Ann Coulter Leaves the Boxing Gloves At Home
On this morning's Today show, viewers were coyly teased of an Ann Coulter versus Michael Eric Dyson debate on race in the 9:30am half-hour. NBC's Natalie Morales tantalized viewers of the upcoming fight with sure to be expected fireworks: "Michael Eric Dyson and conservative commentator Ann Coulter are gonna square off right here. Should be a very good debate." However viewers and perhaps even Today's producers, had to be disappointed as Dyson and Coulter were surprisingly chummy. Morales even remarked: "You're being very civil this morning."
Not surprisingly, Morales did engage in the old habit of one-sided labeling, as she called Coulter a "conservative commentator," but refused to note Dyson's liberal leanings, as he was referred to as merely a "civil rights activist." Morales also called the liberal Dyson's book, Debating Race, "fascinating" and "great," but didn't apply the same superlative adjectives to the conservative Coulter's book, Godless.
The following is the entire transcript of the segment as it occurred on the February 8th Today show.
Natalie Morales: "Race is still a contentious issue in America and civil rights activist Michael Eric Dyson has spent a lot of time arguing about it. Well now in his new book, Debating Race, Michael has used his various public appearances to take a wide-ranging look at racial issues in America. Conservative commentator Ann Coulter is the author of Godless. She's also here with her point of view. Michael and Ann, good morning. Get ready to get deep into debate here, right?"
Michael Eric Dyson: "Alright."
Morales: "Let's talk first about what's been in the news this week. Senator Biden making those comments about Senator Barack Obama. Two Democratic presidential hopefuls and here's what Biden said. 'The first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice looking guy.' Comments he made about Obama, which he then later apologized profusely for. He's been on all the talk shows saying it's not what he meant to say. So what do you think, Michael, he may have meant to say?"
Dyson: "I think he was trying to compliment the Senator Obama."
Morales: "Compliment him?"
Dyson: "Yeah, yeah. But, but unintentionally put his foot in his mouth because 'articulate' is one of those code words, racially speaking that suggests that he's not an extension of but an exception to a tradition. I've know a lot of clean, black, sharp, intelligent people. I grew up with them in my household, I've seen them since."
Morales: "Many of them have run for President."
Dyson: "Yes exactly. Jesse Jackson-"
Morales: "Jesse Jackson."
Dyson: "-one of the most articulate people on the globe, so is Al Sharpton. So I think it means if you agree with me-"
Morales: "Carol Moseley Braun."
Dyson: "Exactly, Senator Carol Moseley Braun. 'If you agree with me it's good but if you don't maybe I have a certain ideological lens through which I view it.' But I think Mr. Biden just didn't understand that, that kind of racial discourse has to be put in the proper context."
Morales: "Ann and I know that, I mean, I imagine a lot of damage has been done to Biden's campaign by this but is he, at this point, so, is it so far gone?"
Coulter: "I kind of think so. I mean I hate when, when people have to be worried about making a, just a slip of a tongue but I also totally understand this one. I've known about-"
Morales: "Are, are people making too much of it though? I mean, you know did he, did he apologize enough?"
Coulter: "No, I mean I think it's, yeah sure, sure. I mean I don't think he's a racist, I don't think Trent Lott is a racist. There are slips of tongue but I totally understand the 'articulate' black thing. I've always said this is why I don't like the phrase 'compassionate conservative.' You know, screw you, we think conservatism is compassionate. Unless you're saying most blacks aren't 'articulate' or 'clean.'"
Dyson: "Right, right and I did put my underarm deodorant on today."
Morales: "Well glad to know that but is, is Senator Obama electable? I mean do you both think that he can be the first American black president?"
Dyson: "Sure I think he's highly intelligent. He's extremely elegant. He is articulate in all kinds of ways."
Coulter: "And clean."
Dyson: "He's very clean, he washes up daily but also I think he brings a sense of the ability to identify with people beyond his tribe, his tradition or his own particular perspective and I think, in that sense, but at the same time being able to embrace African-American people. Black people are not gonna vote for Senator Obama just because he's black. They don't believe in pigment politics but they will give him an extraordinary embrace because he seems to resonate with them and with many people beyond their own tradition."
