Benjamin Aaron Shapiro (born January 15, 1984) is an American conservative political commentator and media host. At age 17, he became the youngest nationally syndicated columnist in the United States.
He writes columns for Creators Syndicate, Newsweek, and Ami Magazine, serves as editor emeritus for The Daily Wire, which he founded, and hosts The Ben Shapiro Show, a daily political podcast and live radio show. He was editor-at-large of Breitbart News between 2012 and 2016. Shapiro has written eleven books, the first being Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America’s Youth (2004) and the latest being How to Destroy America in Three Easy Steps (2020).
Shapiro was born in Los Angeles, California, to a Conservative Jewish family of Russian-Jewish and Lithuanian-Jewish ancestry. At the age of 9, he transitioned with his family to Orthodox Judaism. He developed a talent for violin at a young age, having performed at the Israel Bonds Banquet in 1996 at twelve years of age. His parents both worked in Hollywood. His mother was an executive of a TV company and his father worked as a composer.
Skipping two grades (third and ninth), Shapiro went from Walter Reed Middle School to Yeshiva University High School of Los Angeles where he graduated in 2000 at age 16. He graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2004, at age 20, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and then cum laude from Harvard Law School in 2007. He then worked at the law offices of Goodwin Procter. As of March 2012, he ran an independent legal consultancy firm, Benjamin Shapiro Legal Consulting, in Los Angeles.
Shapiro became interested in politics at a young age. He started a nationally syndicated column when he was 17 and had written two books by age 21.
In his first book Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America’s Youth (2004), Shapiro argues that students are not exposed to a variety of viewpoints at universities and that those who do not have strong opinions will be overwhelmed by an atmosphere dominated by liberal instructors even if discussion is encouraged in classrooms.
In 2011, HarperCollins published Shapiro’s fourth book, Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV, in which Shapiro argues that Hollywood has a left-wing agenda that it actively promotes through prime-time entertainment programming. In the book, the producers of Happy Days and M*A*S*H say they pursued a pro-pacifist, anti-Vietnam-War agenda in those series. The same year Primetime Propaganda came out, Shapiro became a fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
In 2013, Threshold Editions published Shapiro’s fifth book, Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences Americans.
In 2016 he released his first and to date only fiction novel, True Allegiance.
In 2019, Shapiro published the book The Right Side of History: How Reason and Moral Purpose Made the West Great, which focuses on the importance of Judeo-Christian values and laments the decline of those values in modern America. In a May 2019 interview on BBC where Shapiro was promoting his book, interviewer Andrew Neil suggested that Shapiro’s history of remarks were inconsistent with the message of the book.
Shapiro took offense to the questioning, accused Neil (a prominent British conservative journalist) of having a left-leaning bias, said Neil was trying to make a “quick buck… off of the fact that I’m popular and no one has ever heard of you”, before Shapiro ended the interview. Shapiro later admitted that he had been “destroyed” by Neil, commenting on Twitter that he “[had broken his] own rule, and wasn’t properly prepared”.
In 2012, Shapiro became editor-at-large of Breitbart News, a far-right website founded by Andrew Breitbart. In March 2016, Shapiro resigned from his position as editor-at-large of Breitbart News following what he characterized as the website’s lack of support for reporter Michelle Fields in response to her alleged assault by Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager in spite of video and eyewitness evidence of the assault.
In his resignation statement, Shapiro stated that “Steve Bannon is a bully”, Donald Trump is a bully, and that Bannon had “shaped the company into Trump’s personal Pravda”. After Shapiro’s departure, Breitbart published a piece, falsely attributed to Shapiro’s father’s pseudonym, saying “Ben Shapiro betrays loyal Breitbart readers in pursuit of Fox News contributorship”, which Breitbart later deleted.
After leaving Breitbart News, Shapiro was a frequent target of antisemitic rhetoric from the alt-right. According to a 2016 analysis by the Anti-Defamation League, Shapiro was the most frequent target of antisemitic tweets against journalists.
On February 7, 2013, Shapiro published an article citing unspecified Senate sources who said that a group named “Friends of Hamas” was among foreign contributors to the political campaign of Chuck Hagel, a former U.S. Senator awaiting confirmation as Secretary of Defense as a nominee of President Barack Obama, but weeks later Slate reporter David Weigel reported there was no evidence such a group existed. Shapiro told Weigel that the story he published was “the entirety of the information [he] had.”
On October 7, 2013, Shapiro and business partner Jeremy Boreing co-founded TruthRevolt, a U.S. media watchdog and activism website, in association with the David Horowitz Freedom Center. TruthRevolt ceased operations in March 2018.
