I quoted Ann Coulter about a week ago and got a comment from a faithful and brilliant reader who accused Coulter of making things up. That's not been my experience reading her, so I asked for support. He referred me to Al Franken's serious and sober book of criticism of the right--Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. I happen to own that, a gift from my eldest. So finally I dragged it out and read the chapters on Coulter.
Let's start with the proposition that Coulter is, next to the President himself, one of the most polarizing of conservative figures. A lot of people who barely have read anything she's written, hate her. They hate everything about her. They criticize her looks, which for me is a dead giveaway of hate overcoming judgement. No photo truly does her justice, she is in person a very pretty, indeed beautiful woman. They say she is a former (or current) man. Right, there is no surgeon that gifted. They say she says untrue or stupid stuff, which brings us back to the lies of Ann Coulter as presented by the scion of generations of truth tellers, Al Franken. Here we go then.
1) In what must be the most important detail of the decade, Franken notes that Coulter accused the NYT of not having a front page story about the death of Dale Earnhardt the day after his death and indeed only had one two days later which started with a sentence about silence in the Walmart. Franken then shows a page of the late edition
of the NYT the day after Earnhardt's death with a story about his death but not with the silence in Walmart first sentence. That lying bitch!
Was there an earlier edition Coulter or her fact checkers saw that did not have the story Franken shows? Alas, my poor powers of research cannot answer that question, but in any event, Coulter was clearly talking about another story (Franken acknowledges a Rick Bragg story appeared when Coulter says a story on Earnhardt's death appeared). So at worst she's wilfully accused the NYT of not running a story she knew they did, or it was her mistake. Sometimes mistakes are lies, but the usual definition is of a deliberate falsehood said when the speaker knows it is not the truth. I try to distinguish lies from mistakes because we all make mistakes while lying, especially about serious events with real consequences, is a 10 Commandments prohibition, real sin, certain malum in se
. So Coulter could have lied or could have been mistaken, probably was merely mistaken. Not good support for calling her a liar or for she makes up stuff all the time statement.
2) She appears to have shaved two years off her age, by stating she was born in 1963 not 1961. Wait, an attractive woman over 40 has lied about her age? Oh, the humanity. That lying bitch! I'm never going to believe a single thing she says again.
3) She said editor Evan Thomas was the son of Norman Thomas when he was actually the grandson of Norman Thomas. That lying bitch! She had to know the seriousness of getting that detail right, I mean, if he's merely the grandson of a perennial socialist candidate for president and not the son, then the whole point of mentioning the ancestor is...well, exactly the same. Wow, another palpable hit from Fanken on the thin facade of the reliability of Ms. Coulter. But wait, this was probably a mistake as well. Other than the age thing, is there a real lie Coulter has told? Only five more to go, let's see.
4) This is a particularly rank one. Coulter correctly quotes the NYT on Justice Thomas, and then correctly quotes a number of other people saying dreadful things about Justice Thomas and she puts endnotes (not footnotes, the lying bitch) for the dreadful things and they are all accurate. But...these things are close together in Coulter's paragraph about Justice Thomas so, if you didn't read the endnotes, you could think all those things were in the NYT. That lying bitch! To think that she would accurately quote people and accurately endnote her quotes but then lie by putting them in reasonable proximity to a quote from the New York Times. Oh, wait, that's not lying at all. Oh well, surely the next one is.
5) A) Franken accuses her of misquoting Frank Rich (even though she didn't quote him and it was indeed a reasonable paraphrase) That lying bitch!
B) Franken accuses her of misquoting the results of the newspaper recounts of some Florida county ballots after the 2000 election by saying the President won in all these recounts. Franken says that if the recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court had actually been other than what was ordered then Nobel Peace prize laureate Al Gore might have won, under certain standards. Coulter, talking about actual history, was correct; Franken accuses her of lying because she was not talking about alternate history. That lying bitch! If in talking about the Battle of Gettysburg, I don't mention how Lee would have done with some quad .50s supporting Pickett's charge, then I guess I'm lying about history too in Frankenworld. Sheesh. Neither of these was a lie either. Not even inaccurate. Certainly he's merely saving the best for last.
6) In her book Coulter had taken the NYT to task for publishing some quotes. The NYT did publish them and they were actual quotes, but Franken, defender of accuracy in the media, points out that they weren't originally from NYT writers. So if I'm following Franken--if, for example, I quoted from the Ku Klux Klan period of the current Democratic President pro tempore of the Senate, and Ann Coulter accused me of supporting racists thoughts by publishing them, she would be lying. Even though I did say them, I actually didn't say them, Robert Byrd did. Oh, so that's clear. That lying bitch! No, actually, not a lie, and not even inaccurate to say what was in the NYT was in the NYT. Whether, in those two examples, the NYT deserved criticism is a different issue.
7) I don't have Lexis Nexis but apparently some people do and if you type in a search, on a given day and at a given time, it will tell you how many publications you can search on line have by then used the terms of your search. Apparently, if you use a different search or even the same search terms on a different day, the results will often vary. Franken accuses Coulter of lying because his different searches produced different results. You know, this is getting kind of sad for Franken, but here's the big finish.
8) Franken says the poll in the Christian Science Monitor on January 7, 1987 showed an approval rating fall for President Reagan (according to Gallup) from 63 to 44%. Ann Coulter had said Reagan had suffered a fall from 80 to 75%. Those are wildly and significantly different numbers. My non Lexis Nexis search engine won't produce the CSM from that long ago or all the numbers in the poll, so I can't tell who's right here. Certainly was a big, big finish. Ann Coulter said Reagan lost popularity and her figures were off, by a lot. I mean that changes everything.
A dispassionate reader of the ever witty Al Franken would say that few of his 8 blatant 'lies' and making up things left and right were in fact lies and most were not even inaccurate. Given all of Coulter's best selling books, her years of weekly columns, and her numerous appearances on TV talking head shows, one would think that there would be too many lies and/or mistakes (same thing to Franken) to mention--just tons and tons of them, if she's just making things up all the time. But there are not; there are indeed very few mistakes even. Franken didn't lay a glove on her and that's a stone fact despite his self delusion
that he destroyed her credibility or my learned and good friend's reliance on Franken as his ace in the hole regarding that lying bitch.
Whether she's wise or helpful to call a spade a freakin' shovel--different issue.
Labels: Ann Coulter; Al Franken