by Scoobie Davis
Ann Coulter’s Slander: The Title is Correct—But for the Wrong Reasons. by Scoobie Davis
A few weeks ago, I heard that Ann Coulter had written a book that would soon be released titled Slander: Liberal Lies about the American Right. I was incredulous when I heard that the premise of the book was that the incivility and dishonesty in contemporary American political discourse was entirely the fault of the political left. I thought this was especially the case because I was familiar with Coulter’s writings. Spinsanity did an informative analysis of Coulter’s scurrilities. During the Election 2000 aftermath, I was particularly incensed by Coulter’s libel that “Jesse Jackson is presiding over rioting in the streets” (Jackson’s demonstrations were peaceful and legal; it was GOP operatives who rioted). I also know that Coulter’s columns appear on the web site of two Scaife-funded ideologues, David Horowitz and Joseph Farah. This is especially ironic because a quick search on Farah’s WorldNetDaily web site yields an interesting assortment of articles that include Scaife’s paranoid conspiracies such as the Vince Foster death theories and the infamous “Clinton body count.” Lest anyone misunderstand, Coulter has every right to write for WorldNetDaily; my point is that it is ironic for a WorldNetDaily columnist to complain about the poisoning of the well of public discourse by the left.
So I obtained a review copy of Slander though a friend in the mainstream media. I received it last week and began to research Coulter’s claims (I'm still researching them). It didn’t take long to find out that I was correctly told about the premise of the book--on page one, Coulter draws an unambiguous conclusion about the decline in political discourse: “It’s all liberals’ fault.” However, when I sampled Slander’s first few pages (which address the War on Terror), I found that Coulter’s own words devastatingly refute this conclusion; Coulter engages in the name-calling, fabrications, and character assassination that she maintains is the exclusive realm of liberals.
Before I go on, let me first say that I enjoyed Slander. Although the book is libelous, nasty, and self-contradictory to the point of being burlesque, I found it an enjoyable read. However, the book entertained me for reasons Coulter didn’t intend. Slander has an amusing blend of bile, conspiratorial thinking, and straight camp (e.g., Coulter’s hilariously gushing 3-page paean to Phyllis Schlafly). I found Slander fun to read for the same reasons I enjoy reading Jack Chick comic tracts (on that subject, I highly recommend Robert Fowler’s book The World of Chick?). The only concern I have is that there are people out there who will believe Coulter’s disinformation.
Early in the book I checked the Coulter’s footnotes (actually they're endnotes) and I found something odd. On page five alone, for two columns Coulter cites, the information in the sources of Coulter’s citations did not correspond to their portrayal in the book. In addition, in the first chapter, i noticed that Coulter gievously misrepresented Jerry Falwell's outrageous scapegoating after the 9/11 attacks. I was surprised that I was able to discover multiple examples of intellectual dishonesty so early in the book.
Regarding the War On Terror, on page 5 and 6, Coulter makes the accusations that “[i]n lieu of a military response against terrorists abroad and security precautions at home, liberals wanted to get the whole thing over with and just throw conservatives in jail” and “[l]iberals hate America, they hate ‘flag-wavers,’ they hate abortion opponents, they hate all religions except Islam (post 9/11). Even Islamic terrorists don’t hate America like liberals do.”
Two of the sources Coulter uses to arrive at these scurrilous conclusions are New York Times columns by Frank Rich and Bruce Ackerman. On page 5, Coulter writes, “New York Times columnist Frank Rich demanded that [Attorney General] Ashcroft stop monkeying around with Muslim terrorists and concentrate on anti-abortion extremists.”
REALITY: I checked the column Coulter cited and found that nowhere in the column does Rich even remotely suggest that Ashcroft curtail efforts against Islamic terrorists. In fact, I checked every post-9/11 Times column by Rich and found that Rich has not made any such demands of Ashcroft. This is one of Coulter’s lies that I e-mailed to Alan Colmes who interviewed Coulter last night (6/25/02) on Fox News’s Hannity & Colmes show. Colmes confronted Coulter with this. Coulter’s response: “that is an accurate paraphrase...” (For a transcript of Coulter and Colmes’s exchange, check the addendum at the bottom of this post).
Also on page 5, Coulter writes: “Yale law professor Bruce Ackerman recommended dropping the war against global terrorism (‘declare war at the first at the first decent opportunity’!) and instead concentrate on ‘home-grown extremists.’”
