An Open Letter to CPAC Sponsors and Organizers Regarding Ann Coulter

Conservatism treats humans as they are, as moral creatures possessing rational minds and capable of discerning right from wrong. There comes a time when we must speak out in the defense of the conservative movement, and make a stand for political civility. This is one of those times.

Ann Coulter used to serve the movement well. She was telegenic, intelligent, and witty. She was also fearless: saying provocative things to inspire deeper thought and cutting through the haze of competing information has its uses. But Coulter’s fearlessness has become an addiction to shock value. She draws attention to herself, rather than placing the spotlight on conservative ideas.

At the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2006, Coulter referred to Iranians as “ragheads.” She is one of the most prominent women in the conservative movement; for her to employ such reckless language reinforces the stereotype that conservatives are racists.

At CPAC 2007 Coulter decided to turn up the volume by referring to John Edwards, a former U.S. Senator and current Presidential candidate, as a “faggot.” Such offensive language—and the cavalier attitude that lies behind it—is intolerable to us. It may be tolerated on liberal websites but not at the nation’s premier conservative gathering.

The legendary conservative thinker Richard Weaver wrote a book entitled Ideas Have Consequences. Rush Limbaugh has said again and again that “words mean things.” Both phrases apply to Coulter’s awful remarks.

Coulter’s vicious word choice tells the world she care little about the feelings of a large group that often feels marginalized and despised. Her word choice forces conservatives to waste time defending themselves against charges of homophobia rather than advancing conservative ideas.

Within a day of Coulter’s remark John Edwards sent out a fundraising email that used Coulter’s words to raise money for his faltering campaign. She is helping those she claims to oppose. How does that advance any of the causes we hold dear?

Denouncing Coulter is not enough. After her “raghead” remark in 2006 she took some heat. Yet she did not grow and learn. We should have been more forceful. This year she used a gay slur. What is next? If Senator Barack Obama is the de facto Democratic Presidential nominee next year will Coulter feel free to use a racial slur? How does that help conservatism?

One of the points of CPAC is the opportunity it gives college students to meet other young conservatives and learn from our leaders. Unlike on their campuses—where they often feel alone—at CPAC they know they are part of a vibrant political movement. What example is set when one highlight of the conference is finding out what shocking phrase will emerge from Ann Coulter’s mouth? How can we teach young conservatives to fight for their principles with civility and respect when Ann Coulter is allowed to address the conference? Coulter’s invective is a sign of weak thinking and unprincipled politicking.

CPAC sponsors, the Age of Ann has passed. We, the undersigned, request that CPAC speaking invitations no longer be extended to Ann Coulter. Her words and attitude simply do too much damage.

UPDATE: Kevin McCullough has put together this video to accompany the letter:

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Anderson says:

    Excellent work — I hope it makes some impression on its target!




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  2. rodney dill says:

    Didn’t she also make reference in the past to Al Gore as a ‘gay waiter?’




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  3. James Joyner says:

    Anderson: Thanks. And, yes, let’s hope.

    Rodney: Examples of Coulter’s vulgarity abound, unfortunately. We’re just concentrating on the things she’s said to embarrass CPAC and its sponsors for this one!




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  4. Triumph says:

    This is brilliant–let’s concentrate on the ravings of some TV windbag while CPAC has as its honored guest the ACTUAL ARCHITECT of the most disastorous policies of the twenty-first century: Dick Cheney.

    Coulter’s transgression: calling Edwards a faggot.

    Cheney’s transgressions: lying to get the nation into a war.

    -Facilitating blowing the cover of US intelligence agents.

    -Vigorously advocating kidnapping and torture.

    -Denial of people’s basic legal rights.

    This “outrage” against Coulter is a diversion against the actual failure of Republican policies–and the death that has emerged in their wake–initiated by embarassments like Cheney.

    It would be refreshing to see the sanctimony evident in the letter leveled against a more relevant target.




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  5. I would suggest a one year bar from the conference, so long as she makes a public apology for her foul language.




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  6. Mark says:

    Such offensive language—and the cavalier attitude that lies behind it—is intolerable to us. It may be tolerated on liberal websites but not at the nation’s premier conservative gathering.

