"The Democrats want Saddam back" and other CoulterismsJuly 2, 2004 6:35 PM EDT ››› KATIE BARGE, NICOLE CASTA, & ANDREW SEIFTER
In her July 1 column, titled "Saddam In Custody -- Moore, Soros, Dean Still At Large," right-wing pundit Ann Coulter asserted, "[T]he Americanization of Iraq proceeds at an astonishing pace, the Iraqis are taking to freedom like fish to water. ... It's hard to say who's more upset about these developments: the last vestiges of pro-Hussein Baathist resistance in Iraq or John Kerry's campaign manager." Coulter's third paragraph? "The Democrats want Saddam back."
Before reaching her eventual conclusion regarding the Democrats -- "it's no surprise they want Saddam Hussein back. He made the Democrats seem moderate by comparison" -- Coulter managed to distort and/or misrepresent The New York Times; Senator John Kerry (D-MA); financier, philanthropist, and political activist George Soros; and former presidential candidates Howard Dean and Wesley Clark.
First, Coulter mocked a June 27 New York Times article titled "For Iraqi Girls, Changing Land Narrows Lives," writing, "True, they don't have to run from Odai's rape rooms anymore. But apparently not a single Iraqi female has been admitted to Augusta National Golf Club since the liberation!" Apparently Coulter did not read past the headline of the Times article, which reported continuing rapes in Iraq: "Parents are so rattled by reports of rapes and kidnappings that they keep their girls under closer watch than ever. ... Everything now depends on whether the violence subsides. ... Nearly everyone seems to have heard about girls who have been raped."
Second, Coulter mocked -- and misrepresented -- Kerry's poll numbers: "According to a recent New York Times poll, after $60 million in warm and fuzzy TV ads about Kerry, 40 percent of Americans have no opinion of him. In other words, the ads are working! So Kerry will be sitting out the actual campaign this year." While The New York Times' Adam Nagourney and Janet Elder reported on June 29 the results of a New York Times/CBS News poll (that 36 percent of Americans surveyed said they had "no opinion" of Kerry), she conveniently omitted what Nagourney and Elder wrote in the very next sentence: "That figure is fairly typical for challengers at this point in the campaign; in June 1992, 44 percent of the public did not have an opinion of Bill Clinton."
Next, Coulter adjusted a distortion she made of a past statement by Soros, but still managed to distort his words. During a June 14 appearance on FOX News Channel's Hannity & Colmes, Coulter erroneously claimed that Soros "said the reason for anti-Semitism is the Jews." In her July 1 column, Coulter charged that "Soros blames President Bush for anti-Semitism, and then proceeds directly to the usual liberal talking points attacking Israel. He says Israeli policies are to blame for anti-Semitism -- coming in a close second after the Von Trapp-like Bush." Soros's actual remarks, as the Jewish Telegraphic Agency first reported (and also mischaracterized with the headline "In rare Jewish appearance, George Soros says Jews and Israel cause anti-Semitism") on November 9, 2003:
"There is a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe. The policies of the Bush administration and the Sharon administration contribute to that," Soros said. "It's not specifically anti-Semitism, but it does manifest itself in anti-Semitism as well. I'm critical of those policies."
"I'm also very concerned about my own role because the new anti-Semitism holds that the Jews rule the world."
An editorial in the Jewish newspaper Forward on November 21, 2003, defended Soros's comments: "Blaming the victim? Hardly. Soros was merely joining the growing list of observers who note that the new antisemitism is a mix of old prejudices and current protests feeding on each other. ... That [Soros's comments] doesn't mean that he -- or Sharon or Bush -- should behave differently. It does mean we should all look before we leap."
Continuing, Coulter distorted a past statement by Howard Dean, writing, "And then there's Howard Dean, who thinks Bush was in cahoots with the Saudis -- and he's the centrist of the bunch." Salon.com senior writer Eric Boehlert reported on January 13 what Dean actually said as a guest on the December 1, 2003, edition of The Diane Rehm Show (a daily talk show on NPR member station WAMU in Washington, DC, with a weekly nationwide audience of 1.4 million): "When Rehm asked Dean in a Dec. 1 interview why he thought Bush wasn't more forthcoming with the commission investigating the terrorist attacks, Dean replied, 'The most interesting theory that I've heard so far -- which is nothing more than a theory, it can't be proved -- is that he was warned ahead of time by the Saudis.'" As Boehlert wrote, this was one example of how "the media has sometimes colluded with the RNC [Republican National Committee] and Republican pundits to distort Dean beyond recognition."
Finally, Coulter distorted former Democratic presidential candidate General Wesley Clark's position on abortion: "Wesley Clark ... defend[ed] infanticide as 'a private matter between a woman and her doctor.'" In a January 7 interview with the publisher of the New Hampshire daily newspaper The Union Leader, Clark was asked, "Abortion. Are there any limits on it in your mind? ... Anything up to the head coming out of the womb?" Clark responded: "I say that it's up to the woman and her doctor, her conscience, and law -- not the law. You don't put the law in there. I think, you know, that Bill Clinton said it best. He said abortion should be legal, it should be safe and it should be rare." According to The Union Leader on January 24, "Clark said he never meant to create an impression that he believed a woman should be able to receive an abortion on demand until the moment of delivery. But he said if her life or health is at stake, she should have that right, as she has had for more than 30 years under Roe vs. Wade." Even the conservative magazine The Weekly Standard noted on January 26 that Clark "does not sanction infanticide."
On the same day that her column -- which is syndicated by Universal Press Syndicate -- was published on her personal website and on The Heritage Foundation's website Townhall.com, Coulter appeared on FOX News Channel's Hannity & Colmes and compared Saddam Hussein's trial to the impeachment trial of former President Bill Clinton. Coulter said, "I just like how all the same criminal defense attorneys go from defending O.J. [Simpson] to defending Clinton to defending Saddam Hussein." As Media Matters for America has noted, this is not the first time Coulter has compared Clinton to O.J. Simpson, who was tried for murder in 1995. On the June 23 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country, Coulter stated that unlike Clinton, whose memoir My Life documented the campaign led by Kenneth Starr to destroy his presidency, "At least O.J. had the dignity to shut up about it and isn't out writing books denouncing [chief prosecutor] Marcia Clark."