Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right
|Great and terrible|
|On our shelf:|
Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right is a 2002 book by author Ann Coulter, in which she attacks the so-called liberal media during the early George W. Bush administration. The book is infamous for its large amounts of falsehoods, distortions, and — well, slander about those whom Coulter dislikes. Strap yourselves in folks, this one might take awhile.
Dale Earnhardt affair
On the final page of Slander, Coulter writes that "It took the New York Times two days to deem [NASCAR driver Dale] Earnhardt's death sufficiently important to mention it on the front page.":205 However, this turned out to be wrong, Dale Earnhardt had died on 2/18/2001, and The New York Times ran a front page story on this the following day.:6-7
This one is only notable because Coulter herself did acknowledge the mistake in a later column (albeit while making sure to downplay it as much as possible by pointing out it was "the only one" critics of hers have come up with), and newer editions of the book have the sentence omitted entirely.:177
As a small bonus, Coulter wrote mockingly of an article from a couple of days later, writing:
Demonstrating the left's renowned populist touch, the article began, "His death brought a silence to Wal-Mart." The Times went on to report that in vast swaths of the country people watch stock-car racing. Tacky people were mourning Dale Earnhardt all over the South!:205
However, actually reading the article Coulter mentions shows that the author did not mention Walmart to mock those who mourned his death, but because many first found out about it while watching NASCAR at Walmart:
His death brought a silence to the Wal-Mart.
They heard it first in the electronics department, where, it being this Sunday, the TV's were tuned to news of the Daytona 500.
Furthermore, the article never claimed that watching NASCAR nor even mourning Earnhardt's death was specifically a Southern phenomenon. In fact, the author specifically says it was Earnhardt "who powered stock car racing from a Southern obsession to a nationwide sport."
A book in need of an editor
For somebody who specializes in writing about politics — and who is selling a book dedicated to making a case, Coulter makes a number of rather basic mistakes. At one point, Coulter criticizes Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords because "he voted against Clinton's impeachment.":7 The issue at hand was that Jeffords couldn't have voted one way or the other on Clinton's impeachment, because that is only voted on by the House of Representatives, not the Senate.
At another point, Coulter also claimed (in another mistake she was forced to admit to, in spite of her previous claim that the only mistake she's even been caught making was the one about Dale Earnhardt) that "Evan Thomas… is the son of Norman Thomas, a four-time socialist candidate for president.":68 Evan Thomas is the grandson of Norman Thomas, not the son of Norman Thomas,:407 and Norman Thomas ran for President six times on the Socialist Party ticket, not four.:9-10(Also, even if this was true it wouldn't mean anything. Right-wing activist David Horowitz is the son of two members of the Communist Party.:42 Yet his appearances on various news programs are not seen as evidence of liberal bias in media, while Thomas's are.)
Mind you, none of these errors on their own would be enough to condemn the book — but the fact that Coulter fails to get the little things right (which can be found out with seconds of research in some cases) makes one question how well she can do at the big things — and the answer is not well.
A fact checker also wouldn't hurt
The aforementioned quote about Selma comes from a part of the book where Coulter claims "Between 1995 and 2001, the New York Times ran more than one hundred articles on 'Selma' alone.":199 When actually going through the articles from The New York Times from that time period, it was found that only sixteen were actually about the event — with the rest being a series of offhanded mentions, references to Selma, California, or mentions of somebody who is named Selma.:12-13
On another occasion, she claims that The New York Times failed to report on a speech Jesse Jackson gave on British television on Christmas of 1994,:8 when they actually reported the speech about a week before it aired. Her footnotes show she came to this conclusion because a "LexisNexis search of New York Times archives from December 1994 through January 1995 for 'Jesse Jackson and Germany and fascism and South Africa' produces no documents.":207 However, this was because, although the article did talk about the controversy around this speech, it did not use that specific exert. Another Lexis search for "Jesse Jackson and Christmas and Britain" produced the article no problem.:18
Merely counting up how many times something is referenced in this or that newspaper seems to be one of Ann's favorite ways to prove liberal bias--the issue at hand is these commonly don't show the full picture. "In the entire New York Times archive on LexisNexis, there are 109 items using the phrase 'far left wing' but only 18 items that use 'far left wing,'" she writes.:15 However, if one does the same trick over the same time period with the right-wing Washington Times, they find a similar theme, with thirty-seven uses of the phrase "far right wing" compared to only seven uses of "far left wing." The same method can be done with the same newspaper regarding her claim that “In a one year period (roughly corresponding to calendar year 2000), the New York Times found occasion to mention either ‘Christian conservatives’ or the ‘religious right’ 187 times. Not once did the paper refer to ‘atheist liberals’ or ‘the atheist left.’”:235 With The Washington Post found it made 151 references to "Christian conservatives" and the "religious right" and also no references to the "atheist left."
Actually, comparing what Ann's conservative friends have said over the years to what she gets angry at the "liberal media" for arguing shows just how silly many of her complaints are. At one point, she says that Katie Couric had called Ronald Reagan "an airhead.":51 However, Couric was actually quoting a controversial biography about Reagan, not stating her own opinion. Sean Hannity even ran a segment on the same biography, and quoted the same part of the biography, on the same day as Couric's segment.