    As a lefty, I was with you right up until this part – I was even enjoying how the sentiments you expressed could apply equally to both sides.

    We’ve been over the “lefty bloggers are potty-mouths” thing, I don’t want to re-fight that battle. However, I think you are conflating two issues that should remain separate:

    1. calling someone a general purpose profanity
    2. using racist or homophobic language




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  7. James Joyner says:

    I would have left out the “liberal websites” jab but there were enough issues in hammering out consensus that I didn’t bother fighting that one.

    While I agree 1 and 2 are different things, I’d just as soon have both be avoided in formal speeches given by conservatives. There will be the occasional slip, to be sure, but to have them written into the script is improper.

    And, frankly, my issues with Coulter go beyond the use of a colorful word or two.




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  8. cian says:

    What example is set when one highlight of the conference is finding out what shocking phrase will emerge from Ann Coulter’s mouth?

    Given their reaction to Coulter’s hate, you need have no worries for conservative youth. They seem pretty comfortable with the idea that a democrat is a faggot and a faggot is a bad thing. Illegal immigrants too are of a lesser order it would seem. Tom Tancredo’s likening of Miami to a third world country (also bad- poor and non-white) got the hall on its feet a whoopin’ an’ a hollerin’.

    Condemnation of Coulter alone is to misunderstand what is happening to a once proud movement. A very creepy affair.




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  9. Andy says:

    It may be tolerated on liberal websites but not at the nation’s premier conservative gathering.

    Besides being a half-hearted slur against left wing sites, this is also simply wrong.

    Coulter’s language obviously IS tolerated at “the nation’s premier conservative gathering” and has been for years.

    This denunciation would be rather more persuasive if it acknowledged the widespread support for Coulter and her ideas among the conservative core, rather than just criticizing her words.




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  10. Timmer says:

    Well said Sir.

    I can’t speak for all of The Daily Brief, but I’d say most of us were pretty disgusted.




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  11. LaurenceB says:

    All in all, a very noble action on the part of these bloggers. Well done.




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  12. Steve Verdon says:

    James,

    I don’t know if your signature covers all OTB contributors or not, but you can add my name if you want.




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  13. James,

    Do I have to be a blogger to sign on?

    Or is it sufficient that I’m an obsessive amateur historian with his own web page?




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  14. James Joyner says:

    Steve: One signature per blog probably covers it.

    Kent: If you post the letter at your site, I’ll add it.




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  15. Wayne says:

    Next things someone will suggest is that she goes to rehab.

    Many of these posts have proven the point she was trying to make. So many are worry about being PC that freedom of speech has been suppress. Conservatives are particularly sensitive since the MSM will crucify them while letting liberals get away with it.

    I don’t agree with everything Ann says but find her refreshing compare to many PC conservatives that won’t say anything that could be taken offensively.




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  16. James Joyner says:

    So many are worry about being PC that freedom of speech has been suppress.

    No one is saying that Coulter isn’t free to speak her mind, merely that she shouldn’t be given the imprimatur of CPAC when it is so predictable that she’ll say something outrageous.

    Had she made an argument about how absurd it was to send someone to rehab for the use of an anti-gay slur, few on the signatory list would have condemned her. What she did here, though, was to make an outrageous remark for the sake of impact, totally divorced from any reality.




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  17. whatever says:

    When I was a kid, I was taught that the best way to stop name calling was to ignore the kids who used it. “Sticks and Stones” and all of that.

    Now we have James and company falling over themselves to show how pure they are by writing non-binding resolutions. If you’re really worry offending people, then ignore her and don’t invite her back.

    The golden lining in all of this is that everyone finds the term “faggot” offensive. I agree being called a homosexual should always be an insult to anyone who has any decency.




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  18. Wayne says:

    James

    Not wanting Ann at CPAC because she will say something offensive is understandable. Not that the Dems ever care about making offensive statements at their big functions. However, surely you are not suggesting that the PC crowd and MSM harping on anything a conservative might say that could be taken offensively don’t suppress free speech.

