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Daily Howler: How bizarre is Ann Coulter? Deep in the weeds, let us show you
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THINGS FALL APART (PART 4)! How bizarre is Ann Coulter? Deep in the weeds, let us show you: // link // print // previous // next //
FRIDAY, APRIL 22, 2005

OUR SUGGESTION: If you want to understand your world, we’ll suggest you read every word of today’s lengthy but incomparable HOWLER.

THINGS FALL APART (PART 4): Today, we were planning to take a look at the way Cloud’s piece sought to normalize Coulter—sought to make her seem like a jolly good person, a person just like you and me. For instance, we planned to ooh-and-aah with Time’s admiring scribe at how varied her circle of friends is:

CLOUD (4/25/05): One consequence of Coulter's feline aggression is that she wins not only enemies (including one who hired a private investigator to look into her past) but creepily devoted fans. She has had discussions with the FBI about her stalkers, one of whom sent flowers every day for six months...

Meanwhile, she is a single woman in her 40s who has been engaged at least three times—"I don't know, something like that"—but never married. Instead she spends time with a large group of devoted friends, among them a restaurant critic, a children's-book author, an ex-supporter of Lyndon LaRouche's, a liberal p.r. agent, an actress and myriad bankers. She sees her friends for long dinners with lots of laughter and Ann Coulter stories. One friend has dubbed her "the blond-tressed fascist spellbinder.”

Aaawww! Coulter sits with her large, varied circle of friends—a group that even includes a liberal! And a children’s book author! And an actress! (And of course, please note the “lots of laughter.”) It’s all so crunchy—so squeaky clean—that it helps us forget, or never quite grasp, who we’re dealing with in the first place. After all, this is the person who called Hillary Clinton “pond scum”—except, oh yeah, we aren’t told that by Cloud—and this is the person who made those remarkable claims, in her best-selling books, about how liberals “side with the enemy,” are “savagely cruel bigots,” “lie for sport” and are “unfathomably vicious.” Except, oh yeah, we almost forgot, those claims aren’t repeated here either! In their place, we get Kent Brownridge, 63, her McGovernite buddy, saying that “[y]ou couldn’t find a nicer friend,” and we get Cloud himself, suggesting that we shouldn’t take Coulter’s coarseness too personally. “Coulter can be almost as acerbic with herself and her family as she is with liberals,” he pleasingly says. Remember that pleasing script, dear friends: With Coulter, it’s really all in good fun. Yes, she even pokes fun at herself, Cloud says. And what the heck! She even takes shots at her family! For the record, there’s no report that she calls her whole family “traitors,” but why bother quibbling over that?

It all makes Coulter seem very real. It makes her seem like what she plainly is not—an actual, real, normal person. Let’s say it again—Coulter is the biggest fake and fraud in American life today. And how hard should it be to figure this out? Readers, let’s return to the text and footnotes of Slander. Let’s return to that mountain of “mistakes” Cloud couldn’t manage to locate.

How big a fake and fraud is Coulter? Let’s consider one of her nasty claims about the nasty folks at the New York Times. Let’s recall the nasty paragraph Coulter typed about the Times’ attacks on Clarence Thomas.

A bit of background: When Slander appeared, it soon became clear that the book was drenched in “mistakes.” A few observers focused on the following paragraph—a paragraph which pretends to show that the Times nastily name-called poor Thomas. According to Coulter, the passage provides an example of one of her brilliant themes—how “ad hominen attack is the liberal’s idea of political debate” (page 10). Quaking with rage at the great paper’s perfidy, Ann Coulter typed this. It’s totally false:

