Will NBC once again help Ann Coulter sell books?

On October 2, 2007, If Democrats Had Any Brains, They'd Be Republicans (Crown Forum), the latest book by right-wing pundit Ann Coulter, is scheduled to be released. As Media Matters for America documented, in the weeks following the release of her last book, Godless: The Church of Liberalism (Crown Forum, June 2006), Coulter made numerous appearances on MSNBC, CNBC, and their parent network, NBC, where she unleashed a stream of attacks on the widows of victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. As Media Matters also documented, while NBC continued to provide Coulter an open platform with which to spew her inflammatory and offensive rhetoric, several NBC hosts and anchors -- including Tonight Show host Jay Leno, Today co-host Matt Lauer, and Nightly News anchor Brian Williams -- expressed disapproval of Coulter's “harsh” and “nasty” statements. On June 26, 2007 -- the date Godless was released in paperback -- Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's Hardball, claimed that Coulter forces him to “go to confession.” Matthews, however, has a history of inviting her on his show. Following an appearance on Today in June 2006 -- during which Coulter criticized the 9-11 widows for “speak[ing] out using the fact that they're widows” and “using their grief” and “the fact that [they] lost a husband” to make “a political point while preventing anyone from responding” -- Williams devoted a segment of the Nightly News to the subject of “civility in American life,” highlighting Coulter's comments. And yet NBC and its cable affiliates have continued to invite her on the air. The upcoming release of Coulter's new book gives rise once again to the question of whether NBC programs will keep hosting her.

According to a Media Matters review*, Coulter has been interviewed at least 194 times on at least 13 individual programs on MSNBC, CNBC, and NBC since April 28, 1997.** During these interviews, all of Coulter's books have been named, by a host or anchor, by an on-screen graphic, or by Coulter herself. Further, as Media Matters has extensively documented, Coulter continues to make outrageous statements. On NBC programs alone, Coulter has called former Vice President Al Gore a “total fag” and has attacked former President Bill Clinton as a “latent homosexual.” Elsewhere, Coulter has said she “can't really talk about” Democratic presidential candidate and former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) because “you have to go into rehab if you use the word 'faggot'” and has said of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens: “We need somebody to put rat poison in Justice Stevens's créme brulée.” Coulter has also repeatedly mused about potential acts of violence against people with whom she doesn't like or with whom she disagrees.

In its search, Media Matters reviewed Nexis transcript databases for MSNBC, CNBC, and NBC News and documented all of Coulter's interviews, including the date of her appearance, the program on which she was interviewed, the network, and the book (High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton (Regnery Publishers, 1998), Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right (Crown, 2002), Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism (Crown Forum, 2003), How to Talk to A Liberal (If You Must): The World According to Ann Coulter (Crown Forum, 2004), and Godless) named during the show, if one was named. Media Matters read through each transcript individually in order to ensure that interviews were not counted twice, and that clips from previous interviews were also not counted.

According to the Nexis search, since April 28, 1997, Coulter has appeared 117 times on CNBC, seven times on NBC News, and 70 times on MSNBC for a total of 194 interviews. Nexis does not transcribe every show on every network, so these figures represent only those interviews that Media Matters could verify. For example, Nexis does not transcribe CNBC's The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, where, on July 26, 2006, as Media Matters documented, Coulter asserted that former President Bill Clinton exhibits “some level of latent homosexuality.” Coulter has also been interviewed on The Tonight Show, which is not transcribed in Nexis.

According to the review, Coulter has been interviewed on at least 13 different NBC and NBC-affiliate programs -- including MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, MSNBC's Scarborough Country, MSNBC's Tucker (formerly The Situation with Tucker Carlson), MSNBC's The Abrams Report, MSNBC's Deborah Norville Tonight, MSNBC's Buchanan & Press, MSNBC's Saturday Final with Lawrence O'Donnell, MSNBC's Phil Donahue, NBC's Today, CNBC's Kudlow & Company (formerly Kudlow & Cramer), CNBC's Rivera Live, CNBC's Equal Time, and CNBC's Upfront Tonight. Additionally, since April 29, 2003, Coulter has been interviewed 36 times by MSNBC host Joe Scarborough. Since June 26, 2002, Coulter has been interviewed 21 times by MSNBC host Chris Matthews. Further, from December 16, 1997, to August 14, 2001, Coulter was interviewed 69 times on CNBC's Rivera Live hosted by Geraldo Rivera.

