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Wed Jun 26 2002 13:31:16 ET

In the third and typically least watched hour of the TODAY SHOW on Wednesday, Katie Couric sat down with conservative author Ann Coulter to discuss her latest book. 'SLANDER'.

The following is a rushed transcript of their heated exchange:

Katie Couric: To a right-wing telebimbo but one thing Ann Coulter has not been called is underneath stated in her latest book slander, liberal lies about the American right the controversial author takes on big media, big government, and most of all liberals. Ann Coulter, good morning, nice to see you.
Ann Coulter: Nice to see you.
Katie Couric: So your main thesis, Ann, is that liberals really misrepresent conservatives and the conservative movement. Isn't that accurate?
Ann Coulter: Yes, a little bit more than that, and that is that political debate, with liberals is basically impossible in America today because liberals are calling names while conservatives are trying to make arguments. And when every one of your arguments is characterized as an attempt to bring about slavery or resegregate lunch counters, it's a little hard to have any sort of productive debate. I mean I have no problem with invective, obviously. But the name of my book isn't invective, it's slander, and I think there ought to be a point to the invective.
Katie Couric: What are some of the big liberal lies that are out there, in your estimation?
Ann Coulter: I don't rank them, but --
Katie Couric: I'm not asking you to, either, but just tell me what you think they are.
Ann Coulter: I would say it's really all the same lie, which is conservatives are either stupid or scarily weird and therefore you don't have to deal with their ideas, just set them aside. This is a crazy person, it's a Nazi, someone who wants to engage in racism, sexism, homophobia, so don't listen to that person's ideas, take a quote out of context and dismiss that idea, the idea that Ronald Reagan was stupid, which I document at great length in my book. I mean that is a stunning, stunning fact. The man, the (unintelligible) guy who won the Cold War war, he was demeaned and attacked as being stupid, meanwhile winning a second term, a spate of special interest articles on senility, and senility, growing senility, and how old Ronald, encroaching Senility, meanwhile (wordd)(unintelligible) liberal media asking that justice Thurgood Marshall or justice Brennan or Blackmon resigned, life and death issues from the Supreme Court.
Katie Couric: I think I do have to bring up a section of the book where you talk specifically about me, and this is not where you call me the Eva Braun of liberalism, that makes me feel so much better, but you talk about the media bias against Ronald Reagan, and you useless a quote and open from The Today Show where we say an airhead, Ronald Reagan is an airhead and we're quoting Edmund Morris but frankly in the book you make it sound as if I was saying that rather than Edmond Morris and I guess one of your problems with even using that that he said he was an apparent airhead and we failed to say apparent airhead. And during the course of the interview with Edmond Morris I really conducted an extremely challenging interview with him because he did eviscerate Ronald Reagan in his book, it was a very, very unflattering portrayals of Reagan, they were very unhappy with it, conservatives were very unhappy with it. Afterwards Edmond Morris was unhappy with the interview and Nancy Reagan called to thank me for me line of questioning. So I'm just wondering how that jibes with your contention that somehow I'm a Ronald Reagan basher.
Ann Coulter: Well, I didn't call you a Ronald Reagan basher.
Katie Couric: Well, you used me as an example of liberal bias against Ronald Reagan, and I'm just curious why you took it so out of context.
Ann Coulter: Well, I don't think I did. You're taking it out of context.
Katie Couric: No, no.
Ann Coulter: What I said was, which is true, that The Today Show opens, I believe it was three days in a row with the announcement, Ronald Reagan was an airhead, that's the conclusion of this new book by Edmond Morris, when Edmond Morris came on for that interview with you he described that as a grossly unfair characterization of his point.
Katie Couric: Well, we should also point out, though --
Ann Coulter: The entire book was contradicting that, so when the author himself and George Bush, the vice president, was interviewed about this, also that that affs a grossly unfair characterization, whose characterization was it, it wasn't Edmond Morris --
Katie Couric: Well, actually he backpedaled considerably, if you would have read the book by Edmond Morris --
Ann Coulter: I didn't like the book --
Katie Couric: You called him an apparent airhead. You did call him an apparent airhead, I have the quote right here if you'd like me to read it.
Ann Coulter: No, I read the quote and in it's in my book.
Katie Couric: He said that young Ken Timmons, panting brace played occasional hookey from the White House speech writing department to help me build a chronology, and I was about to hire a full-time assistant, yes, it is the magic of Geneva had faded. Judge remained a history to and worst still that I entertained such heresy in the hushed and reverent precincts of his office an apparent airhead. So these are Edmond Morris --
Ann Coulter: It was also in his words when he came on your show, that that was a grossly unfair characterization, and that was at the beginning of the book, you said he described them as an apparent airhead on the very first meeting and that the entire course of the rest of his book was contradicting that, so for the today show to be opening three days in a row, Ronald Reagan was an airhead --
Katie Couric: It was one day.
Ann Coulter: -- dishonest.
Katie Couric: And also just for your information --
Ann Coulter: No you said it one day, Matt Lauer said it another day.
Katie Couric: No, it was just one day and we'll get the transcript for you. Anyway he said commond Morris beyond mazement I was fressed by the relent finalities not to say incoherence of his interviews. I didn't really switch in the book but we don't want to get too hired --
Ann Coulter: This was not only solely not about this quote, it is not solely about the today show --
