Jayson Blair & Ann Coulter –
Separated at Birth --by Daniel Borchers
--by Daniel Borchers
In a shocking development of industry-shaking proportions, we have discovered that the Jayson Blair phenomenon crosses race, gender and even (horror of horror!) ideological lines.
Given “constitutional scholar” Ann Coulter’s hate-hate relationship with the Times, her criticism of the Jayson Blair fiasco was expected. Her obvious objectivity has ably qualified her to be the spokesman for Human Events regarding Blair and the Times.
Consider Coulter’s critique of Jayson Blair:
“The New York Times is to be commended for ferreting out Jayson Blair, the reporter recently discovered making up facts, plagiarizing other news organizations, and lying about nonexistent trips and interviews. … The Times not only expressly took race into account, but also put Blair’s race above everything—accuracy, credibility, and the paper’s reputation. … He screwed up over and over again and the paper had to print 50 corrections to articles he’d written. Despite all this, Blair was repeatedly published on the front page, promoted … What Raines did to Blair was cruel.” – “The Old Gray Liar” (5/19/03)
Coulter’s weekly screed against the New York Times did anything but “commend” them. However, Coulter did reach two significant conclusions about the Jayson Blair debacle. The first is that Blair was hired and promoted – despite his profound professional faults – simply because he is black. Coulter’s second conclusion is that the New York Times was “cruel” for enabling his dysfunctional behavior.
Can we then also conclude that Human Events hired and promoted Ann Coulter – despite her infamous professional failings – simply because she is blonde? Was Human Events also cruel for enabling her dysfunctional behavior? By the way, Coulter had her own brush with plagiarism with her first book, High Crimes and Misdemeanors. (My companion website at Coulter Watch provides documentation and substantive analysis of Coulter’s work.)
Emulating the New York Times
The New York Times should indeed be commended for issuing an immediate mea culpa, launching an internal investigation and publishing an extensive analysis of Blair’s work. This should be a first step. The Times should also examine its employment and management practices, internal communications procedures, and editorial and oversight protocols.
At least the Times is moving in the right direction. Human Events hasn’t even begun the process. Once regarded by Ronald Reagan as required reading, Human Events has its own Jayson Blair working under the nom de plume of Ann Coulter.
Human Events gives legitimacy to Coulter’s extremist rhetoric and their silence over her factual errors makes them as complicit as the New York Times management was with Blair. When was the last time Human Events issued a correction for even one of Coulter’s errors? Where is their oversight, their regard for the truth, their journalistic integrity?
This cursory examination of Ann Coulter’s commentary within the pages of Human Events should have been performed by the editors of Human Events themselves.
[For the record, Human Events regards Coulter as a journalist, not a polemicist or satirist. Her official title is “Legal Affairs Correspondent.” At one time it was “Legal Editor.” Coulter has even described herself as an “investigative journalist.”]
Example 1. “This is War” (9/17/01).
“We don’t need long investigations of the forensic evidence to determine with scientific accuracy the person or persons who ordered this specific attack. … We know who the homicidal maniacs are. They are the ones cheering and dancing right now.”
Coulter’s syndicated version concluded with: “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren't punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That's war. And this is war.”
Human Events excised that last paragraph from their version. Comparing Human Events columns with their syndicated counterparts can be like solving a puzzle – what was changed, and why? Beyond that, seeing what survived the cut is even more instructive.
Though Human Events cut out Coulter’s call for the indiscriminate bombing of innocent civilians, they retained both her definition of the terrorists as the ones who are cheering and dancing (incorrect) and her assertion that we don’t need to be careful in getting the right people who actually were involved in this attack. Anyone will do.
Example 2. “Where’s Janet Reno When We Need Her?” (9/24/01).
“Every flight should carry at least two undercover agents capable of discharging hollow-point bullets, poison darts and electric shocks.”
This fact-checking failure is certain to kill civilians if her advice is followed. One shot = one plane down.
Example 3. “Where’s Janet Reno When We Need Her?” (9/24/01).
“We should require passports to fly domestically.”
Example 4. “Future Widows of America: Write Your U.S. Congressman” (10/1/01).