    I’m not saying that some speech shouldn’t be condemned. However, we need to take responsibility for what we say including condemning others. If we condemn too much especially from one perspective, then we suppress people. Then they tend to explode when they had too much. Many feel that the PC crowd has done this. Where should the line be drawn, I am not sure. The PC crowd has suppressed free speech to the point of actually passing laws to enforce PCness.




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  19. quietman says:

    theyguys want to hold us to a higher standard, for what? So we can sit around and declare how evil the left is for them doing the same and far worse on a daily basis??

    Ann speaks her mind, people..same as you..and if she made a joke or even if she was dead serious in labeling Edwards a fag, you all are ready to toss her out. You want to hammer her so the left will love you…and yet you, yourselves give the left a constant pass other than a few “oh they’re so bad!”
    What does that say about your own PC commitment and your own butt kissing reactions?

    “Oh no mommy, she dared to say something that the religious right will find offensive!” “Kill her!!”

    Well, bullshit. If the far right is so touchy that everyone else has to watch every word, then they are no better than the fringe leftists, no smarter, and even less tolerant.

    I would sooner send CPAC packing as send Ann Coulter packing. I am thankful she is out there saying what so many of you all say under your breath andoff screenn.

    Cowards!




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  20. Dr. Neil Galanter says:

    Doesn’t everyone know what a vicious and unkind human being Ann Coulter is? Why are all of you conservatives so surprised at Ms. Coulter’s remarks? As a gay person, I can still ask you: Was it any worse when she said she wished the NY Times building had been blown up?, when she insulted Muslims? or any of her other hundreds of vicious and degrading comments that she makes almost anytime someone gives her a microphone? Or is it maybe that actually she sadly does represent a portion of your group and it is actually frightening for you all of you to see it in ‘black & white’ (pun intended) as it always is when you allow her to come anywhere near your group? I fear the latter having met many conservatives in my life who simply think if they don’t say what they really think that it will just go away. Unfortunately that is never true. I suggest indeed that you ban Ms. Coulter from your club, but I also suggest that a lot of you look yourselves in the mirror as well.
    Good day
    NG




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  21. Lee Hayes says:

    Oh! Suddenly the distance starts – you guys are so full of the wrong message you are trying to turn it upside-down to get a better perspective. There IS no conservatism left in this government, they’ve bankrupted almost everything they’ve touched- apparently even the support for the trashiest most hateful mouth who supports every lame and backwater decision the Administration of Geo W Bush has put forward, ANN COULTER. I fully agree with the comment
    Posted by: Triumph at March 5, 2007 10:02 Permalink
    the right is missing the message voiced loudly by the majority of Americans. We are worried about the direction they have taken us. We feel lied to and abused by their arrogance. We are fed up.




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  22. Tano says:

    Here are my problems with this letter:

    “Conservatism treats humans as they are, as moral creatures possessing rational minds and capable of discerning right from wrong. ”

    That should read “Conservatism, at its best, aspires to treat….”.
    The reality is that modern conservatism flirts with authoritarianism – because they do not think the rabble capable of discerning right from wrong, and want to use the government to enforce a set of values.

    “Ann Coulter used to serve the movement well…. saying provocative things to inspire deeper thought”

    huh? It is up to you, of course, to judge whether she ever well served your movement. But she has ALWAYS played the shtick of driving political discourse to its most shallow, and pointlessly confrontational levels. “deeper thoughts”? One wonders if you have completely lost sight of what those are.

    The reference to Rush Limbaugh, as an authority on the fact that “words mean things” is pretty hilarious. How do you suppose that this reinforces your point?

    “It may be tolerated on liberal websites but not at the nation’s premier conservative gathering.”

    A pretty cheap shot, and untrue, of course. Homophobic slurs are not tolerated on liberal websites. You undermine your own appearance of sincerity by using this opportunity to take shots at the other side. The only message it sends is that conservatives would be unwilling to take a stand on anything unless it can include a gratuitous shot at the “libruls”.

    “Her word choice forces conservatives to waste time defending themselves against charges of homophobia rather than advancing conservative ideas.”