REALITY: In the column Coulter cited, Ackerman does not advocate concentrating on domestic terrorists (as opposed to foreign-born terrorists, who are the focus of the column). In fact, Ackerman only mentions “home-grown extremists” in passing (“And I do not deny that other attacks may well occur — perhaps committed by home-grown extremists.”)
These distortions of New York Times columns by Coulter are all the more incredible because listed in the Acknowledgements section, in her list of “long-suffering friends who give me ideas and editing advice, which I habitually ignore,” Coulter includes Frank Bruni, New York Times writer. It made me wonder: why didn’t Bruni catch the way in which Coulter blatantly misrepresents two columns that appear in his own newspaper?
The issues run much deeper. Page five is instructive not only because it illustrates how Coulter grossly caricatures the words of political opponents to make them appear irresponsible but also how she misrepresents the words of political allies to make them appear more acceptable. Notice how Coulter characterizes the words of Jerry Falwell regarding his infamous statements following the 9/11 attacks: “In the wake of an attack on America committed by crazed fundamentalist Muslims, Walter Cronkite denounced Jerry Falwell. Falwell, it seems, had remarked that gay marriage and abortion on demand may not have warmed the heart of the Almighty. Cronkite proclaimed such a statement ‘the most abominable thing I’ve ever heard.’”
REALITY: Note how Coulter’s description (“Falwell, it seems, had remarked that gay marriage and abortion on demand may not have warmed the heart of the Almighty”) does not come close to accurately describing Falwell’s comments. First, Falwell doesn’t even address the issue of gay marriage, only “the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle.” Second, Falwell’s diatribe goes way beyond remarking that the activities described “may not have warmed the heart of the Almighty.” Falwell lists divergent groups (the ACLU, People for the American Way, pagans, homosexuals, abortionists, and secularists) and clearly lays partial blame on them for the 9/11 attacks.
Coulter goes on in her criticism of Cronkite’s condemnation of Falwell’s statements: “Showing his renowned dispassion and critical thinking, this Martha’s Vineyard millionaire [Cronkite] commented that Falwell was ‘worshipping the same God as the people who bombed the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.’ (the difference being liberals urged compassion and understanding toward the terrorists). Indeed an attack on America by fanatical Muslims had finally provided liberals with a religion they could respect. Heretofore liberals deemed voluntary prayers at high school football games a direct assault on the Constitution. But it was of urgent importance that Islamic terrorists being held in Guantanamo be free to practice their religion.”
REALITY: Slander contains over thirty-five pages of endnotes, but Coulter gives no support to these vituperative accusations. Apparently, Coulter couldn’t find a quotation from a member of the left, not even a fringe character like Noam Chomsky, to support her contention that one liberal—much less liberals in general “urged compassion and understanding toward the terrorists.” Similarly, Coulter’s outrageous statement that “an attack on America by fanatical Muslims had finally provided liberals with a religion they could respect” is nothing more than a groundless smear. This statement assumes: 1) That prior to 9/11, liberals didn’t respect religion; and 2) The one religion that liberals finally decide to respect is the religion of extremists who committed a horrific terror attack that killed close to 3000 people. Again, Coulter provides no examples of a single liberal who hated religion prior to 9/11 and then who embraced radical Islam after 9/11.
In addition, as someone trained in law, Coulter should know that it is pure sophistry to compare opposition to mandated sectarian activity in public schools with the religious rights of prisoners. Again, Coulter gives no example of liberals who thought it was “of urgent importance that Islamic terrorists being held in Guantanamo be free to practice their religion.” I did find someone on the political left--Ramsey Clark, a fringe character--who fit this criterion. However, it is doubtful that Clark’s protests were behind the Bush Administrations decision to grant the Guantanamo prisoners far-reaching religious freedoms.
Addendum: Partial transcript of Hannity & Colmes, June 25, 2002. Interview with Ann Coulter
Colmes : [ Quoting from Slander, pg. 5] ‘New York Times columnist Frank Rich demanded that [Attorney General] Ashcroft stop monkeying around with Muslim terrorists and concentrate on anti-abortion extremists.’ You referred to a particular column that Frank Rich wrote. He never said that in the column. He never said that Ashcroft should stop monkeying around. I can’t show you what he didn’t say because he didn’t say it. It wasn’t in the column.
Coulter: Yes, he did. I mean, I do know what the column says. No, I wasn’t quoting him precisely—
Colmes: I read it today.
