Know Your Right Wingers
SOURCE: August Pollak
Ann Coulter has been called “a bizarre sideshow,” a “talking kite,” and “just plain evil.” But CampusProgress.org won’t stoop to name calling. We promise not to sink to the sub-basement level of this venomous pundit, seemingly delusional storyteller, and popular conservative campus speaker as we offer you a brief profile.
Coulter began her career as an undergraduate at Cornell University where, with the help of the Collegiate Network, she founded the notoriously conservative Cornell Review. Under Coulter’s determined leadership, The Review was known for attacking affirmative action, homosexual rights, supposed communist sympathizers, and anti-apartheid activists.
Coulter went on to get her J.D. at the University of Michigan Law School, where she helped start a chapter of the extremely conservative Federalist Society.
Coulter’s unorthodox approach to law and politics brought her to national attention when she advised the legal team helping Paula Jones to sue Bill Clinton. Coulter has admitted to leaking salacious details of Jones’ testimony to the press in hopes of scuttling a settlement. The reason, as she eventually explained: "We were terrified that Jones would settle. It was contrary to our purpose of bringing down the President."
Publicly, Coulter stood by Jones, whom she called “the good Christian girl,” at least until the case was resolved. After that, Coulter turned around and decried Jones as “trailer park trash.” Meanwhile, Coulter had published her vindictive first book, High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton, portions of which she has been accused of plagiarizing from the work of Michael Chapman, a man with whom she had formerly worked but later claimed never to have met. Classy.
Coulter quickly gained a reputation for being, as Al Franken elegantly put it, “the reigning diva of the hysterical right. Or, rather, the hysterical diva of the reigning right.” Coulter seemed to wear her shrill nastiness as a badge of honor, and with it she built a career that has included four books, a mind-numbing assortment of syndicated columns, and hours upon hours of television talk shows with her cruel, fallacious rants. Her book Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right was one of the best-selling books of 2002, yet shortly after its release, her book was picked apart for its flaws, particularly by websites devoted to pointing out the myriad inaccuracies of the book, in many cases page-by-page. On television, she is a stick-thin blond whirlwind of uber-conservative hyperbole. Her psychotic-sounding outbursts are perhaps best appreciated when read by that little girl on the Daily Show’s “Great Moments in Punditry”.
Thought the jury is still out on our favorite Ann Coulter moment of 2005 (there are just so many to choose from), she earned our 2004 “Next Stop: Crazy Town” Award during the 2004 election cycle when she questioned former Georgia Senator Max Cleland’s service in Vietnam. Cleland is a Purple Heart recipient who lost an arm and both legs in Vietnam from an exploding grenade. Coulter wrote that because the incident was an accident, Cleland “didn’t ‘give his limbs for his country.’”
Coulter’s had a busy spring 2005 raising eyebrows and ire with her extraordinary antics and outbursts. When she appeared on the cover of the April 25 issue of Time, Coulter claimed that the “elongated funhouse picture” of her proves her and other conservatives’ repeated cries of a biased liberal media. The cover shot, which creates the disturbing illusion that Coulter is all legs and no torso and as she says, “my head is the size of a tiny little ant,” may be unflattering, but the article is a distortion of a different kind. Instead of subjecting Coulter to scrutiny and criticism that her rancorous punditry deserves, the Time piece, we think, paints a rather glowing picture of Coulter’s career and public persona, sidestepping her habitual lies and distortions. Coulter saw it, or at least spun it, differently, though: Before she had even opened the cover (she claimed she had not read the piece yet), Coulter took to the airwaves, fist raised, to decry it yet another example of the liberal media’s attempt to ruin a good conservative girl’s shot at the big time.
Lately, Coulter’s love life has received an unusual amount of attention from almighty gossipers at the New York Daily News’ Daily Dish. Apparently, the rabid right-winger has been spotted all over New York City with the twenty-something, left-leaning Rob Ryan. Coulter and Ryan, who is a country singer and a self-proclaimed Dem, apparently spend time not talking about politics at Coulter’s Upper East Side apartment. I know, I know, you thought Coulter was a good Christian girl who was saving herself for her husband.
