NYT Critic Whines that Leno Failed to Take Down 'Malevolent' Ann Coulter

June 16th, 2006 11:52 AM

TV critic Alessandra Stanley goes after host Jay Leno for not laying a glove on his Wednesday night guest Ann Coulter in Friday’s Arts review, “A Battle of Wits, And No Clear Win.”

It’s clear who the liberal Stanley is rooting for in this clash of TV talker vs. best-selling conservative titan, chastening both Leno and David Letterman for failing to verbally spank Coulter: “As his tut-tutting chat with the mean girl of the moment showed, Jay Leno is a terrible interviewer….Mr. Leno, who will be replaced by Conan O'Brien in 2009, can afford to slack off, but it is [rival TV talker David] Letterman who seems to be taking too many of his shows pass/fail. And it's a shame, because the host of CBS's ‘Late Show’ is the comedian intellectually and temperamentally most suited to taking on the conservative enfant terrible and giving her a much-deserved public swat.”

The insults fly:

“Mostly it was notable that at the height of the furor over Ms. Coulter's malevolent remarks about Sept. 11 widows (‘I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much.’) viewers had to turn to ‘The Tonight Show’ to see a professional comic try to match wits with her….Ms. Coulter strutted onto the stage in a slinky black cocktail dress and a bellicose mood: Rush Limbette. But Mr. Leno, who seemed embarrassed by the fuss, tried to reason with Ms. Coulter and appeal to her better nature, as if her success had anything to do with reason or conciliation….Stingers, not honey, are Ms. Coulter weapons of choice. She seems convinced that extremism in the defense of book sales is no vice. And she is a tough interview, a wily bruiser who wraps provocative hyperbole in injured self-righteousness.”

Stanley uses Coulter’s success in conservative circles as an argument that conservatives get a fair shake in the mainstream press in general (an odd argument considering the vitriol heaped on Coulter there).

“Ms. Coulter became a media star by portraying herself as a conservative gadfly tweaking the liberal hegemony, which is, of course, quite a revisionist feat. It may have been the case 30 years ago, but no conservative who came of age during the Reagan Revolution can credibly claim they are marginalized or unheard. When the J. K. Rowling of political invective decries what she describes as the ‘intolerance’ of the mainstream liberal media, it's a little like the Soviet Union complaining about oppression from Finland.”

For more examples of liberal bias in the New York Times, visit TimesWatch.