Many of these appearances involved the promotion of Coulter's books. When Godless was released on June 6, 2006, Coulter began a string of appearances on NBC. In the months of June and July 2006 alone, Coulter appeared 11 times on NBC programs. During each of those appearances, Godless was mentioned by name. Similarly, the names of Coulter's other books were mentioned frequently during her earlier appearances on NBC. On MSNBC alone, Godless was mentioned five times, How to Talk to A Liberal was mentioned 15 times, Slander was mentioned 18 times, and Treason, 32 times. In only four of Coulter's 70 interviews on MSNBC was none of her books mentioned by name.

As Media Matters for America has extensively documented, Coulter has made a number of highly controversial remarks during these appearances on NBC-owned channels:

  • The July 26, 2006, edition of MSNBC News Live highlighted Coulter's taped interview with CNBC's The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, set to air later that day. MSNBC featured a clip from the interview in which Coulter said that former President Clinton exhibits “some level of latent homosexuality.” When asked by Deutsch if she was indeed calling Clinton a “latent homosexual,” Coulter replied, “Yeah,” and mentioned, apparently in support of her claim, “passages” she had “memorized” in the so-called Starr Report -- former independent counsel Kenneth Starr's report to the House of Representatives, resulting from his investigation into the Monica Lewinsky controversy.
  • On the July 27, 2006, edition of MSNBC's Hardball, referencing Coulter's “latent homosexuality” comment on The Big Idea the night before, Matthews asked Coulter, “How do you know that Bill Clinton is gay?” Coulter responded, “I don't know if he's gay. But [former Vice President] Al Gore -- total fag.” She went on to defend her theory about Clinton's sexuality by stating that “everyone has always known, widely promiscuous heterosexual men have, as I say, a whiff of the bathhouse about them.” Coulter claimed she was “just kidding” about Gore, but said of her theory about Clinton, “It's not only not a joke, it's not even surprising.”
  • On the June 6, 2006, broadcast of NBC's Today, host Matt Lauer provided a forum for some of the more controversial statements in Coulter's book, which Lauer read aloud and asked her to explain, including her claim that liberalism is the “opposition party to God” and that “I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths” as much as the 9-11 widows. The interview was Coulter's third appearance in eight months on Today.

Pressed by Lauer to defend her statement that the widows were “enjoying their husbands' deaths,” Coulter responded: “Yes, they're all over the news.” She criticized the widows for “speak[ing] out using the fact that they're widows” and “using their grief” and “the fact that you lost a husband” to make “a political point while preventing anyone from responding.” She further argued that “the Left” exploits a “doctrine of infallibility,” and that "[i]f they have a point to make about the 9-11 Commission, about how to fight the war on terrorism," they “put[] up Cindy Sheehan ... put[] out these widows.” As a result, Coulter said, conservatives “always have to respond to someone who just had a family member die” and appear to be “questioning the authenticity of the grief.”

  • On the February 7, 2005, edition of CNBC's Kudlow & Cramer, Coulter said, “Would that it were so! ... That the American military were targeting journalists.”
  • Coulter was a guest for the entire October 19, 2004, edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country, which was guest hosted by MSNBC senior political analyst Lawrence O'Donnell. During that hour, Coulter accused Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) of “gay-profiling” during the third presidential debate when he referred to Mary Cheney, Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter, as a lesbian. Coulter also accused Kerry of trying to “out-God [President] George [W.] Bush” and said that it was clear that “John Kerry does not believe in God.

Coulter's inflammatory comments have extended well beyond NBC:

