When the blogs began circulating harpy pundit Ann Coulter's awful comments about Jewish people on CNBC's The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, I was almost amused.
Coulter told Deutsch that America should be a Christian nation, Jews should convert and that Christians "just want Jews to be perfected, as they say."
Deutsch, who is Jewish, seemed flabbergasted by Coulter's comments (see for yourself here). Of course, he wouldn't have been so surprised if he had paid attention to her past pronouncements, in which she said of Muslims "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." She's also defended racial profiling in airport security (one blogger I read wondered if she also supported racially profiling white people who try to rent Ryder trucks); accused the widows of emergency workers killed in 9/11 of enjoying their husband's deaths and claimed liberals do not believe in God.
Deutsch tried to spin it all this morning on the Today Show, admitting his producers didn't want Coulter on his program while claiming he was "trying to celebrate her business model." (making money through prejudiced, hurtful rhetoric?) He then went on to say politicians or other people in the media should take on the issue of celebrities getting attention by acting badly. How about just ignoring her next book?
To be sure, part of this controversy involved Coulter clumsily slinging around the evangelical code language others use more subtly. Someone like Newt Gingrich would have made the same point obliquely enough that Deutsch couldn't have laid a glove on him. But subtlety isn't exactly Coulter's stock in trade.
I'm past the point of shock at her words; Coulter earns her daily bread by saying the stuff most other right wing extremists have the good sense to keep to Klan rallies and white supremacist chat rooms. (scroll to the end of this post on my own blog to see Coulter herself admit insult is te key to her success formula)
What makes this an important story is the access NBC continues to give her to mainstream audiences. (It's also worth asking why Deutsch didn't get upset with Coulter -- who has been on his show before -- until she smacked him right in the face with some fundamentalist Christians' views on Jewish people as failed Christians).
The first time I heard of her latest loony book, If Democrats Had any Brains, They'd Be Republicans, was when Meredith Vieira was interviewing her about it on the Today Show. I can think of 1,000 authors who deserve the wide spotlight of Today more than the woman who called John Edwards a faggot, but there she was, spouting her nonsense to morning TV's largest audience.
There's a hint why Today and NBC News is so willing to give her attention in Howard Kurtz's new book, Reality Show, when the Washington Post media critic recounts an attempt by NBC anchor Brian Williams to call her to task for her comments on the the 9/11 widows.
NBC's piece led with the question on everyone's lips back then: "Have you no shame?"
But Williams got a shock, according to Kurtz: "Williams was deluged with e-mails from angry conservatives...Williams had tried to make the case for civility in public debate, but in an age when anyone could unleash a torrent of shame with the click of a mouse, perhaps it had already vanished."
You'd think Imus would have taught them something. Keep featuring a prejudiced jerk on your air, and soon enough they'll say something that makes you look awful and insults a huge portion of those people you're trying to sell Happy Meals and tennis shoes to.
My only comfort: If Coulter's view of religion is even partly right, she'll be spending most of eternity in an awfully warm place before long.