“Not all Muslims may be terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims—at least all terrorists capable of assembling a murderous plot against America that leaves 7,000 people dead in under two hours.”
“all terrorists are Muslims?” Only Muslim terrorists could have succeeded in wreaking the havoc of 9/11? It boggles the mind. Yet, that one sentence has been repeated endlessly – with praise – on the Internet.
Example 5. “Future Widows of America: Write Your U.S. Congressman” (10/1/01).
“All we can do is politely ask aliens from suspect nations to leave—with the full expectation of readmittance—while we sort the peace-loving immigrants from the murderous fanatics. … Muslim immigrants who agree to spy on the hundreds of thousands of Muslim citizens unaffected by the deportation order can stay … This is brutally unfair to the Muslim immigrants who do not want to kill us. But it’s not our fault.”
“Politely ask?” – as if any expulsion would be voluntary!
Coulter’s guilty until proven innocent scenario, if implemented, would have necessitated the expulsion of millions of legal residents based on race and religion. (In a phrase, ethnic and religious cleansing.)
The suggestion of the government using neighborhood spies is reminiscent of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. Moreover, it would not work, since deep cover terrorists could just become government informants to avoid deportation.
And, yes, it would indeed be “brutally unfair,” but why should a “constitutional scholar” worry about the innocent?
Example 6. “The Mind of a Liberal” (11/26/01).
“Even the left has given up on defending Bill Clinton’s blather. Most of the media, including the New York Times and the Washington Post, responded to Clinton’s latest cry for help by refusing to report on the Georgetown speech. Everyone wishes he’d just go away and stop sending himself botulism out of anthrax envy.”
Please tell me, what does that last sentence mean?
Example 7. “Women We’d Like to See in Burkas” (12/10/01).
“Many selfless acts of women’s heroism were detailed. One female hero ‘helped evacuate an apartment building,’ for example. Yet another had ‘rushed to the scene on her day off.’ At that point, the catalogue of female heroics on September 11 began to trail off markedly. While such cool-headed thinking is not to be dismissed, I personally examined the photographs of every single fireman killed in the World Trade Center and there wasn’t a woman among them.”
Coulter seems to see some feminist/liberal conspiracy in daring to report news – namely the heroines of 9/11. Besides, even if Coulter couldn’t find a female firefighter who died on 9/11, that doesn’t mean they weren’t involved in rescue efforts. In fact, Coulter overlooks the extent of both female causalities and female heroism on that infamous day.
Example 8. “If the Profile Fits … ” (1/14/02).
“When there is a 100 percent chance, it ceases to be a profile. It's called a ‘description of the suspect.’ This is not a psychological judgment about an ethnic group – it is an all-points bulletin: Warning! The next terrorist to board a commercial flight will be an Arab or Muslim male.”
Racial profiling for religious extremism? This is sheer nonsense (literally and logically), yet that very formula has formed the basis for scores of Coulter columns and speeches. Coulter continues to make this “100 percent” claim even though racial profiling would not have caught John Walker Lindh, Richard Reid, Jose Padilla, the Buffalo Six, the Portland Six, Muhammad and Malvo, to name a few.
Example 9. “Murdering the Bell Curve” (7/1/02).
“As noted in the excellent new book Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right, liberals acknowledge the concept of IQ only when attacking Republican presidential candidates or trying to spring a criminal from death row.”
Coulter, praising her own book, in her own column, without even mentioning she is the author?
Example 10. “Al Bore and the Terror War” (9/30/02).
“They hate us? We hate them. Americans don’t want to make Islamic fanatics love us. We want to make them die. There’s nothing like horrendous physical pain to quell angry fanatics. So sorry they’re angry—wait until they see American anger. Japanese kamikaze pilots hated us once too. A couple of well-aimed nuclear weapons, and now they are gentle little lambs. That got their attention.”
This entire paragraph is horrendous on any number of counts.
In this column Coulter is referring to not just the terrorists – but the world – hating us. But Coulter doesn’t care who hates us or whom we hate. Her hatred is as indiscriminate as her proposed retaliation for terrorism. Besides, when did hatred become a Christian and an American value? The reference to Hiroshima and Nagasaki is sheer psychosis.
