Note: This letter will appear simultaneously on a number of conservative blogs this morning. It has been scheduled in advance for that purpose. My personal remarks will appear below.
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.
Credentialed CPAC 2007 Bloggers
Sean Hackbarth, The American Mind
James Joyner, Outside the Beltway
Scott Schmidt, Boi From Troy
Joy McCann, Little Miss Attila
Kevin McCullough, Musclehead Revolution
Fausta Werz, Fausta's blog
Patrick Hynes, Ankle Biting Pundits
Ed Morrissey, Captain's Quarters
For more background on the Coulter appearance, one of CPAC's sponsors spoke about their reaction to last year's "ragheads" comment. Amy Ridenour of the National Center for Public Policy Research says that the ACU had given them the impression that they had addressed the issue with Coulter:
The National Center for Public Policy Research is one of very many co-sponsors of CPAC, and has been for some years. After Ann Coulter's offensive speech last year, we telephoned the organizers and strongly suggested that Ann Coulter's behavior was harmful to, and unrepresentative of, the conservative movement. We said we were considering pulling out our co-sponsorship because of Ann Coulter's "raghead" comment, and asked them to not invite Ann Coulter to speak in CPAC 2007, or, at the very least, only invite her if she was told to can the offensive speech, and explicitly agreed to do so. I had 90 percent decided to stop our co-sponsorship for CPAC 2007, but the sponsor seemed to be taking our concerns about Coulter's 2006 remarks seriously and with what seemed to us to be appropriate sympathy, so the National Center co-sponsored CPAC again this year. ...
As has been widely reported, Ann Coulter not only once again went out of her way to use a nasty epithet, she pushed her offensiveness up a notch, using a word that is even more universally reviled than the derogatory term she hurled last year.
So, CPAC's sponsors either invited Coulter back without first getting her pledge that she would speak without using demeaning epithets, or they obtained her pledge, and she broke her word. ...
It would be better, in my opinion, to not have a CPAC at all than to have one that presents conservatism as a hostile, people-hating ideology. We conservatives have enough trouble overcoming the false things that are said about us without paying for a platform upon which we shoot ourselves annually in the foot.
Exactly. What the ACU did was provide a platform endorsed by a number of conservative groups to Coulter, who then abused it for her own purposes. If we are to tolerate speakers at such convocations using hateful and inflammatory language, then we're endorsing it and adopting it for our own. I'm not going to stand by and watch a movement that has the power to free people and protect liberty get hijacked by someone who treats us as a straight man for her own idea of a joke.
I have heard from a number of people that Coulter's remark was some sort of trenchant commentary on political correctness, defending the actor Isaiah Washington for his exile after using the word about one of his co-stars. First off, I was not aware that Washington's cause was of such concern for conservative activists; I must have missed that memo. Second, Washington fled to rehab to deflect some well-earned criticism, following Mel Gibson's example.
If Coulter had said, "I'd talk about Israel, but you can't say that the Jews control the Bush administration and cause all the wars without going into rehab," would she have so many defenders?
For the second year in a row, Coulter hijacked CPAC to get herself some headlines. The ACU was warned by at least one of their sponsors about that after last year, but either chose not to address it or got snowed again by Coulter. They need to cut off their association with her, or conservative organizations have to find a different organization for their conferences.
UPDATE: Laura Ingraham: "Isn't that a seventh-grade word? ... To me, it's not helpful."
The ACU issued this statement today (via Michelle Malkin):
The just completed 2007 Conservative Political Action Conference on March 1 – 3, 2007, was the largest in the 34 year history of the event, featuring 33 panels on a variety of public policy issues, 24 stand alone speakers including public officials, writers, student activists, media personalities and comedians. ACU, the event’s primary sponsor and CPAC strive to provide a platform and forum for a variety of differing views and personalities. ACU and CPAC do not condone or endorse every speaker or their comments at the conference. As such, ACU and CPAC leave it to our audience to determine whether comments are appropriate or not. “Ann Coulter is known for comments that can be both provocative and outrageous. That was certainly the case in her 2007 CPAC appearance and previous ones as well. But as a point of clarification, let me make it clear that ACU and CPAC do not condone or endorse the use of hate speech,” said David A. Keene, ACU Chairman.
They don't condone it or endorse hate speech, but they invited Coulter back after using last year and they're not condemning her for using it this year. Profiles in courage.
Speaking of which, since a number of CQ readers seem perfectly willing to defend character assassination as long as it's done by the right people, you may enjoy this comment thread.