Even by her usual incendiary standards, Ann Coulter's response to the terrorist attacks was something of a jaw-dropper.
"We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity," the conservative commentator declared in her column on National Review Online.
Those words created an uproar at the Web site, which refused to run a follow-up piece in which Coulter singled out what she called "swarthy males." She promptly began bad-mouthing National Review, which responded by axing her as a contributing editor.
"If National Review has no spine, they are not my allies," Coulter said yesterday. "I really don't need friends like that. Every once in awhile they'll throw one of their people to the wolves to get good press in left-wing publications."
Asked for comment, National Review Online Editor Jonah Goldberg said: "We didn't feel we wanted to be associated with the comments expressed in those two columns. We got a lot of complaints from sponsors and a lot of complaints from readers left, right and center. We've decided for editorial reasons we think are sound that we're no longer going to run Ann Coulter's syndicated column."
Coulter's column, distributed by Universal Press Syndicate, is carried by several Web sites and 50 newspapers, including the Washington Times (which did not run the columns on terrorism). A Universal spokeswoman said the Denham Springs News in Louisiana has also canceled the column. But National Review provided the most prominent perch.
A former Justice Department attorney and Senate aide, Coulter is the latest opinion-monger to come under fire over the attacks on New York and Washington. She grouped herself with the Rev. Jerry Falwell (who apologized for blaming the attacks on gays, abortionists and civil libertarians) and "Politically Incorrect" host Bill Maher (who apologized for calling U.S. troops "cowards" for bombing from afar).
"People are hysterical about speech right now," Coulter says. "Everyone's comments are being taken out of context and wildly misinterpreted."
On Maher's ABC show, Coulter accused National Review of having "censored" her by refusing to run the follow-up column. She said yesterday that National Review Editor Rich Lowry and his deputies "are just girly-boys."
Lowry was traveling, but Goldberg said: "For Ann to go around screaming censorship is absurd. It's called editorial judgment, and there's a world of difference. . . . She's a lawyer. She should know better."
Coulter, who also writes for Human Events, has taken her lumps. New York Times columnist Frank Rich said she was fueling "hysteria on the right." Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam called her a "right-wing telebimbo." Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Tom Brazaitis accused her of "bloodthirsty rhetoric."
With her trademark short skirts and long blond mane, Coulter became a cable television fixture during the Monica Lewinsky saga, denouncing Bill Clinton at every turn and producing a book called "High Crimes and Misdemeanors." She called Clinton "crazy" and "like a serial killer" -- and kept getting invited back by "Rivera Live," "Larry King Live" and "Hannity & Colmes."
Coulter says her line about "convert them to Christianity" has been misconstrued and was aimed at those celebrating the attacks. "I wasn't talking about Muslims generally," she says. "I was talking about the crazed homicidal maniacs dancing in the streets." Much of the criticism, says Coulter, comes from "anti-Christian bigots who will jump on you for any mention of Christianity."
In the follow-up column, Coulter suggested ways to beef up security: "We should require passports to fly domestically. Passports can be forged, but they can also be checked with the home country in case of any suspicious-looking swarthy males."
Coulter brushed off National Review's decision, saying the Web site paid only $5 a month for her column. Goldberg scoffed at that figure, saying "our records tell a very different story."
In any event, Coulter doesn't believe the controversy is hurting her. "Frankly, I'm getting a lot of great publicity," she says.