On January 14, 2021, Shapiro was featured as a guest writer for Politico’s Playbook newsletter, where he defended House Republicans who opposed the second impeachment of Donald Trump.
The newsletter drew immense backlash from many Politico staffers, some of whom argued that Shapiro should not have been allowed to write the article. Matthew Kaminski, editor in chief of Politico, refused to apologize and defended the decision to allow Shapiro to write the article, stating that, “We’re not going to back away from having published something because some people think it was a mistake to do so.”
According to the Daily Beast, more than 100 Politico staffers signed onto a letter to publisher Robert Allbritton criticizing both Politico’s decision to feature Shapiro’s article and the response from Kaminski.
In 2012, Shapiro joined KRLA-AM 870 as a host on their morning radio program alongside Heidi Harris and Brian Whitman. By 2016, he was one of the hosts for KRLA’s The Morning Answer, a conservative radio show. Internal emails showed that Shapiro faced pressure from Salem Media executives, the syndicate that owned the show, to be more supportive of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election. Shapiro however remained highly critical of Trump throughout the election.
Shapiro and Boreing founded The Daily Wire on September 21, 2015. He serves as editor emeritus as well as the host of his online political podcast The Ben Shapiro Show, broadcast every weekday. As of March 2019, the podcast was ranked by Podtrac as the second most popular podcast in the U.S. Westwood One began syndicating The Ben Shapiro Show podcast to radio in April 2018. In 2018, Politico described the podcast as “massively popular”.
In January 2019, Westwood One expanded Shapiro’s one-hour podcast-to-radio program, adding a nationally syndicated two-hour live radio show, for three hours of Ben Shapiro programming daily. As of March 2019, according to Westwood One, The Ben Shapiro Show is being carried by more than 200 stations, including in nine of the top ten markets. In June 2020, Shapiro stepped down from his role as editor-in-chief, which he had held since the site’s founding, and took on the role of editor emeritus.
In September 2018, Shapiro started hosting The Ben Shapiro Election Special on Fox News. The limited-run series covered news and issues relating to the 2018 midterm elections.
Shapiro has made frequent appearances on PragerU with talks on intersectionality and Hollywood with 4,900,000 to 8,400,000 views as of December 2018.
Shapiro speaks at college campuses across the United States. In his speeches, he often presents a conservative viewpoint on controversial subjects. He spoke at 37 campuses between early 2016 and late 2017.
Some students and faculty members at California State University, Los Angeles objected to a speech that Shapiro, who was then an editor at Breitbart News, was scheduled to hold at the university on February 25, 2016, titled “When Diversity Becomes a Problem”.
University president William Covino canceled the speech three days before it was to take place, with the intention of rescheduling it so that the event could feature various viewpoints on the subject of campus diversity. Covino ultimately reversed his decision, allowing the speech to go on as planned. The day of the speech, student protesters formed human chains, blocking the doors to the event, and staging sit-in protests. When Shapiro began his speech, a protester pulled the fire alarm.
After the speech ended, Shapiro was escorted out by campus police. Young America’s Foundation announced it was filing a lawsuit against the university (with Shapiro as one of the plaintiffs), claiming that the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of the students were violated by Covino’s attempted cancellation of the event, as well as the physical barricading of students from entering or leaving the event.
In August 2016, DePaul University revoked an invitation for Shapiro to address students at the school and barred him from entering the campus due to “security concerns.”
On September 14, 2017, Shapiro gave a speech at the invitation of the University of California, Berkeley, student organization, Berkeley College Republicans, in which he criticized identity politics. The event involved a large police presence which had been promised by Berkeley Chancellor Carol T. Christ in her August letter that supported free speech. Together, the university and the city of Berkeley spent $600,000 on police and security for the event, which transpired with nine arrests but no major incidents.
2016 presidential election
Shapiro supported Ted Cruz in the 2016 presidential election and opposed Donald Trump’s candidacy. He called Steve Bannon a “bully” who “sold out Breitbart founder Andrew Breitbart’s mission in order to back another bully, Donald Trump.” Not voting for Trump or Clinton in 2016, Shapiro has suggested that the election of Trump was more a vote against Hillary Clinton than a vote in favor of Trump.