On May 3, 2005, during the question and answer session following a speech Coulter was delivering to students at UT-Austin, a sophomore by the name of Ajai Raj took the mic and challenged Coulter’s extreme views on the sanctity of marriage, asking her, "How do you feel about marriages where the man does nothing but [vulgar phrase describing engagement in a certain kind of sexual activity with] his wife?" Sensing commotion not only from the audience, but also from security guards manning the event, Raj headed for the door, apparently while making gestures simulating masturbation. For this he was promptly grabbed by two police officers, slammed into a wall, arrested, detained, and charged with disorderly conduct. Since then, Coulter has gone on her regular circuit of right wing talk shows to denounce Raj and to shriek about her latest victimization. Of course, many are talking about Raj’s victimization as well. Disorderly conduct is a Class C Misdemeanor in Texas and is not punishable by confinement. So it turns out Raj’s detention was illegal, and he also was deprived of freedom of speech, a right guaranteed to him by the Constitution, which means that the offending officers actually may have committed a federal criminal civil rights violation.
In March 2005, Campus Progress announced the winner of our “Name Ann Coulter’s Next Book” contest. Challenged to come up with the most Coulteresque title for Coulter’s next book, our readers stepped up with a host of tongue-in-cheek submissions. Though we could only choose one winner, we had a number of brilliant runners-up, including: “Help: I’m Out of Liberal People, Places and Organizations to Hate”; "Pander: How Character Assassination and Name-Calling Will Make You Popular and Rich" and "Democracy: The Liberal Plot to Feed Your Children to the Poor." The winning submission, “Wheelchair-Riding, America-Hating Terrorist,” came from Ryan Sniatecki, 26, of Baltimore, MD, who received his very own talking Ann Coulter action figure. The Coulter contest, a first for Campus Progress, was written about in the media, including a Howard Kurtz article in the Washington Post, but it also received a response from Coulter. First she applauded us for “at least…trying to be funny,” and then she offered her own attempt at humor, firing off several titles of her own, including: “Tuesdays with Morons”; “The Five People You Meet in Line at the Welfare Office” and as if to remind us how nasty and bizarre she is, “He’s Just Not into Jews: The George Soros Story.” Keep an eye out for our next contest; you might just find yourself in a battle of wit and weirdness with Coulter.
Recently, Coulter has again shifted her attention from her liberal nemeses to a target she apparently now finds more entertaining to harass with epithets and slurs — Muslims, Arabs and Muslim-Americans. This has garnered some criticism, though not as much as one would hope. In December 2005, in response to reports that the National Security Agency (NSA) had been secretly authorized by the Bush administration to spy on Americans and others within the United States, she wrote in her syndicated column, "I think the government should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport, dropping daisy cutters wantonly throughout the Middle East and sending liberals to Guantanamo." Much to our surprise, and Coulter’s dismay, there has been no air time dedicated to torture events at the winter Olympics in Torino. For those without advanced knowledge of America ‘s weapons arsenal, the daisy cutter Coulter refers to is the United States ‘ largest conventional weapon, a 15,000-pound bomb with a blast radius of 300 to 900 feet. Though it was originally designed to clear large areas of jungle, it has been used in Afghanistan as an intimidation weapon.
It’s no surprise that Coulter’s reaction to the cartoons published by a Danish paper this fall and the violence that has followed throughout the Middle East was far from one of sympathy. Instead of acknowledging that the cartoons were offensive in their depiction of Muhammad, Coulter said they simply provided examples of “Muslims’ predilection for violence” and that “the belief that Islam forbids portrayals of Muhammad is recently acquired. Back when Muslims created things, rather than blowing them up, they made paintings, frescoes, miniatures and prints of Muhammad.”
On February 10th, 2006, Coulter delivered a speech at the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) conference in Washington, DC. Her talk was filled with insensitive remarks about Muslims, such as “I think our motto should be, post-9/11, ‘Raghead talks tough, raghead faces consequences.‘” (CPAC, February 10, 2006). Just in case her message wasn’t clear, she repeated it in her February 16th column, illustrating her catalogue of epithets, “I believe our motto should be after 9/11: Jihad [sic] monkey talks tough; jihad monkey takes the consequences. Sorry, I realize that’s offensive. How about ‘camel jockey’? What? Now what’d I say? Boy, you tent merchants sure are touchy. Grow up, would you?” She went on to add that “conventions of civilized behavior, personal hygiene and grooming" are "inapplicable when Muslims are involved."