COULTER (Slander; page 12): After Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote an opinion contrary to the clearly expressed position of the New York Times editorial page, the Times responded with an editorial on Thomas titled “The Youngest, Cruelest Justice.” That was actually the headline on a lead editorial in the Newspaper of Record. Thomas is not engaged on the substance of his judicial philosophy. He is called “a colored lawn jockey for conservative white interests,” “race traitor,” “black snake,” “chicken-and-biscuit-eating Uncle Tom,” [39] “house Negro” and “handkerchief head,” “Benedict Arnold” [40] and “Judas Iscariot.” [41]
Good grief! Let’s state the obvious. This passage seems to say that the New York Times wrote an editorial about Thomas, in which Thomas “was not engaged on the substance of his judicial philosophy” but was instead called a string of vile names. Unfortunately, none of this is true. And yes, observers noticed some of the problems here—Charles Taylor in Salon, for example:
TAYLOR (6/27/02): The passage [from Slander] is conveniently phrased to make it look as if the quotes, as well as the headline, appear in the Times editorial. They don't (notes in the back of the book identify the sources as former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elder's interview in Playboy, and Joseph Lowery at a meeting of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference quoted in the New Yorker). Coulter sets up the passage to give the impression that the Times called Thomas a "lawn jockey" and a "house Negro" and hopes that we won't notice that she's fudged it.
For the record, the estimable Taylor was much too kind when he said that Coulter had “fudged it.” In fact, the Times editorial included none of the terms that Coulter put inside those quotes; Coulter had simply invented a nasty claim, then sold it for 26 bucks to the rubes. Hopefully, Salon’s readers were repulsed by what Taylor revealed—by the nasty, inexcusable way Coulter put these words in the mouth of the Times, where they didn’t belong. But uh-oh! Sadly but understandably, even Taylor was taken in by the depth of Coulter’s pathology. In fact, Coulter’s faking went well beyond her bogus claims about the Times; the footnotes to which Taylor referred were thoroughly bogus too! No, those nasty phrases didn’t come from Joycelyn Elders’ Playboy interview. They came from a totally different source—an unexciting source which Coulter cut-and-pasted (i.e.: plagiarized), then failed to ID in her footnotes.

As usual, sorting out Coulter’s lying takes time. Let’s go back to that Times editorial.

Amazingly, Coulter got one thing right; the Times did write an editorial called “The Youngest, Cruelest Justice.” But in fact, the editorial was all about “the substance” of Thomas’ work; more specifically, it concerned one of Thomas’ oddest decisions, a decision concerning the “cruel and unusual punishment” clause of the Constitution. The first three paragraphs of the Times editorial pretty well sum up the case. Please note the total lack of “ad hominem attack,” the absence of any name-calling:

NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (1/27/92): Only four months after taking his oath as a Justice, Clarence Thomas finds himself rebuked by a seven-member majority of the Rehnquist Court for disregarding humane standards of decency. The withering reprimand, included in the Supreme Court's majority opinion in a prison case Tuesday, is this:

“To deny, as the dissent does, the difference between punching a prisoner in the face and serving him unappetizing food is to ignore the concepts of dignity, civilized standards, humanity, and decency that animate the Eighth Amendment.”

The Eighth Amendment forbids cruel and unusual punishments. Only Justices Thomas and Antonin Scalia refused to apply it to the case of Keith Hudson, a Louisiana prisoner who was shackled and beaten by two guards while their supervisor watched, warning them only against having "too much fun."

A shackled prisoner had been beaten and injured. Seven members of the Rehnquist court said this was “cruel and unusual punishment.” Thomas, new to the Court, did not. After praising the Rehnquist majority, the Times expressed disappointment in Thomas:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL: The Thomas dissent would be alarming coming from any justice. Coming from him, it rings also with crashing disappointment.

He is, for one thing, the youngest Justice. He might well serve until the year 2030 or beyond. Although his voting record now is identical only to that of Justice Scalia, he could attract enough support from future appointees to move the Court still further to the right.

A second disappointment concerns hope. Justice Thomas rose from poverty and discrimination in Pin Point, Ga., and his nomination won support from prominent people sure he would bring to the Court the understanding bred of hardship. Indeed, he testified poignantly about watching busloads of prisoners from his window. "I say to myself almost every day, there but for the grace of God go I," he told senators eager to believe him.

As a Justice, Clarence Thomas doesn't talk that way any more.