One commonly has to wonder if Ann even bothered to read the articles she mentions or if she just half remembered them. The very first page of Slander sees her making a distortion when she writes that "For his evident belief in a higher being, DeLay is compared to savage murderers and genocidal lunatics on the pages of the New York Times," before quoting a columnist who wrote “History teaches that when religion is injected into politics — the Crusades, Henry VIII, Salem, Father Coughlin, Hitler, Kosovo — disaster follows.”:1 However, the most recent person mentioned in that article before the part Coulter quoted wasn't Tom DeLay, nor even a Republican, but Al Gore:
In his announcement speech in Carthage, Al Gore joined the God Squad, intoning that "most Americans are hungry for a deeper connection between politics and moral values; many would say 'spiritual values.' Without values of conscience, our political life degenerates."
Faith is an intensely personal matter. It should not be treated as a credential or reduced to a sound bite. History teaches that when religion is injected into politics — the Crusades, Henry VIII, Salem, Father Coughlin, Hitler, Kosovo — disaster follows.
Lies With footnotes
If there is one thing that this book is infamous for, it's Coulter's manipulative use of footnotes. This book is filled with sources — seven hundred eighty to be exact — and if one actually begins checking them, one finds a large chunk of them to be a total misrepresentation of what happened. One occasion sees her claiming "Bush had won" the 2000 Florida vote "on any count",:118 with her source being an article from The Washington Post, literally with the headline "Study Finds Gore Might Have Won Statewide Tally of All Uncounted Ballots".:14
In another example, she claims "The New York Times had allowed loose associations between Nazis and Christians to be made in the pages.":114 Her examples were a book reviewer framing the question of a book about an antisemitic play and an article about the claims that Pope John Paul II was an antisemite.:14-15
Citing people quoting things and treating that as if that is what they believe is another favorite of Coulter's. She writes about "The image of Bush as an “airhead” — as the New York Times nonjudgmentally put it.":134 Her source, by her own admission, is an article about "voters who describe Bush as 'an airhead'".:229 (The article also quotes John McCain voters who found Al Gore (“plastic,” “detached,” and “a bore.”
In yet another distortion, she claimed that President Ronald Reagan's approval rating only dropped five percentage points due to the Iran-Contra scandal,:134 her source claimed that it actually dropped sixteen points.:16
Coulter does a bunch of things she gets onto liberals for doing.
How dare those idiots call us idiots
Chapter seven of Slander is called "The Joy Of Arguing With Liberals: You're Stupid!":121-150 "If liberals were prevented from ever again calling Republicans dumb, they would be robbed of half their arguments … This is how six-year-olds argue: They call everything 'stupid.'":121
The chapter goes into great detail about how liberals, when backed into a corner, have no other technique than calling Republicans dumb. As such, Coulter spends a large chunk of this book doing exactly that, writing that:
- Jim Jeffords is "a half-wit" :50 and "a little D-U-M-M.":52
- Christine Todd Whitman "is a dim-wit.":53
- Gerald Ford was "a little dumb.":125
- Gary Johnson is "truly stupid.":137
- "It was blindingly obvious at the time that [Adlai] Stevenson was a boob.":152
- Susan Collins is a "half-wit.":153
- Al Gore is "stupid":158 and his criticism of Bush during the third debate was "a stupid quibble.":162
Ann writes against the "savagely cruel":121 attacks liberals use on their enemies. Of course, she bemoans liberals doing the same thing, writing angerly about a New York Times article which called Clarence Thomas, "The Youngest, Cruelest Justice" and using that as evidence that "Thomas is not engaged on the substance of his judicial philosophy.":12 (The article was actually about how Thomas interprets the Eighth Amendment, with the claim of him being "the cruelest justice" being a reference to his rather conservative understanding of the phrase "cruel and unusual punishment.")
Elsewhere, she says "there is nothing so irredeemably cruel as an attack on a woman for her looks," especially when it comes "from the party of Bella Abzug.":17
- Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right by Ann Coulter (2002) Crown. ISBN 1400046610.
- Lies (and the Lying Liars That Tell Them): A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right-Wing by Al Franken (2003) Dustton. ISBN 0525947647.
- Answering my critics
- Brainless: The Lies and Lunacy of Ann Coulter by Joe Maguire (2006) William Morrow. ISBN 0061243507.
- Racer's Death Leaves Hole In Heart of His Hometown
- Constitution of the United States
- Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey by David Horowitz. Simon & Schuster (1996)
- The I hate Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity Reader: The Hideous Truth about America's Ugliest Conservatives by Clint Willis (2004) Thunder's Mouth Press. ISBN 1560256141.
- Will Jesse Jackson Beat Queen in British Ratings? Stay Tuned
- Our current howler (EXTRA): Dumb and dumber
- Christopher Caldwell didn’t play nice in his review of Slander.
- Coulter loves inventing examples in which “the left” yells “airhead.”
- The God Squad
- The Youngest, Cruelest Justice