CNN’s ‘Reliable Sources’ Does Great Job Analyzing Ann Coulter Tumult

Howard Kurtz this morning invited National Review’s Jonah Goldberg, The New Republic’s Michelle Cottle, and Time’s Karen Tumulty on to discuss Ann Coulter’s new book, and her recent appearance on NBC’s “Today” show (hat tip to Ian Schwartz of Expose the Left with his video link to follow). The quartet actually did a spectacular job of dissecting this event that is well worth the eight-minute view.

Conceivably one of the most salient points made was that the mainstream media know full well what is going to happen when they invite Ann on their programs, or put her on the covers of their magazines, and that they are doing it to sell their wares like any other corporate entity. Here’s what Jonah Goldberg said of this:

I think the producers of ‘Today’ and the media (INAUDIBLE) at large when it comes to Ann Coulter are rank hypocrites and fairly idiotic in how they talk about this. On the one hand, they love to stroke their chins and tut, tut, say oh my God, what a terrible extremist and what a horrible person, look how terrible she is and at the same time they love giving her a megaphone. They love having her on. They love to create what Daniel Boorstin would have called a pseudo-event by having her on. They know what she's going to say. They know that she's going to be provocative and then they get to pretend to be shocked that she said it. If you don't like what she represents and you don't like what she says and you want to lament her influence or popularity in the culture, why keep giving her the megaphone? There are other people who can make those arguments.”

Tumulty also made a fabulous point that in today’s caustic political environment, people have to say or write more and more inflammatory and bizarre things to bring attention to themselves and their books: “I think she also very shrewdly recognizes that the level of discourse now has become so loud and so angry that you have to go that much further over the top than you did the last time to get anybody to listen to you.”

Cottle took this a step further saying that someone like Coulter, who has become a somewhat controversial figure, even has to make more noise than others to be heard:

“She has set the bar so high for getting attention for herself that she has to say something that everyone else has to be horrified by. And if you're Bill O'Reilly or someone along those lines, if you don't come out and say oh my gosh, what's going on, then you run the risk of having your entire movement viewed through this prism of this woman who will say what everyone in their most horrible moment would never whisper aloud.”

What follows is a partial transcript of this segment, along with a video link. 

KURTZ: O'Reilly and Olbermann actually agreeing for once. Joining us now to talk about all this, Michelle Cottle, senior editor at "The New Republic," Jonah Goldberg, editor-at-large with nationalreviewonline and Karen Tumulty, national political correspondent for "Time" magazine. Karen Tumulty, why does "The Today Show" put Coulter on and give hear a forum for trashing the 9/11 widows?

KAREN TUMULTY, TIME MAGAZINE: I think it's as much a phenomenon as anything else. I don't think that people take these kinds of arguments seriously in terms of, you know, something that is a true discussion of issues.

KURTZ: So it's entertainment?

TUMULTY: Yeah, exactly. And, you know, it's selling her book for her.

KURTZ: Jonah Goldberg, by setting up this confrontation with Matt Lauer because obviously he's going to really press her on some of this inflammatory rhetoric is "Today" benefiting from the harsh kind of language that she uses?

JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW: Oh, absolutely. I think the producers of "Today" and the media (INAUDIBLE) at large when it comes to Ann Coulter are rank hypocrites and fairly idiotic in how they talk about this. On the one hand, they love to stroke their chins and tut, tut, say oh my God, what a terrible extremist and what a horrible person, look how terrible she is and at the same time they love giving her a megaphone. They love having her on. They love to create what Daniel Borstein would have called pseudo event by having her on. They know what she's going to say. They know that she's going to be provocative and then they get to pretend to be shocked that she said it. If you don't like what she represents and you don't like what she says and you want to lament her influence or popularity in the culture, why keep giving her the megaphone? There are other people who can make those arguments.

KURTZ: And lots of people Michelle Cottle, provided that megaphone this week. We had Neil Cavuto and Tucker Carlson's show on MSNBC, Lou Dobbs on CNN. Is this like pro wrestling? She comes on so the host can either praise or denounce her and sell more tickets and she sells more books.

