Friday Night Fights: Ann Coulter Takes on Norah O’Donnell

It wasn’t the barnburner it could have been, but there was a wonderful mini-flyweight boxing match Friday night on MSNBC’s “Hardball.” In the left corner, weighing 105 pounds, Norah O’Donnell. In the right corner, weighing 100 pounds, Ann Coulter (video to follow).

The crowd got a sense before the opening bell that O’Donnell was ready for a donnybrook when prior to Coulter even stepping foot out of her dressing room, O’Donnell referred to her opponent as a “conservative provocateur.” The first actual fisticuffs though came early in round one with O’Donnell jabbing at Coulter over the recent hostilities in Israel and Lebanon being the fault of the Bush administration:

The last time Condi Rice was in the region was in November. President Bush today spoke on the phone with Arab leaders, but not the Israeli prime minister. Is this administration doing enough?

Coulter parried: “They took two Israeli soldiers and you have peace through strength, generally the liberal idea is to be nice to your enemies, punish your friends. No, I think you should punish your enemies and be nice to your friends.”

O’Donnell responded with a nice right-left combination: “And even Dennis Ross, who I know you know, says that disengagement by this administration is in part the reason that`s brought us to this. Has the U.S. ignored, and this president ignored the problems festering for a while there?”

Coulter took these punches without flinching:

It`s not like they were gentle little lambs before Bush went into Iraq. It`s not like we needed to -- everything was peaceful, and don`t upset that apple cart. This has been a problem for a long time, and we do support Israel.

End of round one, with one official giving it to O’Donnell, while the referee and the second official scored it in favor of Coulter.

In round two, as if she knew she had not performed well in the opener, O’Donnell came out swinging:

The Democrats have a new Web video in which Republicans say they are outraged by, this new Democratic ad on the Internet, which they were using for a fundraiser. They have since taken that fundraising out. It shows flag-draped coffins of the U.S. The Democrats say this is legitimate, to show that men and women are coming home in this way. What`s wrong with that?

Coulter responded with a strong upper-cut to the jaw:

I think it`s about one step above what the terrorists do, showing the bodies hanging when they`re dead. I mean, there`s no reason to be exploiting the deaths like this. If they want to run the numbers, that`s fine, but I think there`s a lot more to say about this ad. I mean, that I think is somewhat serious on the more comical areas. You know, they keep talking about a new direction and then all we see is pictures of Bill Clinton.

O’Donnell seemed shaken by this combination, but quickly countered: “Well the president used, in fact, a flag-draped coffin and we have video of that in the 2004 campaign, which was right after the 9/11 attack, so that is equally as egregious.”

Coulter now looked a bit rattled, and wildly missed her target with a couple of flailing hooks: “I haven`t seen it, so I can`t really comment, but I`ve seen the Democrat ad and I don`t like it.”

Round two ended with O’Donnell appearing to have evened things, with both officials giving it to her, and the ref calling it a draw. Feeling this change of momentum, O’Donnell again came out swinging in round three: “Are the Republicans headed for complete disaster in November?”

Coulter seemed unable to counter this attack: “This should be the Democrats big year."

However, O’Donnell misjudged the strength of her attack, and poorly ended the round with a clearly false conclusion: “All right, you heard it here first, Ann Coulter predicting the Democrats are going to retake Congress.”

Although it didn’t come until several rounds later – with rounds four and five being somewhat even – Coulter couldn’t let this mistake by her opponent go without retaliation. In round six, Coulter moved in for the kill:

Oh, and by the way, if I could just mention on the prediction thing -- and this is relevant to my answer here. I did not technically make a prediction, Norah. I don`t make predictions about how people will vote, because you never get credit when you`re right and they always remember when you`re wrong. I`m just saying in the grand sweep of history, this ought to be the Democrats here, but I`m not like Michael Barone. I haven`t gone to each district, I don`t know how the elections are going.

That clearly hurt O’Donnell, with the knockout blow coming moments later when O’Donnell jabbed Coulter over the now notorious part of her “Godless” book concerning the Jersey Girls. Here is the decisive and exciting exchange between the fighters:

O`DONNELL: But Ann, you admit that it was cruel, and you don`t want to be cruel.

COULTER: No, I don`t. No, I don`t at all. I don`t think it`s at all cruel. I think it`s cruel to be...

