Accuracy in Media

In a recent column urging the execution of New York Times editor Bill Keller on treason charges, Ann Coulter not only got a critical fact wrong but undermined the serious case that many of us have been making for the paper to be prosecuted by the Department of Justice. Her column plays into the hands of those, such as the liberal lady “journalist” who showed up at our anti-New York Times protest in Washington, who demanded to know what severe punishment we wanted for Times personnel. 

Looking for a “sound bite” to make us look foolish, the lady apparently wanted us to say that publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., editor Bill Keller, and reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau should all be put to death. She wanted us to sound extreme so that we could be ridiculed. I didn’t jump at the bait, telling her that the important thing was that the paper ought to be prosecuted under section 798 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code. That’s the law prohibiting the publication of classified communications secrets. That law prohibits publishing material such as the Times story from last December about the classified NSA terrorist surveillance program. Punishment would be in the hands of the prosecutor, judge and jury. 

But Coulter doesn’t mind sounding extreme. Finding the Times guilty of treason, she said in her column that the only sensible punishment is death, which she claimed “happens to be the punishment prescribed by law.” Wrong. Treason, under Section 2381 of Title 18, is punishable by death or prison time, and/or financial fines, and a prohibition from holding office. However, Coulter said that, in contrast to a radio host who said Keller should go to the gas chamber, she would prefer a firing squad. I guess that was supposed to be funny. 

On the charges of plagiarism that have been leveled against Coulter, one of the apparent sources for some of her material has come forward to say that he had his work used without attribution but that he isn’t offended or bothered by it. One of the charges was that she heavily borrowed, without attribution, some material from a Heritage Foundation report by Robert Knight on offensive “art” subsidized by the National Endowment for the Arts. 

Knight, who now directs the Culture & Family Institute at Concerned Women for America, tells me that all of the NEA examples cited in the Coulter column “were right out of my paper, although the phrasing was changed. Several were in the exact order I had them in my paper. It appears that Miss Coulter cribbed them directly from my Heritage report. Since it involves a considerable number of examples (nine), it would have been nice if she had credited me or Heritage, but I’m not upset. I’m glad she used this stuff to good effect.”  

In another case of questionable conduct, Coulter made a reference in a June 21 column to former Senator Max Cleland, a triple amputee from the Vietnam War, as “Max the grenade-dropper.” This was supposed to be a reference to reports that Cleland suffered those terrible injuries when he picked up a grenade that he had dropped. Coulter has been after Cleland for years, stemming from his days as a Senate Democrat who tried to make an issue out of President Bush’s service in the National Guard.

Once again, Coulter has shown a tendency to ridicule people who have suffered a personal loss because of war or terrorism. You’ll remember that she said the New Jersey 9/11 widows were “enjoying” their husbands’ deaths because they became media-savvy anti-Bush political activists. 

It turns out that while Cleland had once suggested that the grenade was his own, and that he had dropped it after jumping out of a helicopter, another soldier later came forward to say it was his grenade. Whether he dropped it or someone else did, I don’t understand why someone who lost three limbs ought to be ridiculed. If this is what passes for conservative humor, I don’t like it.  

It’s interesting to note, according to, that former CBS News reporter turned media critic Bernard Goldberg told a radio host that Coulter’s remarks about the 9/11 widows entitle her to inclusion in his book on people who are “screwing up America.” 

In my opinion, Coulter should go in and Judge Roy Moore should come out. Moore, a constitutional conservative, was included in the Goldberg book because he resisted a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from his Alabama courthouse. 

Interestingly, Human Events newspaper in 2003 published an article heralding Moore as “Man of the Year” for his principled stand against the feds and the ACLU. The article was written by Ann Coulter, the paper’s legal correspondent. Coulter wrote, “He took an oath to uphold the Constitution, not to uphold whatever blather a liberal judge manages to put on paper.” Coulter was right, and she is much more convincing when she marshals arguments?rather than personal insults?to make her point. 

While Goldberg accused Coulter of “crossing the line” in her criticism of the New Jersey widows, he also said that she “makes me laugh.”

But “Max the grenade-dropper” rhetoric isn’t funny or accurate. 

Coulter is scheduled to be at Sean Hannity’s Freedom Concert in New Jersey on July 21 to help raise money to provide educational scholarships for the children of U.S. military personnel who have been killed or permanently disabled. This is a tremendous cause. The scholarships are provided through Freedom Alliance, founded by my old boss, highly decorated Vietnam War veteran and retired Lt. Col. Oliver L. North. 

If Coulter speaks to the crowd, she ought to seriously consider omitting any comments or jokes about soldiers losing their limbs or people enjoying the loss of their loved ones to terrorism. It just wouldn’t be appropriate. In fact, it would be downright offensive, even sickening.

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