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When will serious folks in the press take notice of Coulter’s bad problem?

WEDNESDAY, JULY 10, 2002

ANN COULTER'S PROBLEM WITH THE TRUTH: At Fox, on-air personalities enjoy a good laugh when fiery Ann Coulter comes calling. Monday morning, she regaled the gang at Fox and Friends with her tale of a grand NEXIS search. Coulter was complaining about the way the press pretends that those Dems are so brainy:

COULTER: “Cerebral Bill Bradley,” for example, I mean that’s the most striking example. You run a Lexis-Nexis search—as I did—on Bill Bradley and you would think his first name was “Cerebral.” His name never got mentioned [inaudible] “Cerebral Bill Bradley.”
The whole thing sounded like so much fun, we decided to run the same search. So we sent the phrase “cerebral Bill Bradley” through the NEXIS file for the period from 1/1/99 through 4/1/00—the fifteen months when Bradley was running for president. Bradley was, without any question, a press favorite during the bulk of his run. The cerebral solon got oodles of coverage during the period in question.

Our finding? According to current NEXIS files, the phrase “cerebral Bill Bradley” appeared in American newspapers exactly six times in that fifteen-month period. The phrase didn’t appear in any magazine. Here are the six lonely cites in the file. Note the big papers involved here:

  1. Sandy Grady, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 3/18/99
  2. Sandy Grady, Bergen County Record, 3/23/99
  3. Robert Jordan, Boston Globe, 4/23/99
  4. Sandy Grady, Raleigh News and Observer, 11/10/99
  5. Sandy Grady, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 11/6/99
  6. Editorial, Albany Times-Union, 3/10/00
That’s right, folks. If it weren’t for Sandy Grady, there would hardly have been a “Cerebral Bill Bradley” at all. According to NEXIS, the only major rag in which the phrase appeared was the Bradley-loving Boston Globe, where the phrase appeared exactly once. The phrase never appeared in the Washington Post or the New York Times. And, of course, the phrase never appeared in Time, U.S. News, or Newsweek. Not even the National Review.

Again, this isn’t meant to suggest that “Dollar Bill” got bad coverage from the press. This is meant as a commentary on dissembling Ann Coulter and the problem she has with the truth. Let’s face it—Coulter never ran any such search as the one she described to her simpering pals. But making it up is the norm for Ann Coulter—and her friends in the media choose not to notice, willing to put up with her “hackwork” and her clowning.

By the way, wasn’t it only a few years back when pundits were troubled by this sort of thing? In October 2000, for example, a certain columnist was very disturbed by the way Al Gore just kept making things up. “It’s as if every time Clinton drops his pants, Gore tells a lie,” she slanderously said. This same scribe complained about “Gore’s endless boasts,” and she said, “[m]aking stuff up is surely one of Gore’s leading negatives in this campaign.”

That outraged columnist was, of course, Ann Coulter. And guess what? Coulter exaggerates, embellishes, embroiders and misstates on virtually every page of her new oddball book. (She also embellished almost all of Gore’s “boasts.”) She misrepresents the things people say; she invents NEXIS searches that back up her tales. At Fox and Friends, they think it’s smart. But when will serious folks in the press corps take notice of Ann Coulter’s problem?

MAYBE SHE REALLY MEANT…: In our usual excess of fairness, we decided to go the extra mile; we ran “cerebral Bradley” through NEXIS, too, looking for extra citations. Result? Five cites in American papers and magazines, two of them openly mocking. Here’s an example of the way the press kept trying to build up those Dems:

SUSAN ISAACS, Newsday, 1/20/00: He’s not just accessible. He’s a boon companion. Vital. Real, albeit larger than life. John McCain is so dynamic the other candidates—stilted Gore, cerebral Bradley, careful-of-everything-you-say-so-you-don’t-screw-up Bush, pompous Hatch, goofy Forbes—are zombies in comparison.
That’s right. Isaacs was saying how great McCain was compared to “cerebral [Bill] Bradley.”

On Fox and Friends, Coulter was making it up. But then, she makes it up on all through her daft book. Oh, by the way—we just ran “Dollar Bill Bradley” through the same NEXIS base. Fifteen months gave us 32 cites—and a few hundred more if you take “Dollar Bill” on its own. Coulter knew not to say it on Fox. But Bill Bradley already has a first name, and that pet name is “Dollar,” not “Cerebral.”

TOMORROW: More notes on Ann Coulter’s bad problem.