O`DONNELL: ... Do you ever admit you`re wrong?

COULTER: Yes, when I`m wrong, I admit I`m wrong. I think it`s cruel to be foisting a 9/11 commission on the nation, making terrorist attacks more likely by turning into a Clinton whitewash committee.

I think it`s cruel to be endorsing John Kerry for president in the middle of a war on terrorism, the guy who voted for funding for troops before voting against it. I think it`s cruel to be going around claiming the president of the United States is responsible for these women`s husbands` death. I think that`s cruel because that`s going to put a lot of other women at risk for becoming widows and there`s a lot of 9/11 widows out there, Norah, and I`m hearing from a lot of them who don`t think I was harsh enough.

The winner, and still champion…Ann Coulter. What follows is a full transcript of this exchange, along with a video link courtesy of Crooks and Liars.

O`DONNELL: Welcome back to HARDBALL. I`m Norah O`Donnell in for Chris Matthews.

The Middle East violence is sparking an international debate over whether Israel is taking appropriate action. President Bush is standing firm in his support for Israel`s right to defend herself. Ann Coulter is a best-selling author and conservative commentator. Her newest book is called "Godless: the Church of Liberalism." Welcome, Ann.

ANN COULTER, AUTHOR: Great to be here, Norah.

O`DONNELL: And let me begin by asking you about what`s going on in Israel and Lebanon tonight. Major U.S. allies are saying that Israel may have gone too far. The last time Condi Rice was in the region was in November. President Bush today spoke on the phone with Arab leaders, but not the Israeli prime minister. Is this administration doing enough?

COULTER: I think so, though I do want to say before you ask me any technical, in-depth questions, when I`m on book tour, I`m a little behind on catching up on the news beyond the headlines. But yes, I mean, this is very Reaganesque, what Israel is doing. I completely support it. They took two Israeli soldiers and you have peace through strength, generally the liberal idea is to be nice to your enemies, punish your friends. No, I think you should punish your enemies and be nice to your friends.

O`DONNELL: Peace through strength, but as you know the Europeans are saying that Israel perhaps has gone too far. Senator John Warner, the Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee is concerned, talking to -- sending a letter to the president of the United States, asking, urging restraint. And even Dennis Ross, who I know you know, says that disengagement by this administration is in part the reason that`s brought us to this. Has the U.S. ignored, and this president ignored the problems festering for a while there?

COULTER: It`s been festering long before Bush came in, and in fact, there was something said in the last segment about whether the war in Iraq has emboldened Hamas and Hezbollah and I think it would be difficult to make that case.

It`s not like they were gentle little lambs before Bush went into Iraq. It`s not like we needed to -- everything was peaceful, and don`t upset that apple cart. This has been a problem for a long time, and we do support Israel.

O`DONNELL: But you acknowledge that Iran and Syria are clearly taking advantage of what`s going on in Iraq, and decided to act with Hezbollah and Hamas in order to kidnap soldiers and provoke Israel if you will.

COULTER: I don`t know. Like I say, there was a lot going on long before the war in Iraq. This has not been a day at the beach. I don`t see this as some shocking new development that Syria and Lebanon and Hezbollah and Hamas oppose Israel. That`s been true pretty much since Israel has been there and the way Israel has survived until now is by fighting back.

O`DONNELL: You talk about the war in Iraq. Polls show that it`s going to be the No. 1 issue for voters in the November midterm elections. The Democrats have a new Web video in which Republicans say they are outraged by, this new Democratic ad on the Internet, which they were using for a fund raiser. They have since taken that fund raising out.

It shows flag-draped coffins of the U.S. The Democrats say this is legitimate, to show that men and women are coming home in this way. What`s wrong with that?

COULTER: I think it`s about one step above what the terrorists do, showing the bodies hanging when they`re dead. I mean, there`s no reason to be exploiting the deaths like this. If they want to run the numbers, that`s fine, but I think there`s a lot more to say about this ad. I mean, that I think is somewhat serious on the more comical areas. You know, they keep talking about a new direction and then all we see is pictures of Bill Clinton.

And also, if they`re going to be the party of integrity, I don`t think mocking up fake photos of mugshots of Tom DeLay is the way to persuade people of that. And those are famously fake photos, because you`ll remember he smiled for his mugshot, depriving the left of that, you know, grim, angry mugshot they were hoping for. And certainly on Air America, they were bitterly disappointed the next day.

