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Howard Kurtz Media Notes

The Conservative Pin-Up Girl

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 19, 2005; 11:45 AM

Yes, those are Ann Coulter's legs on the cover of Time magazine (along with the rest of her, but the legs take up half the page).

Why is "Ms. Right," as Time dubs her, worthy of such prominence?

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I first profiled her back in 1998, when she was, by her own description, one of the "blond right-wing pundits." In that piece, she called Bill Clinton "crazy," "like a serial killer," "creepier and slimier than Kennedy" and a "horny hick," saying it was "a rational question for Americans to ask whether their president is insane."

She was pretty incendiary then, as well as funny, but became more shrill during the Bush administration, churning out books accusing liberals of being treasonous and worse. I always wondered, since Coulter is an obviously intelligent lawyer, whether she was just developing an outlandish shtick that worked from a marketing point of view.

In the fall of 2001, her response to the terrorist attacks was: "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." When she wrote that airport security should devote special scrutiny to "suspicious-looking swarthy males," National Review dropped Coulter as a contributing editor, prompting her to call Editor Rich Lowry and his deputies "girly boys."

When USA Today sent Coulter to last year's Democratic convention, she filed a column about "the corn-fed, no make-up, natural fiber, no-bra needing, sandal-wearing, hirsute, somewhat fragrant hippie-chick pie wagons they call 'women' at the Democratic National Convention." When the paper refused to run the column, she quit.

So why exactly is Time profiling her now, other than the chance to feature a woman in a short dress?

Well, the magazine is using the old formula -- some love her, some hate her, yadda yadda -- to have Coulter personify the nation's partisan wars.

Is she "a brave warrior or a shallow hack?" asks writer John Cloud. Is she "less Joe McCarthy and more a right-wing Ali G?" She is a "combination of hard-charging righteousness and willowy, sex-kitten pulchritude." This, of course, sets up a search for the "real" Ann Coulter, now that she's been elevated to a national symbol.

One personal quibble. In 1997, as an MSBNC commentator, Coulter was debating a disabled Vietnam veteran. She says she told him, "No wonder you guys lost." This, says Time, was "oft-misreported" by the likes of The Washington Post, which turned the line into a more personal attack: "People like you caused us to lose that war."

I can now reveal my source for that quote. It was: Ann Coulter, recounting the incident in explaining why MSNBC dropped her. I did note that, according to Coulter, the vet was appearing by satellite and she didn't know he was disabled.

Interesting factoid: The never-married Coulter says she's been engaged three times.

Here's Coulter's Web site, which recounts how two liberals, who "throw like girls," missed in flinging pies at her after one speech. I frown on any public discourse involving pies that are not used for eating.

The National Outrage carries a report on Coulter slamming Helen Thomas:

"Universal Press Syndicate confirms that Ann Coulter's description of fellow columnist Helen Thomas as an 'old Arab' was not in the Feb. 23 Coulter piece it sent to newspapers. And Universal isn't even sure the phrase appeared in the version Coulter submitted to the syndicate. The 'old Arab' reference did appear in the version of the column posted on Coulter's Web site."

A blogger named Socialist Swine (how much worse can you call him?) recalls seeing a Canadian TV interview "when Ann Coulter was pushed on the rather nutty claims that she makes she replied that she felt that she didn't see any reason why she should stop with, what she called, her 'light-hearted' banter. Let's see some examples of her being 'light-hearted':

"I have to say I'm all for public flogging. One type of criminal that a public humiliation might work particularly well with are the juvenile delinquents, a lot of whom consider it a badge of honor to be sent to juvenile detention. And it might not be such a cool thing in the 'hood to be flogged publicly.

"We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed too.

"My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building."

Shakespeare's Sister complains that Time runs a picture of satirical protest group (giveaway detail: a banner that says Communists for Kerry) as if they were seriously protesting her at the GOP convention:

"I don't think Time really is part of a conspiracy. I think this mistake is just typical of the assortment of lazy, complacent, imprecise, conscienceless, bottom-line driven, easily intimidated and manipulated twats that are collectively known as our mainstream media."

