NEW YORK--My utterances occasionally spark controversy but I've got nothing on Ann Coulter. The star Republican pundit, who has spewed more racist, offensive and defamatory slurs in a week than Louis Farrakhan and Pat Robertson have in their whole lives combined, has turned slander and threats of violence into a cottage industry.
Coulter thinks the nation's top journalists deserve to die. "My only regret with Timothy McVeigh," Coulter sneered in reference to the Oklahoma City bomber, "is he did not go to The New York Times building." After 9/11, she validated radical Islamists' fear and hatred: "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."
After he called for the assassination of the president of Venezuela, conservatives pressured Robertson to apologize. But when Coulter dropped the following three racist slurs and a fatwa on the Iranian president in a single paragraph of her syndicated column last week, no one blinked: "If you don't want to get shot by the police, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, then don't point a toy gun at them. Or, as I believe our motto should be after 9/11: Jihad monkey talks tough; jihad monkey takes the consequences. Sorry, I realize that's offensive. How about 'camel jockey'? What? Now what'd I say? Boy, you tent merchants sure are touchy. Grow up, would you?"
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist was asked about Coulter's use of the r-word--"ragheads"--to refer to Muslims. "I better not comment," he said.
Threatening the life of a top government official violates federal law but it's just another throwaway line for Coulter. "We need somebody to put rat poison in Justice [John Paul] Stevens' creme brulee," she said earlier this month. Imagine the outrage if a Democrat said the same thing about Antonin Scalia.
Coulter is the Republican Id, giving voice to ugly sentiments that other conservatives dare express aloud for fear of public censure: Muslims are subhuman, torture is OK, all liberals are traitors. "Liberals 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," she spat in 2002. For Coulter, there is never censure--only more royalties from her bestselling books.
Coulter is a nasty, foul-mouthed bigot--all of which, like my observation of same, is thankfully protected by the First Amendment. The same cannot be said, however, about her malicious lies about me.
In the same column as her aforementioned anti-Muslim slurs Coulter wrote: "Iran is led by a lunatic who makes a big point of denying the Holocaust. Indeed, in response to the Muhammad cartoons, one Iranian newspaper is soliciting cartoons about the Holocaust. (So far the only submissions have come from Ted Rall, Garry Trudeau and The New York Times.)"
This comment was apparently a rehash of a speech she delivered to the influential Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC). "Iran is soliciting cartoons on the Holocaust," she told a thousand-plus audience that included Dick Cheney. "So far, only Ted Rall, Garry Trudeau and The New York Times have made submissions." Let's hope CPAC didn't pay her for original material.
Coulter is entitled to her opinions, not to lie about the facts. I have not entered, nor do I intend to enter, Iran's anti-Holocaust cartoon contest. And I don't take kindly to being associated with the Iranian president's comments denying Nazi atrocities. Yo, Ann: criticizing Bush doesn't make me a neo-Nazi anti-Semitic Holocaust denier. In fact, I despise Bush precisely because his rise to power, love of violence and jingoism mirror those of the Third Reich.
Coulter's defenders say she was "just joking." Her enemies say they don't take her seriously. But the content of her column, which references the Egyptian ferry disaster and the Danish Mohammed cartoon hubbub, with a central thesis that advocates "bombing Syria back to the stone age and then permanently disarming Iran," is deadly serious. Which is exactly the way her readers, who sent me e-mails calling me an anti-Semite and anti-American traitor, took her lie about me.
"Iran's cartoon contest is the sort of thing you'd expect Ted Rall to enter" would have qualified as (bad) satire. But she didn't say that.
Canny marketing of Coulter's sexuality has elevated her to alpha female status among a post-9/11 pack of right-wing attack dogs. These neo-McCarthyites (Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Andrew Sullivan) think they can get away with saying anything, no matter how factually inaccurate, about their political opponents. And they've been right--because wimpy liberals refuse to stand up for themselves.
During the 1950s, when a delusional alcoholic named Joe McCarthy ruined careers and reputations by smearing liberal Democrats as traitors, Army lawyer Joseph Welch marked the beginning of America's return to sanity by snapping at the thuggish senator on TV: "You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?" (Coulter's book Treason claims that McCarthy was a swell guy who was right all along, and that the Eisenhower Administration was full of Commies.)
We need another Joseph Welch. We must hold the neo-McCarthyite Coulter smear machine that slimed Max Cleland ("He didn't give his limbs for his country, or leave them 'on the battlefield,'" she said, "There was no bravery involved ...") accountable for its lies. It's a matter of decency, honor and setting the record straight.
As far as I can tell, no one has ever sued Coulter for slander or libel. That may change. My attorney tells me I have an actionable claim on two counts, for both the CPAC speech and the column. It wouldn't be an open-and-shut case, but there are precedents in my favor. Readers of my Rallblog have pledged nearly $9,000 if I file such a lawsuit, but it would take several times that amount to keep fighting until I get my day in court. A deep-pocketed angel would make the difference, but there, alas, is the root of the trouble with the American left.
Right-wingers, unified and organized, always stand fast and dig deep to protect their ideas and their people. They even run interference for their dead; they bullied ABC into canceling a less than hagiographical film about Ronald Reagan. They celebrate extremists like Ann Coulter, inviting her to speak at conventions attended by their brightest lights. Democrats, on the other hand, keep their most articulate advocates like Howard Dean under wraps. Trivial differences of style and ideology become reasons for lefties not to help each other out when they're attacked. So it will likely go once more, as Coulter gets away with yet another outrageous smear.