  • In a March 2 speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Coulter said she “can't really talk about” Edwards because “you have to go into rehab if you use the word 'faggot.' ” The CPAC audience applauded her comment. Several newspapers dropped Coulter's column following her remarks at CPAC.
  • On the March 6 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Sean Hannity said to Coulter, “Most of the speech was about humor. You were telling jokes the whole time here,” and went on to discuss Grey's Anatomy actor Isaiah Washington, who sought counseling after using the slur. Coulter responded by saying, "[T]hat's, of course, what I was referring to, and I don't think there's anything offensive about any variation of faggy, faggotry, faggot, fag. It's a schoolyard taunt. It means -- it means wussy. It means, you know, Hillary giving a speech in a fake Southern drawl -- that's faggy. A trial lawyer who weeps before juries is faggy. Lifetime-type TV, faggy." Coulter then referred to the word “faggot” as “a totally excellent word.”
  • In a May 16 column titled “Jerry Falwell -- Say Hello to Ronald Reagan!” Coulter, who proclaimed, “Let me be the first to say: I ALWAYS agreed with the Rev. Falwell,” admitted that she disagreed with Falwell on “one small item” : He should have assigned blame for the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to "[Sen.] Teddy Kennedy [D-MA] and 'the Reverend' Barry Lynn," in addition to “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians -- who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle.” Coulter went on to compare Falwell to Jesus Christ ( “If you still think it isn't Christ whom liberals hate, remember: They hate Falwell even more than they hate me.” ) and assert that Falwell did not blame all “the gays” for “ejecting God from public life,” but rather “gays and lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle.”
  • In a November 30, 2006, syndicated column about the removal of six imams from an airplane in Minnesota after other passengers saw them praying prior to boarding, Coulter claimed that “profiling Muslims is more like profiling the Klan” than it is like profiling African-Americans, “because of the history of discrimination against blacks in this country.” Coulter added: “What did we do to the Arabs? I believe Americans are the victims in that relationship.”
  • In her August 9, 2006, column, Coulter wrote that, without affirmative action, African-American Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) couldn't get a job “that didn't involve wearing a paper hat.”
  • Coulter titled her August 30, 2006, column on the Rhode Island Senate race: “They Shot the Wrong Lincoln.” The headline is a reference to Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), whom she excoriated throughout the piece -- calling him a “half-wit” and a “silver-spooned moron[]” -- while expressing her support for his challenger in the September 12 Republican primary, Stephen Laffey.
  • The January 10, 2005, edition of the New York Observer printed a January 3 interview with Coulter, in which she stated that she was “fed up with hearing about ... civilian casualties” in Iraq; that “it would be fun to nuke” North Korea; that all feminists are “weak and pathetic” ; and that former President Bill Clinton “was a very good rapist.” Coulter's personal website provided a link to the interview.

Coulter has also mused about potential acts of violence against people she doesn't like or disagrees with:

  • Commenting on radio host Melanie Morgan's assertion that if New York Times executive editor Bill Keller were convicted of treason for the Times' reporting on the Bush administration's warrantless domestic eavesdropping program, she “would have no problem with him being sent to the gas chamber,” Coulter said, "I prefer a firing squad, but I'm open to a debate on the method of execution." She later suggested that Times staff members should be "executed."
  • Coulter suggested that Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA) is “the reason soldiers invented fragging” -- military slang meaning the intentional killing of a member of one's own unit.
  • Coulter argued that the national debate during the Monica Lewinsky controversy should not have focused on whether former President Bill Clinton “did it,” but rather “whether to impeach or assassinate” him.
  • Coulter said of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens: “We need somebody to put rat poison in Justice Stevens's créme brulée.”
  • As quoted in an August 26, 2002, New York Observer article, Coulter had previously stated: “My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building.” McVeigh's April 19, 1995, bomb attack destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people.

*Search of Nexis MSNBC, CNBC, and NBC News transcript databases: “Ann Coulter and allcaps (Coulter)” for all dates.

**Clarification: This item originally stated that, based on a Media Matters review of the Nexis database, Coulter's first appearance on MSNBC, CNBC, or NBC was apparently on April 28, 1997. However, according to Nexis, its coverage of MSNBC extends back only to November 8, 1999, while its coverage of NBC News extends back to January 1, 1997, and its coverage of CNBC extends back to January 4, 1995. According to news reports, Coulter was hired by MSNBC in 1996 and subsequently fired. In an October 16, 1998, Washington Post article, media critic Howard Kurtz wrote: “In the summer of 1996, Coulter, who didn't own a TV until she moved here [to Washington, D.C.], became a part-time talking head for MSNBC, the new kid on the cable block.” Regarding Coulter's firing, Kurtz reported: “Coulter was debating a disabled Vietnam vet when she snapped: 'People like you caused us to lose that war.' (She says she didn't know the guest, appearing by satellite, was disabled.) That ended her MSNBC career.”

Later, in an April 19, 2005, column, Kurtz further explained the circumstances surrounding Coulter's firing from MSNBC:

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.