By: Dave Astor
The Sanford (N.C.) Herald has become at least the sixth newspaper this week to drop Ann Coulter’s syndicated column following her March 2 remark concerning Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards that included the term “faggot.”
The DeKalb Daily Chronicle in Illinois, a Lee Enterprises paper, then became #7. That paper explained on its Web site today that it took issue with her syndicate, Universal, saying it had no intention of dropping Coulter because her offensive remark did not appear in a column. “That’s a lot like the Chronicle saying, ‘She didn’t say it in one of the columns we ran, so it isn’t our problem.’ Wrong. It is our problem, and not dealing with it is a cop-out,” the newspaper declared.
“So yesterday we called Universal Press Syndicate and ‘fired’ Coulter. What she said was wrong and hurtful and stepped way beyond the line of human decency, much less political commentary.”
The North Carolina paper, meanwhile, is “planning an editorial to discuss the decision in this Sunday’s newspaper,” said Editor Billy Liggett, when reached this afternoon by E&P. “The editorial hasn’t been written yet, but the decision has been made.”
Liggett noted that the paper had already discussed the possibility of dropping Coulter before the comment about Edwards, but the slur was “kind of the last straw.”
Even before March 2, editing Coulter “had become a task” because of her periodic inflammatory language, according to Liggett. “We kept having to pick and choose what we could or couldn’t run,” he said.
Liggett added that the Herald since last Friday has received some e-mails from Sanford-area residents criticizing Coulter. “We care about what our readers think,” said Liggett.
The Herald also received more than 1,000 e-mails criticizing Coulter during the past two days from people who saw the paper listed as a client of the columnist on the liberal MediaMatters.org site. Liggett said about 800 of those e-mails were very similar, but about 200 others were written in a more personalized way.
Liggett said a yet-to-be-chosen conservative columnist will replace Coulter in the paper, which had run Coulter next to a liberal columnist on Sundays.
Other papers dropping the conservative Coulter this week were the Lancaster (Pa.) New Era; The Oakland Press of Pontiac, Mich.; The Mountain Press of Sevierville, Tenn.; The Times of Shreveport, La.; and The American Press in Lake Charles, La.
Coulter has about 100 clients via Universal Press Syndicate, which has said it has no plans to drop her for a “faggot” slur made outside her column.
The Dekalb paper ran the following as the featured piece in its Opinions section, under the title “Ann Coulter No Longer Welcome in The Chronicle.”
The rapid escalation of electronic communication options and the frequent inappropriate and indiscriminate use of those options have combined to produce horror stories regarding job terminations that we have all heard about and shaken our heads over. We all know stories of folks getting fired via e-mail or through a voice-mail message left on a home or cell phone answering machine. We can’t fathom the gutless and impersonal nature of such terminations. We can’t fathom it – yet we’re about to do one better. We’re going to fire someone publicly – in print – right here, right now.
In August 2001, we brought someone on board to communicate her thoughts with you each week. In retrospect, her ?hiring? coincided rather nicely with the early days of President Bush’s administration, and her thoughts and opinions have been consistent in promoting the conservative ideologies that the president and many mainstream Republicans espouse.
In a sense, she has accomplished what we hoped she would. She evoked more public commentary and reader reaction than many other columns and stories we delivered in your Chronicle. She challenged and defied her critics, mollified conservatives and infuriated liberals and was never – ever – boring. Her columns caused some to rise up and cheer, to proclaim a blaring ?Amen? when they finished reading. Meanwhile, she annoyed, enraged, provoked, nettled, irritated and exasperated others. She did what we wanted her to do when we ?put her on the payroll? five and a half years ago: She stimulated a response.
Unfortunately, she appears to have become increasingly interested in exacting a response and less interested in being a voice that proclaims conservative opinions and promotes conservative values. She became a celebrity, and – like many celebrities with a forum – could not or would not resist the temptation to offend, hurt and lash out at those voicing opinions that differed from her own.
Exactly one week ago today – not in a column printed in the Chronicle but rather in a speech to attendees of the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington – Ann Coulter said the following: ?I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards, but it turns out that you have to go into rehab if you use the word ?faggot.’? She said it boldly and without apology. The audience applauded, either in affirmation or because people sometimes react oddly when offended.
Ann Coulter is not a ?real? employee of the Chronicle. She isn’t a freelancer or even an independent contractor. If she were an employee and referred to another human being as a ?faggot,? her employment would be short-lived. As it is, the acerbic Coulter is a syndicated columnist whose material is distributed through Universal Press Syndicate. Universal President and Editor Lee Salem has responded to Coulter’s remarks by saying, ?She is not an employee, and we have no legal power to ?fire’ her.?
That’s a lot like the Chronicle saying, ?She didn’t say it in one of the columns we ran, so it isn’t our problem.? Wrong. It is our problem, and not dealing with it is a cop-out.
So yesterday we called Universal Press Syndicate and ?fired? Coulter. What she said was wrong and hurtful and stepped way beyond the line of human decency, much less political commentary.
We are mindful, however, of readers who enjoy a regular column written from a conservative perspective and realize that such a column need not be offensive in order to be effective. We have since ?hired? Michelle Malkin to replace Coulter in our rotation of syndicated political columnists. Born in Philadelphia and raised in New Jersey, Malkin graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio. She has been a columnist and editorial writer for both the Los Angeles Times and the Seattle Times before moving to Washington, D.C. Her columns are concise, witty, hard-hitting and more than capable of irritating and exasperating liberals without her feeling the need to insult. Malkin’s columns are now distributed in more than 200 papers throughout the country. The Chronicle is happy to be one of them.
Related E&P story: Editors Keeping Ann Coulter’s Column Explain Why