Amazingly, given that the audience at CPAC is staunchly conservative, a student member of Muslims for America, a group participating in CPAC, actually stood up and challenged Coulter’s offensive commentary. He pleaded with Coulter to refrain from her constant use of ethnic slurs when referring to Muslims, saying, “I apologize on behalf of the Muslim terrorists, but you have to understand, there’s 1.5 billion with a ‘B’ and there are .0000005 that did the terrorism, when you call people ragheads… I mean it kind of turns a lot of Muslim Americans off, and it’s hard to recruit them to support our cause…please, please, please, please, don’t say raghead.” Coulter barely acknowledged the heartfelt sentiment, basically waving the student away, “You know, ok. I make a few jokes at Muslims, and they killed 3000 Americans—I think we’re even.” She didn’t mention whether she would support vilifying all shrill, reactionary blond women if, say, nineteen of them attacked the U.S.
In October 2007, Coulter somehow managed somehow to one-up herself. In an interview on the October 8 episode of CNBC’s The Big Idea, she explained to host Donny Deutsch that a Christian America would be ideal because “We just want Jews to be perfected.” Even when Deutsch gave her the chance to cool off and explain her remarks after a commercial break, Coulter nonetheless pressed on: “It is not intended to be [offensive],” she said. “I don’t think you should take it that way, but that is what Christians consider themselves: perfected Jews.”
During the same interview, Coulter, having already dug herself into a deep hole, asked for a larger shovel. “You walk past a mixed-race couple in New York,” she explained, after noting that liberals are much more conscious of race than conservatives, “and it’s like they have a chip on their shoulder. They’re just waiting for somebody to say something, as if anybody would.” After Deutsch immediately disagreed with Coulter’s claim, she issued an expert retort: No, she explained, it’s true—“In fact, there was an entire Seinfeld episode” about it.
To her list of classic rightwing traits one can now apparently add voter fraud, which she has been accused of twice. First, several years ago, there was a dispute over Coulter’s real age, because her Connecticut and Washington, DC driver’s licenses listed two different birthdates, two years apart. Coulter told the Washington Post that her DC license, which lists her date of birth in December 1963, is the accurate one. Fair enough. But the New Canaan, CT registrar of voters reports that Ann Coulter registered to vote in 1980. If her latter birth date is correct, then she voted illegally (at the age of 16) in 1980. If not, well then she forged a government document when she got her DC license, and lied to the public about it.
Now, some might say voting at 16 is no great crime, after all, we at Campus Progress are sympathetic to extending the franchise to teenagers. But, recent information suggests that this may be part of a more disturbing pattern of voter fraud on Coulter’s part. As reported in the Palm Beach Post, Coulter may have committed a third-degree felony by knowingly giving an incorrect address on her voter registration form in Palm Beach, Florida, and then knowingly voting at the incorrect polling place in March. A poll worker told her that her address did not match the one in the computer and she would need to file a change of address form. But rather than do so, according to the poll worker, she dashed out. Records show she voted at another polling precinct two miles away. We would give her a pass on this, but apparently conservative election chicanery in Florida can cause some bad things to happen.
A Few of our Favorite Ann Coulter Quotes:
On academics: “In addition to racist and Nazi, how about adding traitor to the list of things that professors can’t be? And yes, I realize I just proposed firing the entire Harvard faculty.”
(Speech at Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), 2/18/2005)
On McCarthyism: “Liberals like to scream and howl about McCarthyism, I say let’s give them some….it’s time for a new McCarthyism.”
(Speech at CPAC, 2/18/2005)
On President Clinton: "Well, he was a very good rapist. I think that should not be forgotten."
(New York Observer, 1/10/05)
On Voting: “It would be a much better country if women did not vote.”
(The Guardian, 5/17/2003)
On the Press: “My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times building.”
(New York Observer, 8/26/2002)
On the Environment: “God says, ‘Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it. It’s yours.“
(Fox News, 12/22/2001)
On Campus Progressives: “When contemplating college liberals, you really regret once again that John Walker is not getting the death penalty. We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed, too. Otherwise, they will turn out to be outright traitors.”
(remarks from Conservative Political Action Conference, 2/26/2002)
On Swing Voters: "The swing voters—-I like to refer to them as the idiot voters because they don’t have set philosophical principles. You’re either a liberal or you’re a conservative if you have an IQ above a toaster."
(Beyond the News, Fox News Channel, 6/4/00)
On Herself: "You want to be careful not to become just a blowhard."
(Washington Post, 10/16/98)
Illustration: August J. Pollak
Updated from an earlier version.