That was the end of the piece. None of the ugly terms inside Coulter’s quotes appear in this editorial. In fact, there’s no name-calling done here at all; there are no “ad hominem attacks.” Yes, Coulter was lying—as she constantly does—when she said that the editorial didn’t concern Thomas’ judicial philosophy, but she committed a vicious offense when she slandered the New York Times so grotesquely. Taylor was too kind—he was much too kind—when he said that Coulter had “fudged” her claims. In this paragraph, Coulter puts nasty language in the mouth of the Times—language the Times never used. She directly, blatantly misled her readers, even as she engaged in the very type of “ad hominem attack” she was pretending to criticize.

This, of course, is vintage Coulter—and yes, it’s pure pathology. To the good, Taylor had caught one part of her lying, even if he was a bit too mild in his condemnation. But uh-oh! With Coulter, the pure pathology runs so deep that there’s often a second layer of lying, and that was true in this event, although Taylor, understandably enough, completely failed to take notice.

Yes, Coulter’s basic claims were bogus—but so were those footnotes, the ones Taylor cited! When Taylor looked in the back of the book, he noticed that the footnotes didn’t cite the New York Times; they cited a Joycelyn Elders Playboy interview, and they cited statements by Lowery. As we’ve seen, Taylor reported this in Salon: “[N]otes in the back of the book identify the sources as former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elder's interview in Playboy, and Joseph Lowery at a meeting of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference quoted in the New Yorker.” But uh-oh! That string of invective isn’t from Elders; Coulter was up to her old tricks again. And in this case, she also was plagiarizing.

Wow! Did the New York Times call Thomas “a colored lawn jockey for conservative white interests,” a “ traitor” and a “black snake?” Did the New York Times call Thomas a “chicken-and-biscuit-eating Uncle Tom?” No—but neither did Elders! That first string of epithets doesn’t come from Elders’ Playboy interview, which was published in June 1995. It comes from a totally different source—a book review in the Washington Times, a book review that has nothing to do with either Elders or Lowery. The review was written by Lawrence Stratton; it concerned an obscure book on racial matters by Charles Lawrence and Mari Matsuda, a pair of obscure authors. Here’s the text which Coulter cut-and-pasted, inserting it right in her book:

STRATTON (5/14/97): The violent implications of [Lawrence and Matsuda’s] analysis are apparent from the hate-laden language criticizing "colored critics of affirmative action," such as Thomas Sowell, Glenn Loury, Linda Chavez and Shelby Steele, but especially Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

In over 75 references to Justice Thomas, the authors use images designed to evoke hatred: "race traitor," "black snake," "chicken-and-biscuit-eating Uncle Tom," "house Negro," and "handkerchief head." Not content, they psychoanalytically diagnose Mr. Thomas as suffering from "internalized racism and self-loathing" and accuse him of engaging in "Black on Black crime."

Amazing, isn’t it? The highlighted passage is from a review in the Washington Times—a review of a book by Lawrence and Matsuda. So what did Coulter do? She transferred the passage straight into Slander, where she pretended that the nasty words had been voiced by the New York Times! But her dissembling didn’t end there; if you looked up footnote 39, as Taylor did, the note seemed to say that Elders was the source of these nasty phrases. Indeed, Taylor even passed the claim on to Salon readers. But uh-oh! That claim wasn’t true, either! What did Elders say about Thomas? We’ll show you in a section below. But no, Elders (and Lowery) hadn’t said those said those nasty things about Thomas, just as the Times hadn’t done.

Do you see why we’ve told you, again and again, that Coulter’s “errors” constitute a pathology? That Coulter “misstates” as other scribes breathe, that she’s in a class by herself when it comes to misstatement, deception and slander? Readers, layers of deception are Coulter’s norm, as we see in this ludicrous episode, and as we saw in the remarkable way she “corrected” the final page of Slander (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/20/05). How does Coulter’s pathology work? When she “corrects” a blatant mistake, she “corrects” it to something else that is bogus! And when her footnotes show that her text is bogus, her footnotes turn out to be fake-phony too! And it turns out that her text has been plagiarized! And alas! Since normal people almost never encounter pathology of this high potency, it’s easy to be fooled by Coulter. In this case, Taylor caught Coulter in her first layer of “error,” but then passed on her next bogus claim, telling readers that Elders had said the nasty things about Thomas. With Coulter, the lying never stops. Her slanders spread all through the land.