MICHELLE COTTLE, THE NEW REPUBLIC: She gets to be the bad guy in pro-wrestling. Everybody loves the villain in pro wrestling. So you know, you bring her out there. She says all these terrible things and Jonah's right, the host gets to look like he's the responsible one responding to this woman who's made an entire career out of being transgressive (ph).

GOLDBERG: There's one other point that's worth making. Ann has a point when she says that because of the victimology and identity politics and especially the mainstream press is so immersed in, that we create these spokespeople who do have an air of infallibility. We pick black people who get to say things that only black people are allowed to say, victims (INAUDIBLE)...

KURTZ: Cindy Sheehan.

GOLDBERG: Cindy Sheehan, all across the board.

KURTZ: You're saying we create them, in other words because of the megaphone quality of the media by giving a lot of attention to women whose husbands died in 9/11?

GOLDBERG: Partly that and partly just because of the sort of ideological precepts of the mainstream media which says that there's a sort of, this sort of identity politics notion that certain people have the right to say things and other people don't. And --

KURTZ: So she has a point. Doesn't she totally step on her point by talking about witches and harpies and enjoying their husband's death?

GOLDBERG: And I think that she performs a great disservice to her own cause, because what she does is, she turns out to be this Medusa's head that the liberal media gets to pull up, scare everybody and discredit what I think is in many ways a perfectly valid point that she has to make. Call it, saying that the wives are enjoying their husband's deaths is grotesque and she (ph) say it, but what better person to have the liberals, to have for liberals to have -- make those kinds of arguments.

TUMULTY: I think she also very shrewdly recognizes that the level of discourse now has become so loud and so angry that you have to go that much further over the top than you did the last time to get anybody to listen to you.

KURTZ: ... screaming to be heard. But of course, in terms of attention, it's not just television. "Time" magazine did a long cover story on Ann Coulter last year, got a lot of flack for that.

TUMULTY: We got thousands and thousands and thousands of letters. Mostly in protest over that cover story and guess what? The cover that's gotten the most letters since then was the one we did on the Dixie Chicks.

KURTZ: Why do you think that -- why give Ann Coulter that kind of prominence, a cover story usually reserved for, let's say more important people.

TUMULTY: Well, again --

COTTLE: It sells.

TUMULTY: And she's, you know, she's a phenomenon. I mean we do cover stories on all sorts of phenomenons and like I said, most recently on the Dixie Chicks, same kind of reaction.

KURTZ: Are you struck by the fact that a number of prominent conservatives this time have turned to Ann Coulter and said that she went too far and that her remarks were despicable.

COTTLE: I'm not sure that you need to be struck by it. She has set the bar so high for getting attention for herself that she has to say something that everyone else has to be horrified by. And if you're Bill O'Reilly or someone along those lines, if you don't come out and say oh my gosh, what's going on, then you run the risk of having your entire movement viewed through this prism of this woman who will say what everyone in their most horrible moment would never whisper aloud.

KURTZ: Or she becomes viewed, if people don't protest, is like a typical conservative commentator.

COTTLE: Absolutely.

KURTZ: Most conservative commentators who might agree with the point that you raised, the substantive point, would never go there. Now after 9/11, Jonah Goldberg, the "National Review" dropped Coulter's syndicated column, as you well remember. She has written and I'll quote it here, we should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity, referring to Muslims, of course. She accused you in the magazine of censoring her and then she told me when I asked her about it that you and the other editors there were just girly boys.

GOLDBERG: In other words, I'm well aware of her shtick and how she goes for attention and how she's very successful at it. It's a great little cottage industry she's created about herself for herself.

KURTZ: Was this censorship by the "National Review?

GOLDBERG: I know Ann purports to be a great constitutional scholar, but what she calls censorship was actually editors trying to work with her and her being unwilling or unable to work with editors because instead what she wanted to do was go out and be bop and scat all over her friends to make a buck on shows like "Politically Incorrect".

COTTLE: I think the best description of Ann I've seen is really the blogger Andrew Sullivan, had up on his Web site this week, she's a drag queen impersonating a fascist which I think gets to the heart of -- you can't even think she believes half of this stuff she's talking about.

TUMULTY: You do have to wonder if her accusing somebody of being a millionaire, a harpie and a witch is actually a compliment.

VIDEO LINK

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