As evidence of the media's "hard right bias," former Democratic operative David Sirota objects to the cover on "right wing crazy person Ann Coulter" and asks: "When was the last time you saw someone of equal (if not more) importance on the left promoted on the cover of America's mainstream magazines?"

Um---Time's cover on Michael Moore?

LearningtoLovetheLaw: says: "To me, Ann Coulter represents everything that is fundamentally wrong with American politics today -- the bitter, strident, tunnel-visioned, partisan hackdom that afflicts what is otherwise a decent city."

I'm sure Coulter's defenders will be weighing in any minute now, and we'll carry some of that as well.

Editor & Publisher has a useful post on how it's not just the "liberal media" going after DeLay:

"Embattled House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) is facing criticism from newspapers that had previously supported President Bush. . . .

"The liberal media watchdog Media Matters for America cited critical editorials in The Wall Street Journal and eight newspapers that endorsed Bush in either or both the 2000 and 2004 elections, some calling for him to step down. 'It's time for Republicans to renounce his leadership and choose a more principled and temperate representative as House Majority Leader,' the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star wrote in an April 12 editorial. 'Republicans have rallied around DeLay in the same loyal way that the Democrats circled their wagons around [former House Speaker Jim] Wright,' The Staunton (Va.) News-Leader wrote on April 12. 'If you can't count on your own party, who can you trust? But it is becoming rapidly clear that, in order to cut their losses and regain the moral high ground, DeLay must go.'

"The report also cited editorials in the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal, the Dallas Morning News, the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald, and the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch."

The Chicago Tribune editorial page, a major Bush backer, calls this morning for DeLay to step aside.

DeLay, meanwhile, is fighting back, the AP reports:

"In a fresh counterattack, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay told supporters in a mailing made public Monday that he has "never been found to have violated any law or rule by anyone" despite numerous allegations.

"'Democrats have made clear that their only agenda is the politics of personal destruction, and the criminalization of politics,' the Texan's campaign added in a defiant rebuttal. 'They hate Ronald Reagan conservatives like DeLay and they hate that he is an effective leader who succeeds in passing the Republican agenda.'"

Politics of personal destruction. That happened to be a phrase coined by Bill Clinton when DeLay and his fellow House Republicans had formed a posse to run him out of town.

While Bush and DeLay have never been friends, the White House is standing by the Hammer for now, says the Washington Times:

"The White House yesterday stepped up its defense of embattled House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, dispatching political strategist Karl Rove to deride Democratic attacks as 'drivel.'

"'They're just desperate,' Mr. Rove said of Democrats on CNN. 'They're not offering ideas in the debate, they're not being constructive, and so some of their members are taking potshots at Tom DeLay.'"

Yesterday's column noted Bob Kerrey musing to the NYT that he'd like to run for mayor. But it took him only hours to back off, says the New York Daily News:

"Bob Kerrey still can't make up his mind.

"The former Nebraska senator said yesterday he is 'unlikely' to give up his job as head of New School University to run for mayor. But the 61-year-old Democrat also pointedly refused to rule out a run until later this week."

I wrote last week that newspapers will have a tough time giving away their content online forever. Now comes this AP announcement:

"The Associated Press will begin charging newspapers and broadcasters to post its stories, photos and other content online, a pricing shift that reflects the growing power of the Internet to lure audiences and advertisers from more established media. . . .

"Most of the 15,000 news outlets that buy AP's news, sports, business and entertainment coverage have been allowed to 're-purpose' the same material online at no extra cost since 1995.

"Price increases are often a prickly issue for the AP because it's a not-for-profit cooperative that is owned by its customers -- the traditional media that form its membership."

Jay Cost opines on OpinionJournal that Hillary isn't as slick as her reputation:

"Pollster Scott Rasmussen has begun publishing a regular 'Hillary Meter.' The purpose of this is to track Sen. Hillary Clinton's movement to the political center by determining how much of the American public considers her to be middle-of-the-road. I find this to be a fascinating story, because it says quite a bit about Hillary and her political skills--or lack thereof.