Yeats foresaw an unpleasant day when a “rough beast” would crawl out on the land. When “the worst are full of passionate intensity” and when “the best lack all conviction;” Yeats imagined a thing crawling forth, polluting all basic traditions. We can’t help but think of what Yeats said when we contemplate the remarkable way the “press corps” gives its pass to Ann Coulter:

YEATS: The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
The darkness drops again! Don’t let denial convince you that it can’t be so—that a crackpot like Coulter can’t be the rough beast that is crawling forth onto the land. In just the past five years, the “press corps,” lacking all conviction, has made Gore seem crazy and Coulter seem sane. Their first performance put Bush in the White House; the latter act leads to a pitiless future. Quite plainly, Coulter’s the craziest one of them all—and your denatured “press corps” sends boys out to pimp her, boys who say they can’t find her mistakes! Don’t be fooled—Coulter is the stalking-horse, the test-case to see if there is anything so absurd, so insane, so bizarre, that your modern “press corps” won’t let it be peddled. This week, Time gave its answer: No. The mag said it couldn’t find Coulter’s mistakes—and that her comments are made in good fun.

Powdered, perfumed, disastrously overpaid, your celebrified press corps lacks all conviction. Our question: If your “press corps” won’t even object to this, is there anything they’ll ever confront or challenge? Is there any intellectual or moral tradition they’ll defend; is there any intellectual or moral tradition that will survive their abdication? Your “press corps” clowns at dinner parties, singing “happy birthday” to favorite pols and pretending that they don’t notice the Coulters. Don’t send us your e-mails, they tell Limbaugh Nation. We’ll pretend your beast doesn’t make “mistakes.” And we’ll pretend it’s all done in good fun.

Don’t mistake—do not mistake—where this abdication may take you. And yes, you do have to scream at your powdered “liberal spokesmen”—at the ones who refuse to comment.

YOUR VERY OWN WASHINGTON GENERALS: Let’s remember Jack Shafer’s words about the morals of your brave, fiery spokesmen:

SHAFER (4/8/05): I started writing press criticism at Washington City Paper back in 1986, because as editor I couldn't get anybody else to do it. Writers were frightened that if they penned something scathing about the Washington Post or the New York Times they'd screw themselves out of a future job.
Aren’t they special? No, Shafer wasn’t discussing this incident—but doesn’t it almost seem like he was? For the past two weeks—first with Jay Carney, then with John Cloud—Time has worked to mainstream the craziest pseudo-con pundit there is. And still not a word from the gang at Tapped, or anywhere else at the American Prospect! Not a word from the New Republic! Not a word at the Washington Monthly! And not a single word from Josh! But then, they all shut up during Campaign 2000, when the Post and the Times spent almost two years putting George W. Bush in the White House. For twenty long months, they all knew their role. As Shafer explained on April 8, their role was to think about their own futures. Their role was to keep very quiet.

Think of them as your own Washington Generals! The Generals were massacred by the Globetrottters every night, but they got a good pay-check in the process. The Generals all knew that they mustn’t complain. Did Meadowlark Lemon break every known rule? The Generals all knew not to notice.

