June was a very good month for Ann Coulter. Was it a good one for her millions of enemies and the future of the world? Hard to say.
On June 6, the day her fifth book, Godless: The Church of Liberalism, arrived in bookstores, Ms. Coulter appeared on NBC’s The Today Show. The conversation with Matt Lauer began as a civil debate, but a barely concealed gleam in Mr. Lauer’s eyes suggested the host had a poison arrow waiting in his quiver.
And then it flew: His last question concerned a section in her book about the four 9/11 widows who dubbed themselves the “Jersey Girls,” and who became national figures for demanding an investigation into how the Bush administration might have prevented 9/11 and who later campaigned for John Kerry. In her book, Ms. Coulter calls them the “witches of East Brunswick,” describing them as Democratic Party pawns sent out onto the political stage because of their victim status, as “messengers whom we’re not allowed to reply to,” let alone criticize.
Mr. Lauer read Ms. Coulter’s words: “These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by grief-arazzis. I have never seen people enjoying their husband’s death so much.”
As Ms. Coulter tried to explain “the left’s doctrine of liberal infallibility,” Mr. Lauer hammered away, until she interjected: “Look, you’re getting testy with me!”
Before cutting to a commercial, Mr. Lauer said it was always fun to have her on the show, but you could tell what he was thinking: Bull’s-eye!
But the arrow completely missed the mark. By Sunday, June 25, Ms. Coulter’s book was No. 1 on the New York Times nonfiction best-seller list.
And that was thanks largely to Mr. Lauer’s interview, and the ensuing liberal firestorm. Ms. Coulter made the cover of the Daily News, the New York Post and The National Enquirer. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton—the front-runner for the Democratic 2008 Presidential candidacy—called Ms. Coulter “vicious” and “mean-spirited.” (Ms. Coulter fired back: “Before criticizing others for being ‘mean’ to women, perhaps Hillary should talk to her husband, who was accused of rape by Juanita Broaddrick and was groping Kathleen Willey at the very moment Willey’s husband was committing suicide.”) Referring to Ms. Coulter’s comments about the widows, NBC News anchor Brian Williams asked, “Have you no shame?” Newspaper headlines seemed to have all been written by the same editor: “Coulter’s Cruelty Has No Bounds” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer), “Coulter’s Crudeness” (The Boston Globe) and “Pray for Ann Coulter” (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette). After Ms. Coulter sat down with Jay Leno, The New York Times’ TV critic Alessandra Stanley called her “the mean girl of the moment” and lamented that Mr. Leno had failed to deliver a “much deserved public swat.”
Even conservatives got in on the spanking. Bill O’Reilly called her “over the top.” Andrew Sullivan ran eight Coulter items on his blog, calling her “a drag-queen-fascist-impersonator.”
Other pundits assured readers and viewers that the 44-year-old, New Canaan–bred and Cornell-educated Ms. Coulter doesn’t really believe what she says: It’s just a marketing ploy. So ignore her! Or, they said, Ms. Coulter was just a cunning satirist. Meghan Daum, in the Los Angeles Times, praised Ms. Coulter’s “subtly arch commentary” and asserted: “The woman isn’t a pariah, she’s a comic genius, an anthropologist with an edge, the adopted love child of Oscar Wilde and Gore Vidal.”
Meanwhile, the legions of Ann Coulter haters were breathing sighs of relief: Because of the widow comments, she would surely, at last, be forced to slink away. “Is This the End for Ann Coulter?” a Salon article asked, fingers crossed.
It had been almost two years since I’d seen Ms. Coulter, and though I’d been getting nostalgic for our interviews, I wasn’t so sure if it was still in my interest to turn on that tape recorder. I’d had enough of being called a “moron” and “Ann Coulter’s handmaiden” by prissy left-wing blogger Eric Alterman. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be invited over to Al Franken’s Riverside Drive apartment again for another two-hour reprogramming session. Was another Coulter interview worth the price?
I met Ann for lunch at the top of the stairs of Serafina restaurant on the Upper East Side. She was wearing a black, belly-revealing tank top, tight jeans and black boots. Sunglasses. We sat down.
“I put a book out—and liberals were hysterical!” she said, cackling away. “Much like the last four books.”
How did she think her Today show appearance had gone?