Katie Couric: Let's move on then and talk about it, let's just talk about the religious right, actually, since I'm conducting this interview, one of the things you say is the religious right is misrepresented by the liberal media, that it isn't some organization that has --
Katie Couric: Since I'm conducting this interview, one of the things you say is the religious right is misrepresented by the liberal media, that it isn't some organization that has club members, and that it's used to sort of freely buy liberals in the media. What do you mean by that? Can you elaborate? Because I think that's an interesting point.
Ann Coulter: Well, it's more than the religious right is misrepresented. It's the idea that it's this Orwellian totemic symbol for people to hate, I mean you try to figure out what the religious right is, it ultimately comes down either to one man, Pat Robertson, or anyone who believes in a higher being and wants his taxes cut. As The New York Times apparently describes the religious right, I mean I'm searching through transcripts, and newspaper articles to figure out exactly what they're talking about, it seems to me anyone who wants his taxes cut and wants to eliminate the national endowment of the arts. So you're either talking about half of America or one man, and still this is used is an example to frighten Americans, it's -- the religious right is presumed to be self-evidently fanatical, intolerant, and, for example, the quote that has so captured the imaginations of gossip columnists, my calling you the affable Eva Braun of morning TV, taken in context, but the context was that speech in which you blamed the dragging death of James Byrd on these intolerance created by evangelical Christians, which is just an astonishing statement.
Katie Couric: Actually I didn't, but I'll have to get the exact transcript --
Ann Coulter: Luck would have it both of these quotes are in my book, that is in the footnote.
Katie Couric: Okay, we'll look at that, but the real problem you have is with the Matthew Shepherd interview, and again, I don't want to do a tit-for-tat, because there are a lot of broader issues in your book that I want to talk about. One of them is that you take Walter Cronkite to task for criticizing Jerry Falwell for the remarks he said after September 11th. You write about what Falwell said. Falwell it seems had remarked that gay marriage and abortion on demand may not have warmed the heart of the Almighty. In fact, here is what Falwell actually said, something he incidentally later apologized for. He said, I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say you helped make this happen. Do you agree with Jerry Falwell, and shouldn't you have focused, perhaps, some of your attention on those remarks rather than on Walter Cronkite's, you know, distaste for what Jerry Falwell said?
Ann Coulter: Not after September 11th. I did find it quite astonishing that after September 11th liberals seem to be in overdrive watching out for the statements of Christians. I mean what Jerry Falwell said there, whether you agree with it or not, is really fairly standard Jerry Falwell Christian doctrine. Yes, he's against abortion, he's against --
Katie Couric: But to blame them for the events of September 11th, you didn't find that a little disconcerting?
Ann Coulter: No what he said was that the almighty had stopped protecting America because America was no longer asking for God's help, this is straight Christian doctrine, and even if it had been some sort of peculiar sect of Christianity, as opposed to straight Christian doctrine, I think it's a little bit peculiar that everyone was jumping on the statement of a Christian minister after thousands of Americans were slaughtered by Islamic fundamentalists.
Katie Couric: You were also fired, I guess, because you wrote in the National Review that we should -- when it came to fighting terrorism, we should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity. Do you still believe that that's the best way to combat terrorism worldwide?
Ann Coulter: Well, that's a somewhat dishonest quote. I was referring to the people in the previous sentence of that column, cheering and dancing in the streets right now, and, in fact, this -- the way that was so widely misquoted is an example of what I described in my book, which is the constant mischaracterizations, which is a small word, picking out the word of parents. It makes a big difference. And these subtle differences that are then glossed over as if there's absolutely no difference. To try to portray conservatives as crazy people, as Nazis, slave owners, (unintelligible), homophobic, how about dealing with our ideas? I mean I've written two books now, I've written hundreds of columns, I've been on TV hundreds of times. The idea that someone can go out and find one quote that will suddenly, you know, portray me just dismiss her ideas, read no more, read no further, this person is crazy --
Katie Couric: Well, obviously --
Ann Coulter: -- is precisely what liberals do all the time.
Katie Couric: But obviously the National Review had a problem with these articles and some of the pieces you did because you were fired from that job. Can you elaborate or at least tell us what you exactly meant?
Ann Coulter: That also isn't quite true. I mean I write a syndicated column, I write for Human Events. That's the newspaper that hires me. People buy a syndicated column, and they dropped the column. But a lot of people don't like me for a lot of different reasons, including --
Katie Couric: Why don't you explain what you meant, then.
Ann Coulter: -- that they're my competitors.
Katie Couric: What do you think is the best way to battle terrorism?
Ann Coulter: Point one and point two by the end of the week had become official government policy. As for converting them to Christianity, I think it might be a good idea to get them on some sort of hobby other than slaughtering infidels. I mean perhaps that's the Peace Corps, perhaps it's working for Planned Parenthood, but I've never seen the transforming effect of anything like that Christianity.
Katie Couric: Well, Ann Coulter, it's always interesting to talk to you, to say the least. The book is called Slander, Liberal Lies about the American right. Thank you.

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