TUESDAY, JULY 23, 2002
CAR WRECK: Some of you think were carefully picking our topics when we write about Slander. Sorry. We fact-checked pages one and two because thats where a book begins (TDH, 7/11). We checked the Katie Couric flap because it became a big flap. We fact-checked Coulters section on Schlafly due to Maslins review in the Times. But frankly, we havent checked any part of this book without encountering instant problems. Wed be surprised if theres any part of this book where basic facts havent just been made up.
So yesterday, we got a grand idea. We fact-checked Coulters final pageand you can, of course, guess what happened.
Coulter closes with a screed against the New York Times. [L]iberals have absolutely no contact with the society they decry from their Park Avenue redoubts, she stupidly fumes. Then, her penultimate paragraph:
COULTER (page 205): The day after seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt died in a race at the Daytona 500, almost every newspaper in America carried the story on the front page. Stock-car racing had been the nations fastest-growing sport for a decade, and NASCAR the second-most-watched sport behind the NFL. More Americans recognize the name Dale Earnhardt than, say, Maureen Dowd. (Manhattan liberals are dumbly blinking at that last sentence.) It took the New York Times two days to deem Earnhardts name sufficiently important to mention it on the first page. Demonstrating the lefts renowned populist touch, the article began, His death brought a silence to the Wal-Mart. The Times went on to report that in vast swaths of the country people watch stock-car racing. Tacky people were mourning Dale Earnhardt all over the South!
Typical, nasty, ugly, mean stuff. For the record, Earnhardt died on Sunday, February 18, 2001. And Coulter is right about one thing. The next day, February 19, almost every newspaper in America carried the story on the front page.
Coulter is right about something else, toothe New York Times piece to which she refers appeared on February 21. It was written by major star Rick Bragg, a down-home boy from the South. (When Bragg won a Pulitzer in 1996, the Times notice said, Rick Bragg, 36, a native of Piedmont, Ala., has long said his lifes ambition was to write about the South.) On this occasion, Bragg was writing from Earnhardts hometown; his piece began in the local Wal-Mart because, on the day of the NASCAR crash, residents bought every last bit of the stores Earnhardt memorabilia. As Bragg explained what happened next, the tone of his piece became clear:
BRAGG (page one, 2/21/01): Today, it was clear what had become of some of it all: People had written their love on shirts and toys, and hung or propped them on a fence outside the offices of Dale Earnhardt Inc., one of the fanciest buildings in town. By morning, the makeshift memorial stretched 40 yards, and cars lined the country road.
Bragg is hardly a foppish northeast liberal. But what did Coulter tell her readers? According to Coulter, Bragg had said that tacky people were mourning Dale Earnhardt all over the South. Her nasty comment reveals the sick heart which informs her rank, bile-induced volume.
You were God to me, a mourner scribbled on a card. Another wrote, My boyfriends daddy loved you dearly.
To the world outside Mooresville and the other little towns around this red-clay corner of North Carolina, Dale Earnhardt might have been racings biggest superstar, a walking corporation who won millions in prizes and millions more through smart marketing of his fame. He may have been the force behind the sports rise to nationwide popularity, after greats like Richard Petty had faded from victory lane.
But before he was theirs, as people here like to say, he was ours.
But forget about the tone of Braggs piece; Coulter made a stronger point in that penultimate paragraph. She complained about the way the Times had supposedly ignored Earnhardts death altogether. Everyone else treated Earnhardts death as a page one story the day it occurred. Coulters question: Why, oh why, did the great New York Times wait two more days to put Dale on its cover?
We suspect you know the answer to that; Coulter was inventing. (Again!) In fact, the Times did run the story of Earnhardts death on its front page on Monday, February 19. (NEXIS makes this perfectly clear. Which part of Page 1 doesnt Coulter understand?) The headline might have provided a clue: Stock Car Star Killed on Last Lap of Daytona 500. The piece was written by Robert Lipsyte. Heres how the Timesman began:
LIPSYTE (page one, 2/19/01): Stock car racings greatest current star and one of its most popular and celebrated figures, Dale Earnhardt, crashed and was killed today after he made a characteristically bold lunge for better position on the last turn of the last lap of the sports premier event, the Daytona 500.
Lipsyte discussed the crash itself; recent deaths to other drivers; safety devices that had been proposed; and Earnhardts role as king of the track. Like Bragg, the Timesman captured the awe in which Earnhardt was held:
LIPSYTE: [NASCAR president Mike] Helton had begun the day by announcing to a drivers meeting that because of its new television contract with Fox and NBC, Nascar had finally achieved absolute professional status.
Of course, Coulter didnt demean the tone of Lipsytes work. Instead, she simply lied about it, saying it didnt exist. Coulter wanted to close with a bang. She wished Lipsyte out of existence.
At that meeting
Earnhardt sat in the front row, amiably shaking hands with a parade of corporate executives in suits who seemed thrilled to touch him.
The feeling cut across all classes. As he moved through the garage area surrounded by the guests, sponsors and clients of other racing teams, a man with a videocamera reached out and screamed, I almost touched God. No one laughed at him.
What, oh what, are we to do with someone who dissembles like Coulter? Again, were quoting the next-to-last paragraph in her whole book. As usual, she builds a screed around an invented factone designed to demean those she hates. And just how nasty is Coulters conclusion? She draws an ugly conclusion indeed. Except for occasional forays to the Wal-Mart, she says, liberals do not know any conservatives. But conservatives already know liberals, she says. Conservatives know liberals as savagely cruel bigots who hate America and lie for sport.
Incredibly, that is Coulters final phrase. It closes her strange, disturbed book.
Amazing, isnt it? Coulterhaving just lied through her teeth about the Timescloses with a nasty rant attacking liberals for lying! The patent disturbance informing this book is thus put on its fullest display. Because no one elseof the left, right or centerlies and dissembles like Coulter. Our question: Why do TV producers and book reviewers and bloggers seem to think that this is OK? The entire establishment puts up with Ann Coulter. We ask our same question: Why is that?
YES, THAT IS WHAT WE SAID: Yes, thats just what we said. The New York Times put Earnhardts death on its front page twiceon February 19 and 21. (The Washington Times put it there twice, tooon February 19 and 26.) But Coulter needed a closing riff. So she did her main thing. She dissembled.
HOPIN ON HARKEN: Lets hope that Julian Epstein doesnt know the basic facts about Harken. If hes even modestly informed, his know-nothing outing on last nights Crossfire would betray his basic obligation to be open and honest with viewers. Epstein feigned surprise and shock when told that Bush had been informed about pending 2Q losses at Harken. Over the last decade, we saw many conservatives go on Crossfire and play the fool in pursuit of Bill Clinton. Lets hope that Epstein doesnt know how neatly he aped them last night.
More on Harken will follow here. But Coulter, for now, does take precedence.