Example 11. “Al Bore and the Terror War” (9/30/02).
“The ‘empire’ argument is wildly popular among the anti-American set.”
Throughout her commentary, Coulter claims that people opposed to war with Iraq must be liberals who hate America. Pat Buchanan, paleocons and libertarians alike assert the “empire” argument in their opposition to this war. But only “America-hating liberals” are in Coulter’s tunnel vision sights.
Example 12. “Al Bore and the Terror War” (9/30/02).
“Instead of obsessing over why angry primitives hate Americans, a more fruitful area for Democrats to examine might be why Americans are beginning to hate Democrats.”
Are Americans, in fact, “beginning to hate Democrats?” Where are the citations, the polls, the surveys? Or is this wishful thinking on Coulter’s part? Or merely reflective of her own hatred?
Example 13. “DNA Evidence Exonerates Hitler” (10/28/02).
“The anti-death penalty lobby never sleeps. Unable to convince the public that savage murderers should be given radio shows rather than lethal injections, anti-death penalty zealots have turned to lying about proof of guilt. With convicted felons constantly being ‘proved innocent,’ the public finally began to sour on the death penalty. The phony DNA ‘exoneration’ project was the first attack on the death penalty that ever worked.”
In her columns, Coulter continually dismisses the validity of DNA evidence (always “phony”), treating it as a liberal trick designed to get guilty men out of jail.
Example 14. “War-Torn Democrats” (2/3/03).
“Democrats adore threats to the United States. Bush got a raucous standing ovation at his State of the Union address when he announced that ‘this year, for the first time, we are beginning to field a defense to protect this nation against ballistic missiles.’ The excitement was noticeably muted on the Democrats' side of the aisle. The vast majority of Democrats remained firmly in their seats, sullen at the thought that America would be protected from incoming ballistic missiles. To paraphrase George Bush: If this is not treason, then treason has no meaning.”
Do Democrats really “adore threats to the United States?”
Conservatives rightly railed against campus speech codes which punished “inappropriate laughter.” Here treason is defined as failure to applaud. Political differences, differing perspectives on how to best defend America, these now constitute treason. The very notion of treason becomes meaningless through Ann Coulter’s cavalier treatment of that term which has a precise constitutional definition ignored by Coulter.
Example 15. “Liberals Meet Unexpected Resistance” (5/5/03).
“They said chemical weapons would be used against our troops. That didn’t happen. They predicted huge civilian casualties. That didn’t happen. They said Americans would turn against the war as our troops came home in body bags. That didn’t happen. They warned of a mammoth terrorist attack in America if we invaded Iraq. That didn’t happen. Just two weeks ago, they claimed American troops were caught in another Vietnam quagmire. That didn’t happen.”
Jayson Blair put specific words into the mouths of specific individuals, while Coulter ascribes certain words, thoughts or emotions to the entirety of liberals – despite the wide diversity of opinion on both the Left and the Right regarding the war.
“They said … They predicted … They said … They warned … They claimed …”
Some liberals and some conservatives alike said that chemical weapons could be used against our troops, that there could be huge civilian casualties, that there could be “a mammoth terrorist attack in America” (which seems quite likely as of this writing), that we might become “caught in another Vietnam quagmire.”
Coulter reflexively uses gross generalizations and sweeping stereotypes to demonize her foes. This technique removes the need for citations and precludes Blair’s problem of people actually saying, “I never said that!”
A Call to Journalistic Integrity
This sampling of Coulter’s legal analysis demonstrates Coulter’s erroneous definition of treason (and other legal terms), Coulter’s flawed logic and rejection of the obvious, the dangers of groupthink (stereotyping), and the triumph of Orwellian rhetoric in Coulter’s work.
I asked Human Events editor, Terence Jeffrey, about Coulter’s commentary. Jeffrey’s sole defense of Coulter’s work was to say, “I like Ann Coulter.” Pitiful, huh?
The question remains: Will Human Events emulate the New York Times in getting its own house in order or has Ann Coulter become too powerful to buck?