Coulter: That is an accurate paraphrase—unlike his quotes of me, I might add, which are, I can show you how they are deceptive. But, no, he was specifically saying, here just so the viewers don’t have to go to the trouble of looking it up. He was specifically complaining that Ashcroft was not meeting with the head of Planned Parenthood when he was purporting to investigate terrorism. That is true and you can’t deny it.
Colmes: That’s not what you said—
[Hannity interrupts and begins to interview Coulter]
OTHER ESSAYS ON SLANDER FROM SCOOBIE DAVIS ONLINE
In Ann Coulter's Slander, absurdity abounds. Writing about fraud in the publishing industry, Coulter informs readers:
In the rush to provide the public with yet more liberal bilge, editors apparently dispense with fact-checking...Books that become publishing scandals by virtue of phony research, invented facts, or apocryphal stories invariably grind political axes for the left. There may be publishing frauds that are apolitical, but it’s hard to think of a single hoax book written by a conservative.
Also, Coulter writes: “In a classic liberal sneer, the New York Times sniffed that some of Regnery’s anti-Clinton books would not ‘be likely to pass muster at an assembly of scholars.’ No examples were cited nor evidence adduced for this assertion. Such jeers say more—and are intended to say no more—than that the Times disapproves of conservative books. I’ve just listed a half-dozen mendacious liberal books. What do they have?
Here’s what I have and it is, by no means, an exhaustive list of manifestly dishonest right-wing books:
1. Slick Willie by Floyd Brown and David Bossie. Brown and Bossie are two dirty tricks operators who concocted every single conspiracy theory about the Clintons. Most notable in this screed that includes a “special thanks” to virulent racist Judge Jim Johnson, are the details of a particularly ugly smear that the authors present as real. During the 1992 campaign, Brown and Bossie hounded the relatives of a woman who had committed suicide to support a smear that the woman, one of Bill Clinton’s former law students, killed herself after being impregnated by Clinton. Bossie even barged into the hospital room of the deceased woman’s mother who was visiting her husband. When CBS’s Erik Engberg reported on Brown and Bossie’s activates, the Bush White House repudiated them. Brown and Bossie stuck by their story in Slick Willie. (For a more detailed account of this shameful episode, read pages 74-77 of Conason and Lyons' The Hunting of the President).
2. At Any Cost: How Al Gore Tried To Steal the Election by Bill Sammon. This book has much disinformation. For instance, when it came to demonstrations in Florida after the election, Sammon described demonstrations by Jesse Jackson as “staged.” This despite the fact the Jackson rallies included people who were wrongly denied the right to vote because of the notorious purge of voter names. On the other hand, Sammon called GOP rallies “spontaneous.” This despite the fact that the GOP flew down operatives who were instrumental in the riot at the Miami-Dade vote-counting center. Sammon falsely claimed that no violence occurred—contradicted by journalist Jake Tapper in his book Down & Dirty.
However, probably the most egregious hoax in the book was how Sammon mischaracterizes a Washington Post story to make it appear as if Al Gore was putting himself above the country (read about it and get angry).
3. The Clinton Chronicles book and videotape by Patrick Matrisciana. This is part of attempt to link Bill Clinton to racketeering, drug dealing, and even murder. These are wild conspiracy theories that were repeated on the Wall Street Journal editorial page. Matrisciana was not content to just peddle this to the gullible public but to the church-going Christians (the same people Coulter claims that liberals despise) Murray Waas wrote an article exposing the fraudulent infomercial that Matrisciana and Jerry Falwell concocted to fleece Falwell’s flock of little old ladies out of their Social Security checks).
4. Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth by Jeffrey Satinover. Satinover uses the discredited “research” of notorious conman and anti-gay crusader Paul Cameron. Satinover's book has been cited by anti-gay zealots such as William Bennett and Dr. Laura Schlesinger.
5. The Final Days by Barbara Olson. In Olson’s cut-and-paste hatchet job, she gives readers the following urban legend: “Some even noticed that when Clinton was President, Marine guards failed to execute a right face to stand facing his back as he walked away. The Marines somehow relearned this maneuver on January 20, 2001, when the new Commander-in-Chief, President George W. Bush, took office.” Several urban legends web sites such as Snopes have debunked this petty smear of President Clinton.