2020 presidential election
On October 19, 2020, Shapiro announced he was voting for Trump in the 2020 United States presidential election: “There are three reasons I’m going to vote for Donald Trump in 2020 when I didn’t four years ago: First, I was simply wrong about Donald Trump on policy. Second, I wasn’t really wrong about Donald Trump on character, but whatever damage he was going to do has already been done, and it’s not going to help if I don’t vote for him this time. And third, and most importantly: The Democrats have lost their fucking minds.”
He rebuked Trump on Election Night, November 3, 2020, when Trump claimed his reelection victory when neither he nor his opponent Joe Biden reached the 270 electoral votes required to win the presidency. He tweeted: “No, Trump has not already won the election, and it is deeply irresponsible for him to say he has.”
Shapiro supports a ban on abortion, including in cases of rape and incest, with one exception: when competent medical authority determines that the life of the mother is in jeopardy as a result of the pregnancy. He has further clarified that this includes extreme cases of mental illness where the life of the mother is at risk due to suicide. He also believes that doctors who perform abortions should be prosecuted.
He has referred to women who have abortions as “baby killers.” In 2019, Shapiro asserted that “the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade” was “not going to happen”, and added that he had “serious doubts” about “whether the Supreme Court, as currently constituted, would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade”.
In 2019, Shapiro spoke at the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., where he said abortion is a “violent act”.
Shapiro is a critic of the alt-right movement, stating in 2017, “It is a garbage movement composed of garbage ideas. It has nothing to do with constitutional conservatism.” In 2019, Shapiro criticized weekly newspaper The Economist for describing him as “alt-right” in their interview with him; in response, The Economist issued an apology and modified the article title to instead describe Shapiro as a “radical conservative”.
In 2018, Shapiro argued that Facebook was targeting conservative sites after the platform implemented an algorithm change, limiting their traffic, and that they are not transparent enough.
Following the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Shapiro appeared on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight on January 10, 2013. On the issue of gun control, Shapiro called Piers Morgan a “bully” who “tends to demonize people who differ from you politically by standing on the graves of the children of Sandy Hook, saying they don’t seem to care enough about the dead kids.” Videos of the encounter quickly received millions of views and went viral.
Writing in October 2017, in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting, Shapiro argued that “banning all guns would be unwise as well as immoral,” but “we must balance the need and right to firearms with public policy concerns, including the risk that a machine gun will be used in public.” Shapiro suggested that policy makers “should look at ways of enforcing federal laws banning the sale of guns to the mentally ill.”
In 2003, Shapiro published a column on Townhall demanding that Israel “transfer the Palestinians and the Israeli-Arabs from Judea, Samaria, Gaza and Israel proper.” Citing expulsion of Germans after World War II as a precedent, Shapiro insisted that “expelling a hostile population is a commonly-used and generally effective way of preventing violent entanglements.”
In the same article, Shapiro said that “The ideology of the Palestinian population is indistinguishable from that of the terrorist leadership.” Jeffrey Goldberg was highly critical of these comments and cited them as an example of Shapiro’s “fascist” behavior. Shapiro later reversed his view on the West Bank issue, saying it was “both inhumane and impractical”.
Vox describes Shapiro as a polarizing figure, in part due to tweets such as “Israelis like to build. Arabs like to bomb crap and live in open sewage” (2010).
Shapiro supported Israel’s settlement building in the occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank. Shapiro is a longtime opponent of the two-state solution.
In 2007, Shapiro wrote an article in which he described the “Palestinian Arab population” as “rotten to the core” and places the blame for the Arab–Israeli conflict “with the Palestinian Arabs themselves”. He further believes Israel and America will “continue to pay the price in blood and treasure” if they refuse to recognize the “simple truth” that the “Palestinian Arab population breeds terrorism, anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism”.
In 2019, Shapiro said that Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar, whose comments about American support for Israel were accused of evoking antisemitic tropes, and the white supremacist San Diego shooter, hold “a lot of the same opinions about Jews.”
In 2010, Shapiro argued that homosexuality should not have been removed as a mental illness from the DSM because homosexuals have higher rates of depression than heterosexuals and do not reproduce.
Shapiro opposed the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court ruling that deemed bans of same-sex marriage unconstitutional. However, he opposes government involvement in marriage, saying, “I think the government stinks at this,” and expressing concern that because of the ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, at some point the government may try to force religious institutions to perform same-sex weddings against their will. According to Slate, Shapiro has described homosexuality as a sin. He has said that “a man and a woman do a better job of raising a child than two men or two women”.
He has stated he does not feel same-sex marriage should be taught to students in schools, saying, “In California, they’ve already passed laws that you have to teach same-sex marriage in public schools, for example… I went to public school for elementary school and junior high, I don’t know why the government is teaching me anything about this stuff. This is for my parents to teach me.