O`DONNELL: But back to the issue of the Democratic ad and the flag- draped coffins, which I guess you just said compared them to what terrorists would do.

COULTER: I said it was about one step above.

O`DONNELL: One step above terrorists, but Republicans have done the same thing.

COULTER: Well I`m against it then. I don`t know in what context or what it was.

O`DONNELL: Well the president used, in fact, a flag-draped coffin and we have video of that in the 2004 campaign, which was right after the 9/11 attack, so that is equally as egregious.

COULTER: I haven`t seen it, so I can`t really comment, but I`ve seen the Democrat ad and I don`t like it.

O`DONNELL: Are the Republicans headed for complete disaster in November? We just had a new poll out today that shows essentially the same thing, that in the congressional mash up that Republicans are more than 10 points behind the Democrats and they may retake the House.

COULTER: Well they ought to be. This should be the Democrats big year. This should be their 1994 revolution. This is the sixth year in to the Bush administration. Reagan lost the Senate six years in. Also, Bush defeated historical odds during his midterm elections. Generally, the party in the White House loses seats in the midterm election. We picked up Republican seats in his first midterm election.

I don`t think lightning strikes twice so, yes, I think this is probably going to be a good year for Democrats. They ought to be picking up something like, you know, 50 seats in the Senate or in the House and 10 seats in the Senate. And we`ll see how the campaign goes to see -- I think the fact that Iraq is going to be a big issue may keep their numbers down.

O`DONNELL: All right, you heard it here first, Ann Coulter predicting the Democrats are going to retake Congress. All right, Ann, we`ll be right back in just a minute.

Later, the Israeli and Syrian ambassadors will be here to talk about the latest developments in the Middle East. You are watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VALERIE PLAME, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Joe and I have filed this action with heavy hearts, but with a renewed sense of purpose. I would much rather be continuing my career as a public servant than be a plaintiff in a lawsuit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was former CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson today talking about the lawsuit she and husband Joe Wilson filed against Vice President Cheney, Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, and other Bush administration officials.

And we are back with best-selling author Ann Coulter. Ann, let me get you to respond to the new lawsuit by the Wilson.

COULTER: I think this is going to end up being like the Alger Hiss lawsuit against Whittaker Chambers, that is to say not well for Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson. As I described in my book, by the way, in a section that my friends who read the book before it came out thought would get a lot more attention than certainly the Jersey Girls section, it turns out ...

Am I supposed to be hearing that?

O`DONNELL: Oh, I don`t know. Ann, I can hear you. Go ahead.

COULTER: Sorry, I thought you were doing a clip all of a sudden of Joe Wilson talking. And that`s when Patrick Fitzgerald, the independent counsel, made his announcement of the one indictment. It was not for the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. In fact, he went out of his way -- it was a perjury charge against Scooter Libby.

O`DONNELL: Scooter Libby.

COULTER: He went out of his way to avoid using the word covert and moreover what he said about Valerie Plame`s employment being classified would only be relevant under a completely different law so he`s basically ...

O`DONNELL: Well, Ann, let me challenge you.

COULTER: ...indicated that she was not covert. The law certainly reads that she is not covert. Despite his announcement, his press conference, many in the media continue to describe her as covert, while this lawsuit is going to end that I think.

O`DONNELL: Well to be clear, here is exactly what Patrick Fitzgerald said. He said, quote, "In July 2003, the fact that Valerie Wilson was a CIA officer was classified, but it was not widely-known outside the intelligence community."

COULTER: Classified, right.

O`DONNELL: "Valerie Wilson`s friends, neighbors, college classmates had no idea that she had another life. The fact that she was a CIA officer was not well known for her protection or for the benefit of all of us. Valerie Wilson`s cover was blown in July 2003." He says it was classified, her cover was blown.

COULTER: That`s what I just said. He said it was classified, not covert.

O`DONNELL: What`s the difference?

COULTER: And he also went on to say -- because that would only be relevant as he also said in that press conference if he had ...

O`DONNELL: But, Ann, what`s the difference?

COULTER: One, it`s against the law to disclose the identity of a covert agent and as he said in that press conference, it is not against the law to disclose merely the fact that it`s classified. He said we don`t have an official secrets act. He was comparing it to Great Britain. We don`t have something like that.