6. Various Vince Foster conspiracy books. Authors include Christopher Ruddy, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, John Hagee (see my 7/22 post) and numerous others. What I find as funny is that in the footnotes, Coulter called Christopher Ruddy’s conspiracy-laden The Strange Death of Vince Foster “a conservative hoax book.” I find it astounding that Coulter brought this up. As Terry Krepel points out, WorldNetDaily tweaked Ruddy’s Newsmax for being “in the unenviable position of promoting Coulter's book at the top of his page” What is really odd is that WorldNetDaily (which carries Coulter’s column) is run by Joseph Farah who was a key player in the Foster conspiracy cottage industry of the 1990’s. So WorldNetDaily is itself in the unenviable position of promoting a book that takes a key part of the web site founder’s worldview and denounces it as a hoax.
7. Slander by Ann Coulter. In addition to my discovery of Coulter’s dishonest use of citations to defame two New York Times op-ed writers (which the nonpartisan Spinsanity agreed were “wild distortions”), it seems that the Daily Howler has done some recent analyses of Coulter’s claims. The Howler found additional supporting evidence that Coulter was fudging in a big way in many other parts of the book (check the Howler's July archives for the articles). Previously, writers on the right have been able to lie and get away with it. Those days are over. The right now knows that they can’t lie with impunity anymore. That is great for political discourse.
UPDATE: Since I wrote this is July 2002, two books by right-wing commentators, Let Freedom Ring by Sean Hannity and How To Beat the Democrats by David Horowitz, included the discredited Washington Times smear of former President Clinton's 2001 Georgetown speech (click here , here, and here). So there are two more hoax books on the right.
When I read Slander, I was surprised not only by what was written but by what was conveniently left out. Here are just a couple examples of revealing omissions:
...[W]hen right-wingers rant, there’s at least a point: There are substantive arguments contained in conservative name-calling. One of Newt Gingrich’s more pithy turns of phrase, for example, was to call Bob Dole “tax collector for the welfare state.” In addition to the welcome bipartisanship of attacking a member of his own party—and not from the left—Gingrich’s attack conveys a meaningful concept. It succinctly degraded Dole’s legislative function as consisting of nothing more than taking the taxpayer’s money. Dole had failed to oppose behemoth government; he was a cog in the system that Democrats had created. All that in six words.
REALITY: What Coulter doesn’t bother telling the reader is that Gingrich’s supposed subtlety and flair when it came to name-calling didn’t extend to members of the loyal opposition (which Gingrich didn’t view as loyal). For instance, in a memo by Gingrich’s political action committee GOPAC, the following pithy terms were suggested to describe Democratic opponents: sick, traitors, destructive, corrupt, bizarre, cheat, and steal (when Coulter was confronted about this memo on the radio show Counterspin, she absurdly claimed that she wasn't familiar with it). Of course, Coulter didn’t bother mentioning the GOPAC list because it alone demolishes the premise of Slander that the decline in political discourse is “all liberals’ fault.”
During the 1992 campaign, Gingrich had a clever thing to say about Democrats: "Woody Allen having non-incest with a non-daughter to whom he was a non-father because they were a non-family fits the Democratic platform perfectly." Soon after Gingrich said this, he unleashed his one-eyed trouser snake on a young aide whom he would later receive in a trade-in for Wife Number Two (who herself was a younger model Gingrich got after giving the heave-ho to Wife Number One). Four years later, Gingrich said, “[o]ur job is to convince the voters that Democrats are the enemies of normal Americans" (Wife Number One had been Gingrich’s high school teacher--Yuck). I could go on but I think you get the point. This leads me to Omission-riddled Quote Two:
So far, Drudge seems to be meeting the new special high standard of accuracy reserved for the Drudge Report. His only alleged misstatement that was ever tested in a court of law concerned a statement about Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal, for which Drudge was sued for libel. The case ended with Blumenthal paying Drudge money.
REALITY: The “alleged misstatement” was a despicable libel against Blumenthal. In 1997, Drudge wrote: "'There are court records of Blumenthal's violence against his wife,' one influential republican, who demanded anonymity, tells the DRUDGE REPORT.” Drudge retracted the story, but did not apologize to the Blumenthal family. Blumenthal filed suit against Drudge. While Blumenthal had to pay for attorneys out of his own pocket, Drudge relied on funding from right-wing groups (one of the main sources of funding was David Horowitz who recently libeled David Brock when he ironically accused Brock of libeling him). Blumenthal had to drop the lawsuit and pay court costs, not because of the merits of his case, but rather because of the right’s deep pockets.