“That was great. I could’ve kissed Matt Lauer after that interview,” she said. “For a few reasons. One is, you’re always worst—and I think most authors would say—you’re absolutely the worst interview you will ever be the day your book comes out. Because you haven’t learned to distill the book into sound bites yet, and someone asks you what your point is, and you have a whole chapter in your head, and you just start reciting the entire chapter, and you’ve said nothing and then your time is up. So I’ve always said I wish I could do my Today show interview a month into the book tour. But of course they want to be first. So I was kind of nervous. If they just said, ‘Tell me what your book is about,’ I would babble incoherently. But an argument that I can do my sleep? That’s easy for me to do.”
I mentioned the things she’d written about the four widows—such as “How do we know their husbands weren’t planning to divorce these harpies? Now that their shelf life is dwindling, they’d better hurry up and appear in Playboy.” Did she think her comments would set off such an explosion?
“No, but we can keep this party going all summer,” she said. “Anyway, it’s clearly been completely misportrayed. But, you know, the media misportrays it, people become curious about what it really is, and they buy the book and the message gets out.”
So why can’t liberals stop attacking her?
“Actually, they can’t help themselves,” she said. “They’re like my pets.”
She was excited about the big news of the day: the arrest by the F.B.I. of seven Muslim-affiliated men in Miami who were plotting to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago.
“It’s huge, huge,” she said. “I’ve been reluctant to name traitors— but I’ve got one for you: Ron Klink, some former Democrat Congressman, is blaming the plot to blow up the Sears Tower on the fact that Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction. If this were World War II circumstances, and we had the virtues of that era, Ron Klink would be lined up and shot. That’s a traitor.”
What do liberals want?
“It’s just so horrible to contemplate—that’s why I’m laughing. Apparently the total destruction of the United States. But they get to keep their houses in Amagansett.”
She ordered a Diet Coke, no ice.
How did it feel to be known as the “mean girl of the moment”?
“When did that enter the public debate, that someone is ‘mean’?” she said. “We’re having an argument, I’m winning—and they sit back and cry and say, ‘Oh, you’re mean.’ When did that happen?”
“I think the public perception of my book is slightly different,” she said. “I mean, this was the establishment’s attack; it wasn’t normal people. Everywhere I go, people are treating me like a returning war hero. Every place. It’s stunning, the people coming out of the woodwork. On e-mail, other 9/11 widows have been tracking me down, because they’re really seething with anger at these harpies for claiming to speak for all widows.”
What was her reaction to Hillary Clinton’s attack on her?
“Yessssss!” she said, raising both arms above her head in victory.
Some critics don’t think Ms. Coulter believes the things she says, I told her.
“Yes, liberals would like to think that—as the entire country turns my way,” she said. “Let them comfort themselves with that little fantasy. It’s not only ‘Are you a satirist?’, but ‘Did you really mean that? Was that a joke? Are you saying that to get a reaction? Is that hyperbole?’ All those sort of questions are all unanswerable.”
So you don’t wish you’d left those sentences about the widows out?
Why is it, I asked, that liberals tend to get away with over-the-top remarks, like when Cindy Sheehan called President Bush “the biggest terrorist in the world”?
“Because they send out victims as spokespeople!” she said. “Not any more, I might add! I think I ended that little trick. Oh, they’ll still do it, but everyone’s going to be sitting back in their living room rolling their eyes now.”
Do you think that if Ms. Sheehan’s son Casey could see her now, he might wish she—
“Wish that she’d shut up? Pipe down? Yes. I write about him in the book,” she said. “He is an amazing American hero—that was the story that was being lost in all of this. As she becomes Dennis Rodman and just makes a spectacle of herself, he was a great American patriot. For one thing, he had already re-enlisted. He didn’t have to go; he died on a mission he was volunteering for to help save his buddies—he was incredibly heroic. And I think it’s too bad that most people don’t know that.”
Dan Rather’s legacy?
“There’s only one thing he’ll be remembered for: listening to that nut foaming at the mouth and putting those fake National Guard documents on air,” she said. “That’s it! He’s a good example of someone who’s a pompous blowhard without much intellectual firepower, who gets pushed into taking positions to suck up to power. I mean, if Dan Rather were in a world by himself, I don’t think he could come up with an idea on his own. But it shows you the cultural influence of liberalism. That’s just what he goes along with. I’m sure if he lived during the Crusades, he’d be a leading crusader.”
