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The NYT praised Coulters footnotes. It should have looked a few up.
MONDAY, JULY 22, 2002
TRUST BUT VERIFY: When the New York Times Janet Maslin reviewed Slander, she had some good solid fun with a footnote. [O]ne bit of proof that Phyllis Schlafly is treated dismissively by the left comes from a People magazine review of The Muppets Take Manhattan, she chuckled. Indeed, just how eager was author Ann Coulter to slam the press corps treatment of Schlafly? She went all the way back to 1984 to cite the Muppet movie review, which included a jab at the Illinois icon. Of course, Coulters text doesnt say what shes citing. You have to read the footnote to see how far she went to find a vile slam at the right.
Maslin has some fun with this footnote, but gives too much credence to others. A great deal of research supports Ms. Coulters wisecracks, she writesapparently not understanding how much of this research has simply been made up by Coulter. Do reviewers ever fact-check books? If Maslin had checked the 780 footnotes she approvingly cites, she might have seenand she might have told readershow much of this book is just false.
As weve seen, if Maslin had fact-checked Slanders first page, she would have found instant dissembling (see the DAILY HOWLER, July 11). Page two? The same sad result. But Coulter loves to mask bogus claims with a footnote. Indeed, when Coulter limns Schlafly, she does it again. She slams the press corps performance:
COULTER (page 40): [T]he mainstream media ignore Schlafly when not deploying their trademark elitist snubs. Revealing true facts about Schlafly would inevitably result in unfavorable comparisons with inconsequential feminists. Not one of Schlaflys books has ever been reviewed in the New York Times. Schlafly is preposterously demeaned with articles reporting that she is trying to remain relevant.
That last claim is duly footnoted; Coulter cites a Chicago Tribune piece from 8/1/96. (Her charge is plural, but theres only one cite.) But in fact, the Tribunes profile of Schlaflyby the APs Jim Salteris flattering from beginning to end. In paragraph one, Salter says that Schlafly will be attending her 11th GOP convention this month
showing no intention of being irrelevant (emphasis added). He closes with a detailed review of Schlaflys impressive career:
SALTER: Schlafly rose to national prominence in 1964, when she wrote A Choice Not an Echo, a history of the Republican convention, regarded as a manifesto for the far Right movement that championed Barry Goldwater.
Baldly dissembling, Coulter says that this Tribune piece was preposterously demeaning to Schlafly. But then, three pages earlier, she told readers that [t]here is certainly not the remotest possibility that the mainstream media will ever breathe a word of [Schlaflys] extraordinary accomplishments. Note to Maslin: If you dont check all of Coulters research, shell mislead you time after time.
Then in the early 1970s, Schlafly took on the Equal Rights Amendment, beginning a grassroots anti-ERA effort that eventually led to its defeat. [James] Dobson says Schlafly almost single-handedly defeated the amendment.
In the process, she became the subject of scorn by feminists and liberals. She was spit upon, took a public pie in the face. Feminist Betty Friedan once told her, Id like to burn you at the stake. She was vilified in a 1970s Doonesbury cartoon.
That gave me more status with my children than anything Ive ever done, Schlafly said, laughing.
In 1976, at age 51, Schlafly was fighting the ERA, writing an 832-page book about Henry Kissinger and raising six children when she entered law school. She graduated 27th out of a class of 204.
Other footnoted claims about Schlafly are highly bogus. And one more point, kidsCoulter is cagy! According to a NEXIS search, the Washington Times has never reviewed any of Schlaflys books, either.
IT HAD US FUMING, TOO: Just for a bit of comic relief, heres another of Coulters complaints:
COULTER (page 40): [According to the mainstream media], Phyllis Schlafly never comes up with a witty or tart reply. She fumes (Newsweek) or opens her mouth (New York Times) or snaps (Newsweek).
Admittedly, Coulters charges here are odd. But a problem looms in her research, too. Footnotes bolster each Newsweek quote. But did the New York Times really say that Phyllis Schlafly opens her mouth? Coulter offers no citation, and a diligent search reveals no such statement. According to NEXIS, there are thirteen cites in the NYT archive for the entry Schlafly AND mouth. But in none of these articles did the New York Times ever claim that she actually opens it. Our judgment? Coulter has made a troubling charge. Its time to bring forward the evidence.
By the way, when did Newsweek say that Schlalfy snapped a reply? The cite is twenty-three years old. Heres the offending passage:
NEWSWEEK (4/30/79): The changes [in state divorce codes] can exacerbate the plight of older women. We now have a whole new class of impoverished women not equipped to go into the work force, snaps Schlafly. Chicago lawyer Joseph DuCanto, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, agrees. Its an illusion, DuCanto contends. A court says, Get out there, lady, and hustle. You go to Marshall Fields and talk to women clerks. One of two is divorced, middle class and has to get and work, and thats the only work they can do.
Its hard to know what Newsweek did wrong. Its writers agreed with Schlaflys assessment. But Coulter has a good ear for insults, and she traveled two decades to find one.
INCOMPARABLE FAIRNESS: None of this denies the obvious. A serious writer might want to examine the medias treatment of Phyllis Schlafly, or the medias approach to a wide range of issues. But Coulter isnt a serious writer; Coulter is a dissembler and clown. Thats why Christopher Caldwell, a serious conservative, dismissed her book as political hackwork. If reviewers would check out her great deal of research, they might see just how right Caldwell was.
TOMORROW: Coulters last page? Its just made up also.
Week of July 15, 2002: Harken hoopla; more on Slander.
Week of July 8, 2002: Mostly Ann Coulter and Slander.