    Maybe a better way to phrase this would be: “Despite our disapproval of her words, we do recognize they give us an opportunity to address and condemn the wider phenomenon of homophobia in our midst, and in the society as a whole”.

    “How can we teach young conservatives to fight for their principles with civility and respect…”

    A good sentiment. But to focus just on Coulter is missing the blindingly obvious. College Republicans are legendary for their obnoxious, insulting, frat-boy culture. Coulter merely exploits that (including by showing a little skin), but she is hardly the driving force of that phenomenon. A serious attempt to educate your younguns would certainly be appreciated by society at large.




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  23. Collin says:

    Few points to make. First being that an “Open Letter” is supposed to be addressed TO a specific person or group. You have shared your opinions of Coulter but this is not an open letter.

    Second, it’s not right to make statements that conservatives are racists. Just because we hate all rag heads, gays, jews, niggers, spicks… KIDDING! Rush is right about 1 thing, words don’t mean anything at all. It’s the person who is on the receiving end of words that will assign a meaning to the words and ultimately it’s this assigned meaning that gives power to words that may damage.

    I applaud Ann Coulter’s ability to speak her mind at any cost. Shock value gets you more attention but she may have screwed up by going a step to far and gaining negative results. That doesn’t change the fact that she, unlike ALL of the lefties, is willing to be real rather then carefully catering to what she thinks people want to hear! To me these comments make me trust her more even if I disagree with those comments.

    Any of you so called lefties that agree with Mark, that the things said in this article could apply to both sides until the anit-liberal remarks. Well perhaps you need to consider changing parties because there is NO WAY IN HELL that democrats and liberals treat people as intelligent moral creatures capable of discerning right from wrong! Every move Hillary makes is a slap in the face to people who can see clearly that she doesn’t have to believe in anything she says to people. She carefully conceals her true opinions. Ann Coulter would get my vote in a heartbeat if she ran for president. She would still have the same beliefs that I agree with but luckily she would have speech writers who could edit out offensive comments.




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  24. Andy B says:

    What do I think about the “Ban Ann” conservatives?

    I think they are self-righteous elitists of the blog-o-sphere who always complain about the left-wing media elites censoring out the right.

    Everyone on the “Ban Ann” list has acquired a slight hint of arrogance that the left has portrayed for a long time.

    It is truly sad to see so many well respected bloggers join the “Ban Ann” lynch mob.

    What’s next, pies in her face?

    And another thing:

    I wanted to point out a part of this whole issue that isn’t being talked about. What she meant when she said if you say the word faggot you have to go to rehab.

    Greys Anatomy actor Isaiah Washington was excoriated for using the word “faggot” to refer to co-star T.R. Knight while backstage at the Golden Globes. Washington later apologized to T.R., the shows fans, and to the gay and lesbian community for using that word. He later checked into rehab:

    Grey’s Anatomy star Isaiah Washington has entered a residential treatment facility in an effort to quell the controversy surrounding his anti-gay remarks — and save his job, Life & Style has learned exclusively.

    According to an insider, Isaiah, who issued an apology for his statements on Jan. 18, agreed to undergo a psychological assessment after talks with ABC executives.

    The married 43-year-old father of three was spotted entering the facility at 9 a.m. today (Jan. 24). (Life&Style Magazine)

    So you see, Ann Coulter wasn’t saying anything that wasn’t true. She just said something some people didn’t like. Oh well!




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  25. kevin polk says:

    With Ann Coulter, the trees come so large and thickly planted that I guess I’m not surprised that your otherwise laudable condemnation of her recent antics would miss the forest for them.

    Ann Coulter attempted to assassinate John Edwards’ character by implying that he is a faggot. That she used vulgar language is not, how shall I put this, newsworthy. But to suggest that she did so casually is a fundamentally flawed assessment.

    As even some of the commenters here have attested, Ann Coulter’s legendary ability to vilify political opponents is what gives her views whatever currency they may have had. She says what some on the right might think but are too timid of public reaction to actually say. Hence the constant moaning and whining about political correctness.