Here's a transcript on me confronting Drudge about this. So much for Drudge meeting the alleged “new special high standard of accuracy reserved for the Drudge Report.”
Coulter on Gore
Tapped beat me to the punch on Coulter’s misinformation that Al Gore lied when he claimed to be the inspiration for Love Story. This is especially egregious because she has Frank Bruni listed in the Acknowledgements as someone who gave “ideas and editing advice.” Bruni covered the 2000 (s)election for the New York Times. It’s hard to believe he didn’t catch this. Then again, he wrote a cloying book about George W. Bush, so maybe it wasn’t an oversight.
Here’s one example of Coulter’s misinformation on Gore that Tapped hasn’t written about: Coulter makes the manifestly absurd charge that “...Gore couldn’t pick George Washington out of a lineup. In a highly publicized stop at Monticello during Clinton’s 1993 inaugural festivities, Gore pointed to carvings of Washington and Benjamin Franklin and asked the curator: ‘Who are those guys?’”
REALITY: C-SPAN video of the events gives a completely different picture.
1. Coulter fails to mention that the two busts directly in front of the tour group were of John Paul Jones and the Marquis de Lafayette. As the Church Lady would say, “How convenient.”
2. The Washington and Franklin busts (that Coulter claimed that Gore pointed to) were on opposite sides of the room (Monticello’s Tea Room).
Apparently, Coulter didn’t see the video (this canard was a staple of Rush Limbaugh’s television show of the 1990’s). When the tour group walked into the Tea Room, Gore said, “Who are these people?” not “Who are those guys?” If the shoe were on the other foot, and George W. Bush had said this, then undoubtedly Coulter would have concluded—as any reasonable person would—that he was simply prompting the curator to continue with the tour. Coulter is more than willing to give the benefit of the doubt to members of the right when accusations are made against them. For instance, Coulter writes, “Attorney General Ashcroft is absurdly said to fear calico cats...” Andrew Tobias, who broke the calico cat story, has some evidence that he does.
Update: When I first wrote this post (7/5/002), I could base it only on memory and a very dark video put out by the right-wing Media Research Center. However, I received a clear copy of the C-SPAN video and wanted to give some new information. The C-SPAN video clearly shows Gore pointing to the busts in the middle of the room (Lafayette and/or Jones), not Washington and Franklin (which were according to the curator, at the "far right" and "left" of the room). The clear video shows how the Washington and Franklin busts are not in Gore’s line of vision. This makes sense, of course, because it is absurd that Gore couldn’t identify Franklin and Washington.
A cynical person might conclude that the Media Research Center intentionally obscured their video in order to deceive the viewer. I’m not making that accusation. Watch MRC's video and draw your own conclusion. Keep in mind that in the clear video, the busts are white; in MRC’s video, one can’t even see the busts.
The Beauty Myth
In Slander, Ann Coulter writes, “So which women are constantly being called ugly? Is it Maxine Walters, Chelsea Clinton, Janet Reno, or Madeline Albright? No, none of these. Only conservative women have their looks held up to ridicule because only liberals would be so malevolent.”
REALITY: Apparently Coulter doesn’t listen to Rush Limbaugh. On Limbaugh’s television show, Limbaugh was doing an White House “in-and-out” segment in which he said to the studio audience, “Can we see the cute little kid? Let’s see who’s the cute little kid in the White House.” Instead of the picture of Chelsea Clinton, a picture of Millie the dog appeared on the monitor. This led to raucous laughter by the mouthbreathers in Limbaugh’s audience. Backpedaling on the matter, Limbaugh claimed it was an accident. In case anyone believes Limbaugh's bullshit story that “it was not something done on purpose,” journalist James Retter investigated the controversy and found that Limbaugh’s explanation doesn’t hold water (Read about it in Retter’s book Anatomy of a Scandal, pp. 211-213). Retter also noted a dig against Chelsea’s looks on Limbaugh’s radio show: “Commenting on how ‘lovely’ Nixon’s daughters, Julie and Trish, looked at their father’s funeral, Limbaugh said, ‘so unlike another First Family—and you know what I mean.’” Once on his radio show he mentioned Donna Shalala and sarcastically commented, “Oh, that’s a beautiful thought.” Ann Richards, according to Limbaugh, “was born needing her face ironed.” On Letterman’s show, Limbaugh said how Hillary Clinton looked “like a hood ornament on a Pontiac.” An annoyed Letterman shot back, “And you can say that because you are the finest looking human specimen on the planet?” The audience erupted in laughter and applause.
