce a ball,” then she told them to “shut up and dribble.”

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Le Bron James. Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP

James ended up naming his new television show “Shut Up and Dribble.”

Source: Vulture


A month later she lost advertisers after mocking Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg for not getting into four colleges. Hogg responded by calling for a boycott of her show. Fox News management stood by her, and online Russian Twitter-bots came to her defence.

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Laura Ingraham and and David Hogg. Associated Press/J. Scott Applewhite and Rich Schultz

Within 48 hours, the hashtag #istandwithlaura was trending.

Sources: Business Insider, The New York Times, Business Insider


In June 2018, Ingraham said migrant child detention camps were comparable to “summer camps.” She said it to defend Trump from criticism of the federal government’s policy of separating children from their parents at if caught trying to illegally cross the US-Mexico border.

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Laura Ingraham speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2016. Mark J. Terrill / AP

Source: Business Insider


In August, she was batting away controversy again when she said America was no longer the same because of “demographic changes.” She said illegal immigration was one of the causes, and that it wasn’t about race or ethnicity. But that wasn’t how the comments were perceived.

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Laura Ingraham speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Source: Business Insider


All the while she was also dealing with her brother Curtis, who, on Twitter from early 2018, began attacking her. He called her things like “a Nazi sympathizer,” and a “racist.” He told The Daily Beast that their relationship deteriorated after she joined Fox News.

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Laura Ingraham in 2019. Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

Sources: Washington Post, The Daily Beast


In September 2019, she struck again. She compared environmental activist Greta Thunberg, and her supporters to characters in “Children of the Corn,” a horror story by Stephen King. In the story, children dressed similar to Amish people are told by their god to murder adults in rural Nebraska.

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Greta Thunberg. Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

Sources: The Guardian, Washington Post


But it was in late 2019, as Trump faced impeachment, that she found her purpose, according to Slate. While her Fox News colleague Tucker Carlson focused on earnest explanations, and Sean Hannity raged, Ingraham used her law credentials to bolster her argument that the impeachment trial was a sham.

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Laura Ingraham speaks in National Harbour, Maryland, in 2019. Alex Wong/Getty

Source: Slate


Ingraham moved from knocking the impeachment to dismissing the coronavirus. In February, she called Democrats the “pandemic party,” and said they were trying to “weaponize it” to beat Trump. Then, in March, she called the media “panic pushers.”

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Laura Ingraham on the coronavirus. Fox News / Youtube

She also posted then deleted a tweet that said, “great time to fly if not in at-risk population.”

But after Trump declared a national emergency in mid March, she took it more seriously, and called it a “dangerous health crisis,” according to the Washington Post.

Sources: Business Insider, Youtube,Washington Post


Her controversial takes are clearly something her audience likes. In February 2020, she had 3.6 million viewers, which is the most a female cable news host has ever had.

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Advertisements for Fox News personalities Bret Baier, Martha MacCallum, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, and Sean Hannity, in New York. Drew Angerer/Getty

Sources: The Hill, Slate


With results like that, it’s unlikely she’ll be avoiding controversy anytime soon.

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Laura Ingraham speaks in Maryland, in 2018. Joshua Roberts / Reuters

Source: The New York Times