He did have a lot of power for a long time, right?
“Yes, well, all three networks did,” she said. “That’s why liberals are going crazy now. They’re becoming like the Sunni insurgency without the physical courage.”
Do you think we have more to fear from Democrats than Iraqi insurgents?
“Oh yes,” she said. “Fifth columnists at home. Our boys can handle these savages. But every time there is some question about a mission, when you have Democratic Congressmen accusing our boys of being cold-blooded killers, and then we bust up a terror plot in Miami, and Ron Klink is saying it’s because Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction! I mean, what is going to happen to Iran right now? At what point will they say the threat is imminent? I see Joe Biden on TV saying, ‘Oh well, it’s not imminent, it’s not an imminent threat.’ When is it imminent? And now we have to worry about North Korea having a nuke capable of getting to American soil. Well, that’s really kind of a pickle, isn’t it? I don’t think you want it to get that far, because now we’re totally screwed. I don’t know what you do about North Korea at this point. It’s a huge problem—liberals are like New York cabdrivers who never see the red light coming. Other people slow down as they see the yellow. New York cab drivers are going 60 miles an hour—ahhhhhhhh! That’s the Democrats with an imminent threat: ‘No, it’s not imminent, it’s not imminent—oh, there’s a missile headed for Chicago!’ Now they’ll say it’s imminent. Well, thanks! Thanks for that. Thank you. At what point would Democrats say it’s imminent? When they’re threatening to build weapons of mass destruction? When they’re lunatics denying the Holocaust? When they’re doing a passable imitation of Bea Arthur leading a country and claiming to have nuclear missiles that can land on American soil? At what point is it imminent?”
What about those who complain about how the U.S. has treated our war prisoners?
“Well, I made it clear on my Web page last night,” she said. “I posted a little link with pictures of what they do to our guys, and then some Arab with underwear on his head. I linked to this wonderful Web page—he has all of the burnt bodies hanging from trees, from bridges, he has right before Al-Zarqawi slices off Nick Berg’s head. And then you have an Arab standing there with underwear on his head. So I think a little visual comparison is helpful.”
At what point would you want to pull out of Iraq?
“Once we’ve completed the mission—and the mission’s going perfectly well. When you think about the one war liberals belatedly supported, because we were fighting to defend Mother Russia—World War II—you just can’t imagine, ‘O.K., at what point that a number of soldiers have died do we pull—?’ No, we leave when we’re done.”
What do you see as Bill Clinton’s legacy?
“That he never denied raping Juanita Broaddrick. And Hillary Clinton has the audacity to accuse me of being mean to women. The one tip I’ll give you about Hillary Clinton’s future—because I read The New York Times like a Kremlinologist reading Pravda—and I think they’re turning against her, the way they turned against Howard Dean. I think The New York Times is going to stop Hillary from being the candidate. We’ll see, but that article a few weeks ago on the front page about the family—and this past weekend, they had a very nasty Hillary cartoon. I think the clergy of the liberal religion, i.e., the editorial board of The New York Times, has decided that Hillary can’t win, and they’re going to find an electable candidate. Exactly like they threw Howard Dean off the boat last time. He was sailing to victory, and The New York Times turned against them with a big magazine piece making fun of, you know, his idiot supporters. It was hilarious. But they wouldn’t have done that if they wanted the Dean train to keep going. They ended Dean, and liberals are good followers and they do what The New York Times tells them. We don’t have anything like that, by the way, on the right. You can’t get us to be followers.”
“Oh, he’s so pathetic. I’m so happy to hear he’s running again,” she said. “He and Gore I consider very comedic. With Kerry, no matter what the photo is—he’s always trying to look like Mr. Cool, wind surfing or relaxing or golfing, whatever. No matter what pose he’s in, no matter what he’s wearing, he is always dorkus erectus.”
Let’s say you were the Emperor of United States.
“Oh, I like that!”
What would you do your first 100 days?
“Deport all liberals.”
Where would you send them?
“It doesn’t really matter. Just get them out. And then I wouldn’t need to do anything else, because it’s really a great country. Oh, it would be so magnificent. It would be like New York during the Republican National Convention. We do have fun playing with liberals, but they can get a little irksome.”