Is the Religious Right a Myth?
In the chapter of Slander titled, “Shadowboxing the Apocryphal ‘Religious Right,’”, Ann Coulter sounds postmodernistic (not to mention airheaded) when she attempts to explain away the existence of the religious right:
Like all propagandists, liberals create mythical enemies to justify their own viciousness and advance their agenda. There is no bogeyman that strikes greater terror in the left than the apocryphal “religious right.” The phrase is a meaningless concept, an inverted construct of the left’s own Marquis de Sade lifestyle. It functions as a talismanic utterance to rally the faithful against anyone who disagrees with the well-organized conspiratorial left.
A definition of the sectarian right is difficult. It is by no means a monolithic group. But neither are liberals and that doesn’t prevent Coulter from making outrageous generalizations about them (e.g., “[l]iberals hate America...” and “[l]iberals hate religion...”). Let’s look at some of the characteristics of the sectarian right (this list is by no means exhaustive):
1. It has the goal of a Christian nation in which there is no concept of church-state separation. Laws are to be based on Christian fundamentalist dogma. In an attempt to sugarcoat Pat Robertson’s reputation, Coulter comes up with this howler: “[Robertson] is, after all, a Yale Law School graduate. If Robertson was from Vermont and didn’t yap about God on TV, liberals would refer to him as a ‘moderate Republican.’” Perhaps at Yale Law School they were a bit vague when they taught Article VI of the Constitution because Robertson once said, “Individual Christians are the only ones really---and Jewish people, those who trust God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob--are the only ones that are qualified to have the reign, because hopefully, they will be governed by God and submit to Him."
2. The goal of complete church-state separation regarding outgroup religions. When members of the sectarian right calls for the Bible to be read in the public schools, they don’t want it to be accompanied by The Book of Mormon or Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures much less the Upanishads or the Book of Changes. Exception: some members of the sectarian right are willing to cozy up to what they consider apostate faiths if it leads to a big paycheck—such as Falwell’s embrace of Sun Myung Moon.
3. A conspiratorial worldview. Good examples of this are found in Pat Robertson’s The New World Order, Tim LaHaye’s Battle for the Mind and his Left Behind series, and Jerry Falwell’s support of the infamous Clinton Chronicles video (click here for information on Falwell and the Clinton Chronicles; don’t miss the part about the phony infomercial Falwell used to bilk his flock).
4. The goal to have a fundamentalist worldview taught in the education system—regardless of whether it clashes with science (e.g. the belief that the Earth is several thousand years old). Most recently, two Ohio Congressmen wanted science curriculum in Ohio to include creationist concepts.
5. Opposition to sexuality other than between a married man and woman. “God made Adam and Eve,” Jerry Falwell once said, “not Adam and Steve.” Many in the sectarian right believe that sex should be for procreative purposes (click here for a funny article by wingnut Randall Terry on birth control).
6. Opposition to reproductive rights.
7. Promotion of the traditional "family" (i.e. an instrumental husband and expressive wife). In the Seven Promises of a Promise Keeper, under the heading of "Reclaiming Your Manhood," every man should "sit down with your wife and say something like this: 'Honey, I've made a terrible mistake. I've given you my role. I gave up leading this family, and I forced you to take my place. Now I must reclaim that role.' ... I'm not suggesting you ask for your role back, I'm urging you to take it back ... there can be no compromise here. If you're going to lead, you must lead ... Treat the lady gently and lovingly. But lead!"
Coulter then conflates those who oppose these goals of the sectarian rights with opposition to religion in general:
Liberal dogma instructs that public displays of religion are inimical to democracy, a threat to freedom as we know it. They believe religious people are self-evidently fanatical. Religious values are hateful, homophobic, sexist, racist, and the rest of the liberal catechism—unless they are kept in the closet . . . It is of course, preposterous to say religious people can’t let their religion inform their views on public policy. That is more hateful and intolerant than any views attributed to the apocryphal “religious right.”
There are problems with this assessment. As I mentioned, Coulter equates opposition to the sectarian right with the opposition to religion in general. Sectarian rightists like Falwell and Robertson are self-evidently fanatical, not religious people per se. Here are just a few quotes by Pat Robertson. Are these the words of a “moderate Republican”?