This is a values thing”. He also states, “I’m very much anti gay-marriage in the social sense. As a religious person, I think homosexuality is a sin, I think that lots of things are sins that people engage in, I think they should be free to engage in them.” In 2014, Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center disputed Shapiro’s assertion that the United States “is not a country that discriminates against homosexuals” and that “there is a vastly minute amount of discrimination against gays in this country.”
Shapiro believes transgender people suffer from mental illness. Shapiro has commented, “You can’t magically change your gender. You can’t magically change your sex,” and has compared such changes to the notion of changing one’s age.
In July 2015, Shapiro and transgender rights activist Zoey Tur were on Dr. Drew On Call to discuss Caitlyn Jenner’s receipt of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. After Shapiro referred to Tur, who is a trans woman, as “sir”, she placed her hand on the back of his neck and threatened on air to send him “home in an ambulance”. Shapiro replied, “That seems mildly inappropriate for a political discussion.” He later filed a police report against Tur.
In 2019, in response to 2020 Democratic Party presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke calling for the removal of the tax-exempt status of religious institutions opposed to same-sex marriage, Shapiro said that if O’Rourke was going to try to “indoctrinate” his children in religious schools he would be forced to either “leave the country” or “pick up a gun.”
In a 2002 article, Shapiro wrote, “I am getting really sick of people who whine about ‘civilian casualties’… when I see in the newspapers that civilians in Afghanistan or the West Bank were killed by American or Israeli troops, I don’t really care”. Shapiro declared that “One American soldier is worth far more than an Afghan civilian”, accusing Afghan civilians of being “fundamentalist Muslims” who provide cover for terrorists or give them money.
Shapiro later apologized for these assertions. He stated that the 2002 article was “just a bad piece, plain and simple, and something I wish I’d never written”. He said that while he still partially agreed with his article’s main point—”that we must calculate the risk to American services members when we design rules of engagement”—he “expressed [that point] in the worst possible way, and simplifie[d] the issue beyond the bounds of morality (particularly by doubting the civilian status of some civilians)”.
In a 2014, YouTube video entitled “The Myth of the Tiny Radical Muslim Minority”, Shapiro said, “We’re above 800 million Muslims who are radicalized – more than half the Muslims on earth. That’s not a minority… the myth of the tiny radical Muslim minority is just that: it’s a myth”. Fact-checks by PolitiFact and Channel 4 News in the UK rejected his methodology and concluded his claim was false.
In 2018, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) document presented at the sentencing hearing of Quebec mosque shooter Alexandre Bissonnette showed that the murderer checked in on Shapiro’s Twitter feed 93 times in the month leading up to the shooting. Shapiro condemned the attack and called Bissonnette an “evil piece of human crap”.
He has argued that immigrants from Islamic countries degrade the United States.
In 2016, Shapiro described himself as “basically a libertarian”. The New Yorker, Haaretz and Vox have described Shapiro as “right-wing”. Shapiro’s views have been described by The New York Times as “extremely conservative”.
A 2020 study News, Nationalism, and Hegemony: The Formation of Consistent Issue Framing Throughout the U.S. Political Right examining issue framing by right-wing podcasts used The Ben Shapiro Show as an example which “offered a mainstream conservative perspective that favors President Donald Trump and his framing on issues like “nationalism”” in a two-by-two matrix that also examined a Stormfront podcast, an alt-right podcast, and the Daily Standard podcast.
Shapiro accuses the political left of believing in an imaginary “hierarchy of victimhood” in which the opinions of members of persecuted groups like the LGBT community are afforded more credence. He has argued that the left has dominated American culture through popular entertainment, media, and academia in a way that has made conservatives feel disenfranchised, and helped lead to the election of Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. He has stated that “political correctness breeds insanity”.
Shapiro supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq, arguing that “China is a dictatorship. North Korea is a dictatorship. Saudi Arabia, Libya, Syria, Pakistan and Egypt are all dictatorships. We can’t overthrow all of those regimes simply to free their citizens. We have to focus on those regimes that endanger American security.”
In 2006, Shapiro called for sedition laws to be reinstated. He cited speeches critical of the George W. Bush administration by Democrats Al Gore, John Kerry and Howard Dean as “disloyal” and seditious. Shapiro subsequently retracted these views in a 2018 column, stating that his 2006 column “absolutely blows. It’s garbage” and adding that the idea of sedition laws was “inherently idiotic”. Shapiro later described President Barack Obama’s 2010 State of the Union Address as “philosophically fascist.”
