Lawrence O'Donnell Attacks Ann Coulter for Saying Liberals Give Less to Charity Than Conservatives

Lawrence O'Donnell on Tuesday made a federal case out of Ann Coulter's quite accurate claim that liberals give less to charity than conservatives.

"The Last Word" host might have raised this issue to draw attention to a charity he's supporting (video follows with partial transcript and commentary):

LAWRENCE O’DONNELL, HOST: Time for tonight’s Rewrite. It all started with a column by Bill O’Reilly which included a reference to Jesus Christ’s attitude toward charity. Then Comedy Central’s theologian-in-chief Stephen Colbert got involved.

O’Donnell then played a clip from last Thursday’s “Colbert Report” in which the host went after O’Reilly for his comments concerning Christ and charity. After the clip, O’Donnell continued:

O’DONNELL: Of course, there was no chance of Colbert going unanswered on the “O’Reilly Factor” where Bill turned for theological guidance to, who else, Ann Coulter.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANN COULTER: No, the fundamental problem is liberals think sending a check to the IRS constitutes charity. That is not charity. Christians understand that which is why when you say Americans are the most generous people on earth --

(CROSSTALK)

BILL O'REILLY: Yes.

COULTER: No conservatives are.

O'REILLY: Well, Americans in total.

(CROSSTALK)

COULTER: As has been demonstrated time and time again. Liberals are the least charitable with their money. Conservatives and especially Christians the most charitable and you know Nancy Pelosi considers it charitable giving --

(CROSSTALK)

O'REILLY: All right, let me just define what you're saying --

COULTER: -- to contribute to the San Francisco ballet whereas Christians are actually giving to poor people.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O’DONNELL: Liberals are the least charitable with their money. Really, Ann? Consider the response of this program’s audience, which surely has some liberals in it, to my plea for donations to the K.I.N.D. Fund, Kids In Need of Desks. Last week I announced this unique partnership between MSNBC and UNICEF to raise money for desks for school children in Africa who now sit on dirt floors or cement floors. The desks we are supplying to these schools are made in Malawi. So the contributions to buy a desk also helps stimulate the Malawi economy, provide jobs for the workers who will make those desks and enable them to feed their families.

The response to my announcement as I reported last night has been more than we could have ever reasonably expected. As of last night, UNICEF had processed over $600,000 in contributions to the K.I.N.D. Fund, and in the last 24 hours, we’ve raised even more. So far, UNICEF has processed contributions in the amount of $727,991.

O’Donnell then discussed how the charity works, and where donors can go to contribute. He eventually came back to Coulter:

O’DONNELL: So Ann, I’m not going to fight with you about who is more charitable. I’m going to allow the astonishing kindness and generosity of my audience to serve as the response to your statement, “Liberals are the least charitable with their money.” And I beg you, Ann, to now show us just how charitable conservatives can be with their money. $48 a desk, $720 for a classroom. Come on, Ann, you can afford a classroom. And hey, if you can get Rush involved, he can buy desks for every kid in Malawi. And Ann, that e-mail that you just got from UNICEF, that’s not spam. I just bought you a desk for Christmas. Merry Christmas, Ann.

Quite possibly O'Donnell didn't want to fight about who is more charitable because he knows that studies have shown conservatives to be far more giving than liberals. He might even have been aware of the book Coulter referred to in Monday's "Factor" segment detailing the facts.

As Beliefnet.com reported in April 2008:

In his book, Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservativism (Basic Books, 2006), [Arthur] Brooks discovered that approximately equal percentages of liberals and conservatives give to private charitable causes. However, conservatives gave about 30 percent more money per year to private charitable causes, even though his study found liberal families earned an average of 6 percent more per year in income than did conservative families. This greater generosity among conservative families proved to be true in Brooks' research for every income group, "from poor to middle class to rich."

This "giving gap" also extended beyond money to time donated to charitable causes, as well. Brooks also discovered that in 2002, conservative Americans were much more likely to donate blood each year than liberals and to do so more often within a year. Brooks found "if liberals and moderates gave blood at the same rate as conservatives, the blood supply in the United States would jump by about 45 percent."

When Brooks compared his findings to IRS data on the percentage of household income given away, he found that "red" states in the 2004 election were more charitable than "blue" states. Brooks found that 24 of the 25 states that were above average in family charitable giving voted for Bush in 2004, and 17 of the 25 states below average in giving voted for Kerry. Brooks concluded, "The electoral map and the charity map are remarkably similar."

Indeed. As the Catalogue for Philanthropy consistently finds, red states regularly top the "generosity index" meaning that they give more as a percentage of income than blue states.

So maybe this was why O'Donnell didn't want to fight the issue, for he likely knew Coulter was right.

One would think he should also be smart enough to realize that all because this charity he's supporting has raised over $700,000 in the last 24 hours, that doesn't change the statistics concerning conservatives consistently contributing more than liberals.

Which probably makes this all a clever publicity stunt on O'Donnell's part to draw more attention to the K.I.N.D. Fund.

Got to give him credit - sure caught my eye. I'm even thinking of buying a few desks myself.

Merry Christmas, Lawrence.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.