Coulter’s Media Conspiracy.
According to Ann Coulter in Slander, the media were out to get Ronald Reagan with the age issue in 1984. Coulter writes:
More peculiarly, [in 1984] a spate of general-interest articles on senility began to pop up in large-circulation magazines. In the ten months before the 1984 election, Newsweek, Time, Ladies Home Journal, and U.S. News & World Report all ran major pieces on senility. That’s too many to be a coincidence. The LexisNexis archives yield only one magazine article on senility (U.S. News & World Report) in 1976; zero in 1980; zero in 1988; zero in 1992; one in 1996; and one in 2000 (Maclean’s). In other words, the same number of magazine articles on senility were published in 1984 alone as in all other presidential elections years combined in the last quarter of the twentieth century. (p. 132).
I found some serious problems with the supposed spike in articles on senility in 1984. This hardly surprised me--click here to see some problems with a previous media content-analysis done by Coulter. The Ladies Home Journal article from 1984 Coulter cited (Emma Elliot, “My Name is Mrs. Simon,” August 1984) wasn’t about senility per se; rather it was a woman’s narrative of her ordeal with hospital staff when her elderly mother was hospitalized for a physical ailment. The subject of senility was touched upon when the author complained that hospital staff treated her mother as if she senile simply because she was elderly. If this was an attempt by the media to make the “age issue” salient, then I don’t know why it would include the following information:
As a medical writer, I was appalled at the way this hospital’s trained professionals were treating their elderly patients. They, of all people, should be aware that “old age” and “senility” are not interchangeable terms. In fact, only 5 percent of older people ever suffer from severe intellectual impairment. Fifteen percent may suffer some mild disability, such as minor memory loss. But 80 percent of those who live to very old age, into their eighties and nineties, never experience any symptoms of senility at all.
The U.S. News article Coulter cited (“Today’s Senior Citizens: ‘Pioneers of New Golden Era,’” July 2, 1984) also is not specifically on senility; rather it is an interview with a gerontologist on geriatrics in general. The article did touch upon senility and Alzheimer’s disease but the doctor they interviewed used President Reagan as an example of adjusting well to the aging process: “[Ronald Reagan] seems to love his job. He feels very much in command and derives much stimulation and satisfaction from being President.” The overall attitude of the doctor interviewed was that overall quality of life is improving for America’s elderly; according to the doctor: “The elderly today are healthier, happier, richer, better educated, and more independent than they were at the turn of the century.” If the editors of U.S. News (acknowledged by most people as a conservative magazine) were attempting to use the interview to put then-President Reagan in a bad light, they failed miserably.
The articles from Time (Evan Thomas, “Questions of Age and Competence; The President Seem Fit—But Is He too Detached, 10/22/84) and Newsweek (Matt Clark, “The Doctors Examine Age, “ 10/22/84) Coulter cited also were not “general-interest articles” but specifically addressed questions raised by Reagan’s disastrous first debate with Walter Mondale. During that debate, at times Reagan seemed confused (Reagan said "I'm all confused now." as he prepared to deliver his closing statement). These two articles made the questionable assumption that Reagan was mentally fit. For instance, in the Time article by Evan Thomas concluded: "In sum, the issues Americans should debate is not Reagan's age but his effectiveness and the validity of his approach to governing." In the final paragraph of the Newsweek article, Matt Clark wrote: "Doctors see no reason why a man Reagan's age shouldn't be president. They cite Winston Churchill, among others, as an impressive precedent. And, they point out, decision makers often suffer less stress than the younger people who execute their edicts. "There's no reason a priori why someone in his 70s may not be just the person we need, " says [geriatric specialist, Dr. Marilyn] Albert. "Sometimes, those very people have the accumulated wisdom, knowledge, and expertise to deal wisely with complex knowledge."
The Time and Newsweek articles fly in the face of what was going on in the Reagan White House. When Howard Baker took over as chief of staff in 1987, Reagan's staff told him to be prepared to have Reagan declared unfit and replace him. In fact, there is evidence that people in the media covered for Reagan in this area. As Jeff Cohen points out, “former CBS White House correspondent Lesley Stahl writes that she and other reporters suspected that Reagan was 'sinking into senility' years before he left office. She writes that White House aides 'covered up his condition'-- and journalists chose not to pursue it." Cohen’s article gives the shocking details of an encounter Stahl had with a disoriented Reagan—yet Stahl spiked the story.