Politics & Policy

L’Affaire Coulter

Goodbye to all that.

Dear Readers,

As many of you may have heard, we’ve dropped Ann Coulter’s column from NRO. This has sparked varying amounts of protest, support, and, most of all, curiosity from our readers. We owe you an explanation.

#ad#Of course, we would explain our decision to Ann, but the reality is that she’s called the shots from the get-go. It was Ann who decided to sever her ties with National Review — not the other way around.

This is what happened.

In the wake of her invade-and-Christianize-them column, Coulter wrote a long, rambling rant of a response to her critics that was barely coherent. She’s a smart and funny person, but this was Ann at her worst — emoting rather than thinking, and badly needing editing and some self-censorship, or what is commonly referred to as “judgment.”

Running this “piece” would have been an embarrassment to Ann, and to NRO. Rich Lowry pointed this out to her in an e-mail (I was returning from my honeymoon). She wrote back an angry response, defending herself from the charge that she hates Muslims and wants to convert them at gunpoint.

But this was not the point. It was NEVER the point. The problem with Ann’s first column was its sloppiness of expression and thought. Ann didn’t fail as a person — as all her critics on the Left say — she failed as WRITER, which for us is almost as bad.

Rich wrote her another e-mail, engaging her on this point, and asking her — in more diplomatic terms — to approach the whole controversy not as a PR-hungry, free-swinging pundit on Geraldo, but as a careful writer.

No response.

Instead, she apparently proceeded to run around town bad-mouthing NR and its employees. Then she showed up on TV and, in an attempt to ingratiate herself with fellow martyr Bill Maher, said we were “censoring” her.

By this point, it was clear she wasn’t interested in continuing the relationship.

What publication on earth would continue a relationship with a writer who would refuse to discuss her work with her editors? What publication would continue to publish a writer who attacked it on TV? What publication would continue to publish a writer who lied about it — on TV and to a Washington Post reporter?

And, finally, what CONSERVATIVE publication would continue to publish a writer who doesn’t even know the meaning of the word “censorship”?

So let me be clear: We did not “fire” Ann for what she wrote, even though it was poorly written and sloppy. We ended the relationship because she behaved with a total lack of professionalism, friendship, and loyalty.

What’s Ann’s take on all this? Well, she told the Washington Post yesterday that she loves it, because she’s gotten lots of great publicity. That pretty much sums Ann up.

On the Sean Hannity show yesterday, however, apparently embarrassed by her admission to the Post, she actually tried to deny that she has sought publicity in this whole matter. Well, then, Ann, why did you complain of being “censored” on national TV? Why did you brag to the Post about all the PR?

Listening to Ann legalistically dodge around trying to explain all this would have made Bill Clinton blush.

Ann also told the Post that we only paid her $5 a month for her work (would that it were so!). Either this is a deliberate lie, or Ann needs to call her accountant because someone’s been skimming her checks.

Many readers have asked, why did we run the original column in which Ann declared we should “invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity” — if we didn’t like it?

Well, to be honest, it was a mistake. It stemmed from the fact this was a supposedly pre-edited syndicated column, coming in when NRO was operating with one phone line and in general chaos. Our bad.

Now as far as Ann’s charges go, I must say it’s hard to defend against them, because they either constitute publicity-minded name-calling, like calling us “girly-boys” — or they’re so much absurd bombast.

For example:

Ann — a self-described “constitutional lawyer” — volunteered on Politically Incorrect that our “censoring” of her column was tantamount to “repealing the First Amendment.” Apparently, in Ann’s mind, she constitutes the thin blonde line between freedom and tyranny, and so any editorial decision she dislikes must be a travesty.

She sniffed to the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz that “Every once in awhile they’ll [National Review] throw one of their people to the wolves to get good press in left-wing publications.” I take personal offense to this charge. She’s accusing us of betraying a friend for publicity, when in fact it was the other way around.

And, lastly, this “Joan of Arc battling the forces of political correctness” act doesn’t wash. In the same 20 days in which Ann says — over and over and over again — that NR has succumbed to “PC hysteria,” we’ve run pieces celebrating every PC shibboleth and bogeyman.

Paul Johnson has criticized Islam as an imperial religion. William F. Buckley himself has called, essentially, for a holy war. Rich Lowry wants to bring back the Shah, and I’ve written that Western Civilization has every right to wave the giant foam “We’re Number 1!” finger as high as it wants.

The only difference between what we’ve run and what Ann considers so bravely iconoclastic on her part, is that we’ve run articles that accord persuasion higher value than shock value. It’s true: Ann is fearless, in person and in her writing. But fearlessness isn’t an excuse for crappy writing or crappier behavior.

To be honest, even though there’s a lot more that could be said, I have no desire to get any deeper into this because, like with a Fellini movie, the deeper you get, the less sense Ann makes.

We’re delighted that FrontPageMagazine has, with remarkable bravery, picked up Ann’s column, presumably for only $5 a month. They’ll be getting more than what they’re paying for, I’m sure.

— Jonah Goldberg

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