    Not that anyone believes John Edwards is gay. But what they do believe is that the best way to defeat people with opposing views is to demonize them.

    Why partisans of either stripe feel the need to attack the character and humanity of opponents whose ideas, speeches and job performance already offer up so target-rich an environment is beyond me.

    Yet time and time again, we see the deliberate attempt to conflate an opponent’s character, views and image with the most extreme words and most outrageous actions that any yahoo on the other side has ever spewed forth.

    Far from being ostracized for this kind of behavior, Ann Coulter has thus far been roundly applauded, even emulated, on the right.

    In employing language that was not reckless at all but wholly intended to taint a political opponent, Ann Coulter this time somehow went too far and in doing so exposed her less sharp-tongued compatriots to the same hazard.

    And that, my friends, is what you object to.

    To be fair to Dr. Joyner, I have never seen him employ the politics of personal destruction, but to suggest that Ann Coulter’s behavior isn’t wholly representative of a slash and burn approach to politics that is widely practised both within and outside of the right wing (ok, I’ll be fair, the left has its practitioners too) of the blogosphere is absurd.

    It’s like trying to disassociate yourself from yourself.




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  26. Dorothy says:

    Actually, the joke is on Conservatives. How sad. Anytime a celebrity makes a raunchy joke, they sign up for rehab, and all is forgotten and forgiven. Ann’s joke merely emphasizes the ridiculousness of that situation, cleverly, I might add.

    And now you guys are falling all over yourselves trying to get rid of her because she said the, oh, my, gasp, the “F” word, totally disregarding what the real target of her sentence was: hypocrisy (having absolutely nothing to do with sex-you-all orientation.) But, oh, my, she said that … that …. that …. horrible word, oh, my.

    I’ve never been a fan of Ann Coulter, although I smile from time to time if I ever come across something she writes. But you guys are worse than Looney Liberals. You know you’ve, oh, my, f’d (gasp) up when you got the Loonies coming out of the woodwork, tripping over themselves to agree with you.




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  27. Rico J. Halo says:

    “Words Mean Things”

    Ann Coulter survives by being outrageous. The trick is to walk that fine line of getting peoples attention and/or making them think without sinking to the same level as the fringe left. But sometimes that fine line turns into the razor sharp edge of a bottomless pit. Ann Coulter probably feels very alone right about now.




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  28. Michael says:

    I’m surprised at how many people commenting here accuse James and other conservative bloggers of being “PC” and trying to “Censor” Coulter. This letter doesn’t come close to either. CPAC claims to represent conservatives, and CPAC invites speakers to their events to represent their organisation, and my extension conservatives. What James and the others are saying is that Coulter does not represent them, and they want CPAC to stop implying that she does.

    In effect, this is no different that James saying Michael Moore shouldn’t be invited to speak at CPAC, because he doesn’t represent conservatives. I doubt those complaining now would have similar “PC” and “Censorship” remarks if Moore were the subject.




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  29. Patty Nottoli says:

    Every one of you blog owners trying to tar and feather Ann are clearly overwrought with jealousy because she says what she wants – and you don’t dare to do that because you’re riddled and immobilized by fear of offending liberals.

    Instead of growing a spine, you try to bring down Ann. Not possible. Give it up. Don’t muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn.

    It’s people like you who have prevented the Republican party from ever being successful and victorious over socialism.

    Leave Ann alone. She speaks for multi-millions of us. And you don’t.




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  30. Thank you for stepping up to be a leader. I have been calling the companies that have chosen to advertise on http://www.anncoulter.com and recommended that they rethink how and where their advertising dollars are spent. Many of the companies that I have contacted agree that the vision and mission statements of their respective companies and organizations are not aligned with her bigoted and discriminatory expression of free speech. While I have not contacted all of the sponsors of her website, or all of the co-sponsors of CPAC, those sponsors who may be reading this should make the ethical and moral stand against such hatred and exclusion. I encourage all of you to take a stand against bigotry – go to http://www.cpac.org, click on co-sponsors…and let them know how you feel. Also goto anncoulter.com, and call those sponsors as well.




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