"It is, of course, gospel that Hillary Clinton is a political genius, or something to that effect. She is so brilliant that potential Democratic opponents are warned by pundits everywhere that she will work her secret devil arts on the poor fool who dares cross her. She is that good. Ostensibly, the only hope that humble conservatives have to keep her from being the first female president is some tawdry book by Ed Klein.

"I have never understood this. Where do her political credentials come from? It seems to me that she was a great supporting player to a good (though highly overrated) politician. She played the part of the forgiving, intelligent, driven wife with great effectiveness. When she takes center stage, however, the results are quite mixed. She botched health-care reform so badly that President Clinton got absolutely nothing from a Democratic Congress. She coined the term 'vast right-wing conspiracy'--guaranteeing that conservatives everywhere would curse her existence until the end of time. She did win that New York Senate seat, but that, to my mind, was pretty unimpressive. She beat latecomer Rick Lazio, who was not a formidable candidate, to say the least (the word 'sophomoric' comes to mind).

"If her political accomplishments are unimpressive, why is she so feared? Why is she seen to be a political genius? The answer to this question eluded me for a long time, perhaps because it is so simple. The plain fact is that Hillary Clinton is actually one of the worst politicians in national politics today. She is feared as a brilliant politician only because she is such an obvious politician, which is actually the key mark of a bad politician."

Rochelle Riley of the Detroit Free Press, using the controversy about her colleague Mitch Albom as a peg, has some intriguing thoughts about the media biz:

"News writing for news' sake is dying. Newsrooms are increasingly about the big story, the one that will win a prize. There are too many stars in journalism, me included.

"When journalism was a blue-collar job, a noble but pedestrian path, the only stars were those who exposed the most graft. They were bigger-than-life souls others emulated. You didn't work in a newsroom for the money. You did it for the cause.

"Now, the goal is to get rich, to become a celebrity, a name, to win prizes and to make people love you.

"And it has hurt journalism. It has made journalism like Hollywood. The greening of American journalism has made the average reporter lose sight of the fact that he or she is the backbone of a newsroom. Editors may rule. Columnists may get glitter and commercials. But it would do every journalist good to remember that the real work happens in the City Hall bureau, in the cop shop, at the school board meeting.

"For every little guy who writes the smaller stories every day, who discovers just what the City Council does with its money, there's a shouting, cringe-inducing Chris Matthews with his own show. For every woman who writes about how to cook a great Thanksgiving dinner -- a newspaper's most important purpose -- there is a woman who calls names and insults her peers. Has it made journalism better?"

Jesse Ventura is still mad at the Minnesota press for (among other things) reporting that his son, then 22, had held parties in the governor's mansion that led to furniture damage and underage drinking. At a recent speech, says the Minneapolis Star Tribune "Ventura pointed to a row of reporters and called them 'pedophiles' for their reporting on Tyrel's antics at the residence, a building maintained with tax dollars. He also claimed to the St. Olaf crowd that the reporters would purposely misreport the audience reaction to him (which, by the way, they didn't).

"It would be hard to find a viler thing to say about people than to accuse them of sexually assaulting children."

Dan Kennedy pounces on a tabloid headline:

"Cruise on over to BostonHerald.com and take a look at what they've done to Peter Gelzinis. Just in case this changes before you can see it, the tease reads, 'Numbskull fan's fiancée is world's biggest ho . . . ' Now, that's language that Howie Carr might use, but I was startled to see it atop a Gelzinis column.

"Click and you get the full headline: 'Numbskull fan's fiancée is world's biggest homer.'

"Deliberate or accidental? Given the way some other words are cut off on the home page, I'm willing to believe it was an accident. But not a happy one. . . .

"As with many websites, BostonPhoenix.com uses Google Ads to place advertisements related to the subject matter, based on searching the text. Well, if you click on my first item about the phony seal hunt off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, you will find an ad urging you to vacation in - yes - Newfoundland and Labrador."

Google: The world's smartest computers with no brain.

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