The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

2007 Coulter CPAC Controversy

Coulter ignites the right
Pejorative defended as ‘theater’

By Robert Stacy McCain and Victor Morton

Conservatives yesterday continued a running argument over bestselling author and commentator Ann Coulter, who used a common slur to refer to former Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat, last week before a full-house audience at a major conservative event.
Speaking on Friday to a standing-room only crowd at the 34th annual Conservative Political Action Conference, Miss Coulter responded to an audience member’s question by saying that she “was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word ‘faggot.'”
Last night, however, Miss Coulter said that she did not use the word to demean homosexuals, nor to suggest that Mr. Edwards a 53-year-old married father of four is homosexual.
Describing her remark as “a schoolyard taunt,” she said on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity & Colmes” program that she meant to describe Mr. Edwards as “lame” and a “sissy.”
“In that way, it is a sophomoric word, not a bad word,” said Miss Coulter, longtime legal-affairs correspondent for the conservative weekly Human Events.
Criticism of Miss Coulter was most fierce from Internet activists, including a group of conservative bloggers who attended the conference. In an open letter posted on their sites, they urged CPAC’s sponsors to stop inviting Miss Coulter to the event and declared that “the Age of Ann has passed.” The signatories included Ed Morrissey of Captain’s Quarters, Ace of Spades, and Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit.
CPAC organizers responded yesterday by saying they “do not condone or endorse every speaker or their comments,” but “leave it to our audience to determine whether comments are appropriate or not.”
“Ann Coulter is known for comments that can be both provocative and outrageous. That was certainly the case” in the Friday speech, said David A. Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union (ACU), noting that Miss Coulter has made headlines with her remarks in previous appearances at the nation’s largest conservative gathering. “But as a point of clarification, let me make it clear that ACU and CPAC do not condone or endorse the use of hate speech.”
On the Fox News Channel yesterday, National Review Editor Rich Lowry accused Miss Coulter of employing “a schoolyard slur that you don’t expect from anyone over the age of 12.”
Joining the chorus of condemnation was Michelle Malkin, whose syndicated column regularly appears in The Washington Times. She called Miss Coulter’s remark a “distraction” from an otherwise successful conference that reportedly drew a record 6,300 attendees to hear speeches by nearly every major contender for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.
At her site, she said that at a CPAC reception for conservative college students she had “lambasted the substitution of stupid slurs for persuasion … and urged the young people there to conduct themselves at all times with dignity in their ideological battles on and off campus.”
In a subsequent appearance on Fox’s “O’Reilly Factor” program, Mrs. Malkin acknowledged that Miss Coulter “has done yeoman’s work for conservatism,” but said her remark about Mr. Edwards showed “poor judgment,” a sentiment widely echoed by other conservatives.
“I hope Ann Coulter finds a way to rout liberal stereotypes without fulfilling others,” said Marvin Olasky, the University of Texas professor who has been called the “godfather of compassionate conservatism.” He recalled a remark Miss Coulter made during a 2005 appearance on the UT campus in Austin.
When a “young conservative woman asked her how she could stand the awful things people said about her, she replied, ‘Christ died for my sins, and nothing else matters,'” said Mr. Olasky, editor in chief of World Magazine. “Those who believe that are supposed to act in ways that glorify God. In our culture, that means being firm but courteous, displaying bravery without bombast.”
The conservative bloggers who signed the anti-Coulter open letter and invited other conservative bloggers to sign at will, said it was “not enough” merely to denounce Miss Coulter because “she did not grow and learn” after criticism of her 2006 speech to the conference.
“What is next? If [Illinois Sen.] Barack Obama is the de facto Democratic presidential nominee next year, will Coulter feel free to use a racial slur? How does that help conservatism?”
Long denounced by liberals for her cutting sarcasm, Miss Coulter as never previously received such widespread criticism from so many high-profile conservatives.
However, Miss Coulter still has loyal defenders. Jason Mattera, spokesman for the Young America’s Foundation (YAF), a
conservative group that frequently sponsors Miss Coulter’s speeches on college campuses, said he “was one of the people who laughed right away” at her CPAC remark.
“She was pointing out how political correctness stifles speech,” said Mr. Mattera, referring to a recent incident in which actor Isaiah ashington was required to go into “rehabilitation” for using the same slur against a co-star on the popular ABC-TV drama “Grey’s Anatomy.”
Appearing with Mr. Lowry on the Fox program “The Big Story” with John Gibson, Mr. Mattera said YAF will continue to book Miss Coulter, who he said “packs out college auditoriums every time. … You would think we’re handing out condoms.”
Conservative columnist Joe Sobran, cited as a mentor in Miss Coulter’s most recent book, “Godless: The Church of Liberalism” defended her yesterday.
“I’m proud of her as always. … I’ll never get over her,” said Mr. Sobran, who said he had never been invited to speak at CPAC. “I would burn the invitation if they invited me. … I just don’t regard those people as conservatives.”
In her CPAC speech, Miss Coulter said that she was not “anti-gay” and asserted that conservatives “have the pro-gay position, which is anti-crime and for tax cuts.”
Last night, she refused to apologize and promised more of the same.
“Even if you think that it was a joke that didn’t work, it was a joke,” Miss Coulter said.
Noting that some Republican presidential candidates had issued statements denouncing her over the weekend, she warned they had “better keep that statement handy because there’s gonna be a lot more in the next year.”