WHAT ELDERS SAID: No, the New York Times didn’t say that Thomas was—well, let’s reprint Coulter’s work:

COULTER (page 12): After Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote an opinion contrary to the clearly expressed position of the New York Times editorial page, the Times responded with an editorial on Thomas titled “The Youngest, Cruelest Justice.” That was actually the headline on a lead editorial in the Newspaper of Record. Thomas is not engaged on the substance of his judicial philosophy. He is called “a colored lawn jockey for conservative white interests,” “race traitor,” “black snake,” “chicken-and-biscuit-eating Uncle Tom,” [39] “house Negro” and “handkerchief head,” “Benedict Arnold” [40] and “Judas Iscariot.” [41]
No, the Times didn’t say any of those things; Coulter engaged in a typical vicious misstatement. But just for the record, Joycelyn Elders didn’t say those things either, although Taylor thought she had after reading Coulter’s footnotes. Footnote 39 cited Elders’ Playboy interview, but none of those phrases came from that session. Elders did say one naughty thing. Here’s her full exchange about Thomas:
PLAYBOY (6/95): Moving on: What is your opinion of Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala?


PLAYBOY: She was your boss.


PLAYBOY: What is she like?

ELDERS: No comment.

PLAYBOY: No comment?

ELDERS: I think Donna Shalala is— Well, she has a Ph.D. in political science. I think she used her political science.

PLAYBOY: What about Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas?

ELDERS: I think Clarence Thomas is an Uncle Tom.

PLAYBOY: No more on that for us?
Elders remains silent.


The scorecard: Elders called Thomas “an Uncle Tom.” She did not call him a “chicken-and-biscuit-eating Uncle Tom;” that phrase came from the Washington Times piece which Coulter cut-and-pasted. Nor did Elders call Thomas the other names which Coulter cadged from that source. Misled by Coulter’s footnote, Taylor assumed that Elders had said these things, and mistakenly passed the claim on to his readers. Completing the rundown, Lowery did call Thomas a “Benedict Arnold” and a “Judas Iscariot,” but he didn’t use the racial terms Coulter listed. And of course, none of this had anything to do with the actual claim in Slander’s text—the claim that the New York Times had said these things. We’re deep in the weeds here, making a point. Even deep in the weeds, Coulter keeps lying.

Yes, Coulter keeps lying, even deep in the weeds. But almost no one has enough imagination to plumb the depth of her pathology. In November 2002, for example, the Columbia Journalism Review published an analysis called “How Slippery is Slander?” The piece was written by Michael Scherer and Sarah Secules. They tried to fact-check Coulter’s claims. But they got beat by the fake footnote too:

Coulter Claim: She introduces a New York Times editorial on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas headlined THE YOUNGEST, CRUELEST JUSTICE, then writes: "Thomas is not engaged on the substance of his judicial philosophy. He is called 'a colored lawn jockey for conservative white interests,' 'race traitor,' 'black snake,' 'chicken-and-biscuit-eating Uncle Tom'. . . . " (p. 12)

Footnote: The passage is constructed to suggest that the Times authored these epithets, but the footnote refers readers to comments made in a Playboy article, which goes unmentioned in the book's text.

It’s understandable, but unfortunate. Scherer and Secules didn’t keep on checking when they got to Coulter’s fake footnote. As such, they didn’t see that the footnote was just as bogus as the text it sought to document, and they didn’t see that the passage they quoted had been plagiarized from the Washington Times. “How Slippery is Slander?” Perhaps understandably, Scherer and Secules weren’t quite up to the task of plumbing the depth of that story.

By the way, Scherer and Secules said they fact-checked forty claims in Slander. Result? “[N]ineteen were either accurate or could generously be considered fair comment and criticism,” they reported, but “the remaining twenty-one would not pass [a fact-check] without major debate.” Amazing, isn’t it? In their view, Coulter’s error rate surpassed fifty percent! But somehow, Cloud couldn’t find these “errors.” But so it goes—when “the worst” deceive you as much as they please, and the powdered remnants of Washington “press corps” continue to lack all conviction.

ONE LAST POINT: Who called Thomas “a colored lawn jockey for conservative white interests?” No one you ever heard of! According to the Manchester Union-Leader, the (unnamed) head of the Maryland NAACP called Thomas that in 1997. But so what! Coulter threw it on the pile and pretended that the New York Times said it. After all, it provided a brilliant example of those liberal “ad hominem attacks.”

For some reason, Time couldn’t find this.