Morales: "Yeah I mean given Senator Hillary Clinton's popularity with blacks though, is he necessarily a shoo-in, Ann, with the black vote?"
Coulter: "No, no."
Coulter: "I mean I've, I've asked Michael about this. Political scientists will study for the next 100 years why blacks love the Clintons so much, but they do."
Dyson: "Very much."
Coulter: "And right now Hillary has the black vote and I, I gotta say I mean, I, yeah, I don't think race would hurt Obama but I think the first black president should be an American black and a Republican."
Morales: "A Republican? Michael, I'm thinking you probably don't agree with that?"
Dyson: "No I don't think that's the case but no, no but I think that Ann's point is right. That Hillary Clinton has an enormous reservoir of good passion and sentiment among African-American people. There's a fellow, there's a fellow feeling with the Clintons. You know when you look at the funeral of Corretta Scott King, our President Bush was there, kind of stiff and not in his element. Bill Clinton walks in like, like 'I'm running the church, I'm the pastor.' So, and black people respond to that but I think Hillary Clinton has an awful lot of black support that Mr. Obama will have to really work to win."
Morales: "Let's move on to another issue because some state legislators, legislatures are now passing resolutions apologizing for slavery. In fact in Virginia they just passed a resolution expressing 'profound regret.' However a state delegate, Frank Hargrove questioned the need for these resolutions and even went as far as saying that blacks should just, quote, 'get over it.' Whaddaya make of this?"
Dyson: "Well it's unfortunate, again. I think that obviously an apology without consequential action is nothing, but you must apologize. If you do something wrong for a person you must say you're sorry. And to say, 'Get over slavery,' well, get over cancer, get over, you know the disease you have. Get over the Holocaust. I don't think so. I think we have to work through them and this is part of the sentiment and passion that black people are so disgusted with. We have, must talk about things. We can disagree. Ann and I disagree about a lot of issues but we can be civil and humane to one another and acknowledge our humanity."
Morales: "Actually you're being very civil this morning."
Coulter: "He's the only liberal I can stand talking to. If I could say about this. I mean what's wrong about what Hargrove's, it just hit me when you were saying it. I promise you this resolution was not introduced by a black person. This is white people engaging in a completely meaningless gesture."
Dyson: "I think it was a black guy who did it."
Coulter: "You know stand up to slavery when, when slavery is on the table. Stand up against abortion because that's what we're fighting now. Stand up against illegal immigration because that's what we're fighting now. To be coming along 150 years later when everyone opposes, ahh, I just can't stand meaningless gestures like that."
Dyson: "Well but we can link, we can link slavery to-"
Morales: "Meaningless but in a way is it still necessary?"
Dyson: "Oh it's quite necessary. I think, look we live in the United States of Amnesia. Barbra Streisand has the theme song: 'What's too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget.' Let's pretend it didn't exist. No let's deal it, with on the table. Let's put it out there and let's engage it. Slavery-"
Morales: "Well we're still dealing with so much race issues in this country."
Dyson: "Racial profiling, the way in which Michael Richards, hello? I mean that was the racial Holy Ghost coming into him and he starts-"
Morales: "Racial Holy Ghost-"
Dyson: "'I don't know where it came from but it just jumped out of me.' 'Fork, black people, lynching!' Yeah we got a long way to go."
Morales: "Well the book is fascinating."
Coulter: "On the slavery point if I could just say I agree with you that slavery is something special and different but you and I, you want that little Rainbow Coalition thing going. No I say blacks are special. You came here as slaves you get special treatment. Not illegal immigrants, not gays, not women."
Morales: "Let's keep this debate going during the commercial because we're running out of time."
Morales: "Michael Eric Dyson, it's a great book."
Dyson: "Thank you."
Morales: "It's really, really a fascinating read called Debating Race. And we'll be back right after this. Ann Coulter, thanks."