O`DONNELL: But Patrick Fitzgerald says her cover was blown. She said today they made the decision that ...

COULTER: Right, he was hopping mad and the fact that this is a prosecutor who would indict a ham sandwich and didn`t indict anyone for revealing her name, really proves the point.

O`DONNELL: You helped Paula Jones in her sexual harassment suit about President Clinton, which led to some very nasty discovery, if you will, and embarrassing details for President Clinton. Could this be the same now for Vice President Cheney if, in fact, the district court judge allows this to go forward, this civil suit?

COULTER: No, has he been molesting someone in the Oval Office? No, I don`t see that at all. I think it`s going to be the reverse. Now we`re going to get an official court ruling, stating what I am now arguing to you, that Valerie Plame was not covert.

O`DONNELL: Let me ask you, Ann, about another controversial section if your book called "Godless," and that is about what you called the Jersey Girls, in which you accused the 9/11 widows of essentially enjoying their husbands` death. Do you regret that now?

COULTER: No. No.

O`DONNELL: And why not?

COULTER: No, you can -- we can get through this interview faster, I regret nothing I wrote in that book. I think it`s a fine book.

O`DONNELL: But you do acknowledge, Ann -- yes ...

COULTER: In fact, to the contrary. Oh, and by the way, if I could just mention on the prediction thing -- and this is relevant to my answer here. I did not technically make a prediction, Norah. I don`t make predictions about how people will vote, because you never get credit when you`re right and they always remember when you`re wrong.

I`m just saying in the grand sweep of history, this ought to be the Democrats here, but I`m not like Michael Barone. I haven`t gone to each district, I don`t know how the elections are going.

And I think this is something that`s going to hurt the Democrats, which my Jersey Girl section and the press they got on it and I think the reason Democrats are squealing so loudly about it, is that they have been deprived of this ability to send forth victims to make their cases for them. You know, send up somebody we can fight back with full bore.

O`DONNELL: Well Ann, some would argue that your soul mate, Bill O`Reilly on FOX...

COULTER: OK, now you`re just insulting me, Norah.

O`DONNELL: Oh, you don`t like Bill O`Reilly?

COULTER: I love Bill O`Reilly, but he`s been viciously attacking me.

O`DONNELL: He has. And you know, and we got those made up into full- screens for you. He said what you said about the 9/11 widows was brutal, to say something like that. He says it sounds awful and in order to say that to specific people, you`re going to have to prove it. That`s only Peter King, Coulter`s comments about the widows went beyond the pale of limits about decency.

COULTER: OK yes, yes, yes, I`ve heard it all. On O`Reilly, he`s just bitter because he kept saying, I end this issue, I did it, I did it first. Well OK, congratulations to you.

O`DONNELL: But Ann, you admit that it was cruel, and you don`t want to be cruel.

COULTER: No, I don`t. No, I don`t at all. I don`t think it`s at all cruel. I think it`s cruel to be...

O`DONNELL: ... Do you ever admit you`re wrong?

COULTER: Yes, when I`m wrong, I admit I`m wrong. I think it`s cruel to be foisting a 9/11 commission on the nation, making terrorist attacks more likely by turning into a Clinton whitewash committee.

I think it`s cruel to be endorsing John Kerry for president in the middle of a war on terrorism, the guy who voted for funding for troops before voting against it. I think it`s cruel to be going around claiming the president of the United States is responsible for these women`s husbands` death. I think that`s cruel because that`s going to put a lot of other women at risk for becoming widows and there`s a lot of 9/11 widows out there, Norah, and I`m hearing from a lot of them who don`t think I was harsh enough.

O`DONNELL: Ann and then finally, I have to ask you, because we did in fact dig up some old pictures of you, from 10 years ago.

COULTER: Excellent. I was on MSNBC the first day, so I just want to say MSNBC is responsible for unleashing me on America.

O`DONNELL: Well, MSNBC is 10 years old today. Anything you want to say?

COULTER: Happy anniversary.

O`DONNELL: You look good there, Ann. Your hair is a little bit shorter, a little bit blonder too.

COULTER: I got my best -- yes, I lived in Washington then.

O`DONNELL: All right, Ann, thanks very much, we appreciate it.

COULTER: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Take care.

Video Link

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