Is it fun being a Christian in New York?
“Yes! And it’s growing and growing.”
I mentioned that I went to see Tim Keller give a sermon at the Church of the Redeemer, at her suggestion.
“Isn’t he magnificent? Keller is life-transforming.”
I confessed I was worried about being called a brown-noser for even interviewing her.
“They said the same thing about Jay Leno,” she said. “Apparently, unless you call me a rotten slut, you’re sucking up to me. Merely being polite and giving an honest interview to Ann Coulter, yes, you must be sucking up.”
What’s Jay Leno like?
“I love him. He was totally fair to me. I dissed Letterman, left New York to fly out and do it. My publicist wanted to keep me in New York.”
Jon Stewart hasn’t had you on, right?
“I heard it’s because he doesn’t want to debate me, but I don’t know why we couldn’t just have a nice chit-chat. I’ve been watching these interviews, just late at night, like on Book Notes with different authors, and I watched all these other authors being interviewed and asked about their books. Nobody says to the author of Thomas Jefferson: A Life, ‘Did you just do this to make money? Why’d you use this word rather than this word? Isn’t that mean? Oh, are you being mean? What is your motive?’ I like Jon Stewart—I’d go on his show and Colbert.”
Could you tell me a story from childhood that might explain how you became Ann Coulter?
“You know I hate talking about myself. It all seems normal and natural to me. I went to a nice high school. Mostly I was boy-crazy, and I just wanted to hang out with my boyfriends. I wasn’t in a particular group. I played lacrosse. I liked the lacrosse girls. I was always political, even in high school; it was always just fun to tweak liberals. In college we started the Cornell Review and, of course, we got all the nasty letters: ‘racist,’ ‘fascist,’ ‘we’ll kill you,’ blah blah blah. We’d collect all the letters, go out for drinks, and read them aloud and take great joy.”
Not everyone who attacks you reads your books, right?
“That’s right. That’s something I would like liberals to answer—if I am so outrageous, why will they never quote me? Why do they always twist it into me always saying something I didn’t say? You know, give it to the people straight. But now it’s ‘all 9/11 widows’ and it’s ‘they enjoy their husbands’ death.’”
Did you once call Arabs “ragheads”?
“Well, you kind of had to be there.”
What did she think of the 10,000-word profile of Sean Penn that ran in The New Yorker?
“Oh, I didn’t read it.”
But did she hear about the vulgar comment Mr. Penn made in the article about his Ann Coulter doll, and how he liked to burn its private parts with a cigarette?
That’s gotta be as offensive as things you’ve said?
“I don’t think I’ve said anything offensive. Well, I was not surprised to find out that Sean Penn plays with dolls. I did think they’d be larger and inflatable.”
Do you think liberals were bummed out about Al-Zarqawi getting blown up?
“Yes, well, naturally they were bummed out, because that got Al Qaeda mad at us, and we have been getting along so beautifully until then.”
What will she be doing this summer after her book tour?
“I’m going to go on vacation out of the country, where no one knows who I am. And I’m going to walk freely and dance on tables and not worry about true or false Ann Coulter sightings.”
Has The Times reviewed your book yet?
“No, but they’ve done a lot of reviewing me and how I look in a cocktail dress. Ha-ha!”
Her high point and low point the past month?
“The only low point is getting up so early. I really don’t like these early mornings.”
What about dealing with fans?
“Ask your girlfriend,” she said. “It is just like being a girl. Ten percent of the males ruin it. Because 90 percent are normal and nice; people just chat with you for a few minutes. But 10 percent will glom onto you, and then you get skittish about talking to anybody. It’s the same thing, just writ large, as a public figure.”
I said I was worried I’d be mocked for interviewing her. I was already picturing reading an attack on myself on Eric Alterman’s blog a week from now.
“You see, life is so much better when, like most Americans, you do not read Eric Alterman, ever,” she said.
Yes, I agreed, but he once called me “Ann Coulter’s handmaiden.”
“Right, but he also viciously attacked you for quoting him accurately,” she said. “That’s the difference between conservatives and liberals. I’m ticked off when people don’t quote me accurately. They’re ticked off when people do quote them accurately.”
What does she look for in a man? Is she seeing someone now?
“None of your beeswax.”