Toward the end 2016, Lauren Duca was on Fox News for 10 minutes — but that was enough time to completely change her career.
Duca is a journalist/activist who had written a mega-viral essay for Teen Vogue titled “Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America,” which she says is “still true” today. The article’s overnight popularity surpassed every expectation she had.
“I had thought, based on the numbers I’d been taught at HuffPost, that I had ‘gone viral’ before,” Duca said on the latest episode of Recode Media with Peter Kafka. “But my joke about this is it’s like an orgasm: When you know, you know. This was very different.”
Shortly afterward, she went on Fox for an interview with Tucker Carlson, which devolved into interruptions, shouting and name-calling. The reactions online were swift and, Duca said, “scary for a solid half-hour.”
“First, you hear from the Pepes, the alt-right,” she said. “So, I was worried at first. Once Mediaite picked up the clip, then there was a conversation about it.”
“It’s so amazing, if you look at the clips, the way they’re titled — it’s this beautiful sketch of confirmation bias,” Duca added. “There’s ones where I ‘had a stroke on national television,’ and there’s others where I’m a ‘feminist hero.’ It just depends who makes the video.”
On the new podcast, Duca said the “Gaslighting” article doubled her Twitter following, and then Carlson doubled it again. The ensuing fame (or infamy) of being a feminist online who was criticizing the Trump administration forced her to think carefully about everything she tweeted and posted.
“I’ve had to refine my views in a really public way this year, so it’s been hard,” Duca said. “There’s danger and there is risk and there are bad-faith efforts to take me down. That’s a level of stress, aside from the death and rape threats, so it’s crazy.”
“I’ve had to be really sure about everything I say and my ethics as a journalist and my political views and the way those things intersect,” she added. “I’m definitely both an activist and a journalist — what does that mean? And I’ve had to do it on a public stage. But I’m really proud and now, I’m fireproof. I’m unshakeable.”
Reflecting on the notorious TV interview now, more than a year later, Duca said she was initially shaken by the intensity of it all — but so were the people behind the scenes at Fox. After the cameras turned off, she made one last dramatic gesture.
“As much as Fox News seems like the enemy, these are all just people working their jobs,” she said. “They were all very uncomfortable. I was like, ‘Okay, thank you,’ keeping my head down. And I got to the door and was like, ‘Happy holidays,’ ‘cause it was December 23. Then I was like, ‘I’m at Fox! MERRY CHRISTMAS!’’ It was vaguely breakdown-level, like Bill-Murray-in-‘Scrooged’-type of screaming.”
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This article originally appeared on Recode.net.