Don’t read this if you like Ann Coulter.
Don’t read this if you want to believe Ann Coulter gets her facts straight.
The other night I was enlisted to appear on MSNBC’s Hardball to discuss the controversy over the CBS miniseries on Ronald and Nancy Reagan. On the other side was Coulter, the over-the-top-and-over-the-edge conservative author whose latest book literally brands all liberals as treasonous. Conservatives and Republicans have howled that the Reagan movie was a travesty, complaining it portrays Reagan as out of it in the White House and callous toward AIDS victims. On air, I noted that since the movie, as far as I could tell, does not detail how Reagan had cozied up to the apartheid regime of South Africa, the murderous dictator of Chile, and the death-squad-enabling government of El Salvador, it indeed has a problem with accuracy. But the miniseries’ true sin seems to be its schlockiness. The available clips make it look like Dynasty meets Mommie Dearest set in the White House.
Coulter started more restrained than usual, though she predictably bashed Hollywood liberals for trying to undermine the historical standing of a president they despised by resorting to trashy revisionism. Perhaps she even had a point. Who could tell what the producers were aiming at? But then she jumped the tracks. She claimed that the movie Patton was made by Holly-libs with “hatred in their hearts” for George S. Patton, the brilliant but erratic World War II general. These filmmakers “intended to make Patton look terrible,” she maintained, but because they produced an accurate work, the movie ended up making “Patton look great and people loved him.”
Was Patton a left-wing Hollywood conspiracy that backfired? Host Chris Matthews immediately challenged her in his subtle fashion: “You are dead wrong.” He pushed her for proof, and she replied, “That is why George C. Scott turned down his Academy Award for playing Patton.” Coulter was suggesting that Scott had spurned his Oscar because the filmmakers plan to destroy Patton’s image by portraying the general “as negatively as possible” had gone awry.
Matthews wasn’t buying. “Who told you that, who told you that?” he shouted. Her Oracle-like response: “It is well known.” She added, “Why did you think he turned down the award, Chris? You never looked that up? It never occurred to you?”
Matthews retorted, “Because he said he wasn’t going to a meat parade, because he didn’t believe in award ceremonies.” And Matthews was right. Following the show, I took Coulter’s advice and did look it up. I found a 1999 obituary of Scott that noted he had stunned Hollywood in 1971 for being the first person ever to refuse an Academy Award. He had explained his action by slamming such awards as “demeaning” and he had dismissed the Oscar ceremony as a “two-hour meat parade.” (Matthews receives extra points for getting this quote correct.) Coulter had twisted this well-documented episode into yet more proof that liberals–especially those in Hollywood–are conspiratorial traitors.
After I described this exchange to someone who once worked with her, he said, “That’s Ann. She lives in her own world and she just makes things up.” This interlude concerned a small matter. (Who knew we would be debating one of my favorite movies?) But this minor dustup provided evidence to support a serious charge. As Matthews remarked while wrapping up the segment, “Facts mean nothing to you, Ann.” If so, why continue to have her on?
DON’T FORGET ABOUT DAVID CORN’S NEW BOOK, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers). A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER! For more information and a sample, check out the book’s official website: www.bushlies.com.