Shapiro has called for lowering taxes on the very wealthy. He has also backed privatizing Social Security and repealing the Affordable Care Act.
Shapiro has acknowledged that climate change is occurring, but questioned “what percentage of global warming is attributable to human activity.” Regarding sea-level rise as a result of climate change which will result in coastal property being flooded, Shapiro said, “You think people aren’t just going to sell their homes and move?”
Shapiro has argued that African-Americans were historically victims of injustice in the United States, but that they are not victims of widespread systemic injustice today.
Shapiro has dismissed the idea that the United States was founded on slavery and argued that America “was founded in spite of slavery.”
In 2017, Shapiro stated that “the idea that black people in the United States are disproportionately poor because America is racist; that’s just not true.” Shapiro is critical of Black Lives Matter and has argued that “the Black Lives Matter movement did indeed begin with protests about police brutality but quickly morphed into broader debates over the validity of looting and rioting, tearing down historic statues, slavery reparations and defunding the police.”
Shapiro was one of several conservative commentators condemning Representative Steve King (R-IA) after King’s January 2019 comments in defense of the terms “white supremacy” and “white nationalism”. Shapiro called for King to be censured, and supported King’s 2020 primary challenger Randy Feenstra.
Shapiro practices Orthodox Judaism, the most theologically conservative stream of the Jewish religion, which informs his ideological positions. He is critical of liberal Jewish practices such as the ordination of female rabbis, and has criticised specific theologically liberal female rabbis such as Tamara Kolton for their interpretations of Judaism.
In a 2011 tweet, Shapiro claimed that Judaism is plagued by “Bad Jews” who “largely vote Democrat”.
The same year, he wrote an article titled “Jews in Name Only” in which he claimed “Jews who vote for Obama are, by and large, Jews In Name Only (JINOs)” and that such Jews “do not care about Israel” or that they “care about it less than abortion, gay marriage and global warming”.
During the 2016 presidential election, he wrote an article titled “No, It Doesn’t Matter That Bernie Sanders Is Ethnically Jewish. He’s a Jew In Name Only.”
Shapiro is an outspoken opponent of safe spaces.
Shapiro frequently praises “western culture” and “western civilization”. In 2019, he said, “I believe Western civilization is superior to other civilizations.”
Ben Shapiro sister is Abigail Shapiro, an opera singer ; she has been subjected to online antisemitic trolling due to her brother’s high public profile. Shapiro’s maternal cousin is writer and former child actress Mara Wilson, though the two are not on speaking terms due to their conflicting political views.
In 2008, Shapiro married Mor Toledano, an Israeli medical doctor of Moroccan descent. The couple have three children: two daughters and a son. The couple practice Orthodox Judaism. As of November 2017, they live in Los Angeles. In 2019, the FBI arrested a man from Washington for making death threats against Shapiro and his family.
In September 2020, Shapiro announced that he and his family were moving out of California. Shapiro relocated the headquarters of his Daily Wire enterprise to Nashville, Tennessee, but he resettled in South Florida.
- Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America’s Youth (ISBN 0-78526148-6). WND Books: 2004.
- Porn Generation: How Social Liberalism Is Corrupting Our Future (ISBN 0-89526016-6). Regnery: 2005.
- Project President: Bad Hair and Botox on the Road to the White House (ISBN 1-59555100-X). Thomas Nelson: 2008.
- Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV (ISBN 0-06209210-3). Harper Collins: 2011.
- Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America (ISBN 1-47671001-5). Threshold Editions: 2013.
- The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against the Obama Administration (ISBN 1-47676513-8). Threshold Editions: 2014.
- A Moral Universe Torn Apart (ASIN B01I3X4ISK). Creator’s Publishing: 2014.
- What’s Fair and Other Short Stories (ASIN B016R28SLM). Revolutionary Publishing: 2015.
- True Allegiance (ISBN 1-68261077-2). Post Hill Press: 2016.
- Say It’s So: Papa, Dad, Me and 2005 White Sox Championship Season (ISBN 978-1546751731). CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform: May 2017
- The Right Side of History: How Reason and Moral Purpose Made the West Great (ISBN 9780062857903). Broadside Books: 2019.
- How to Destroy America in Three Easy Steps. Description & preview (via arrow keys or scrolling) (ISBN 9780063001879). Harper Collins: 2020.
- Catastrophic Thinking. (ASIN : B084YZH6JB) Creators Publishing: February 2020