Ann Coulter’s baffling ‘monkey’ business

Paul Goldman Former Chairman, Democratic Party of Virginia
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Maybe it’s my being a native Southern white boy: but why would Ann Coulter, an attractive, articulate, highly educated, skillful writer go out of her way to mock herself, indeed the conservative cause she claims to support?

Last night, she went on Sean Hannity’s show with a clear strategy to make sure the audience heard her call the President of the United States a “monkey.” She was saying, in effect, that Soviet President Putin had played the organ grinder making the president dance like a monkey to his Syrian strategy. Hannity didn’t object, perhaps he didn’t hear.

His show is 24/7 Obama bashing and no one is forced to tune in. Or perhaps he secretly wants to be the new host of the old Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts. Every week the top comedians in Las Vegas skewered the guest of honor on this TV show. The roasts regularly featured insult comic Don Rickles, then the bad boy of comedy. Governor Ronald Reagan got roasted one week. He kept his cool, laughing at the brutal personal barbs. I remember being impressed at Reagan’s good nature, especially since it seemed different than the Californian’s ideologue image. On one show, Don Rickles and Sammy Davis Jr. engaged in some racial back and forth. It made me uncomfortable at first, but they were clearly genuine friends. If they could laugh, so could I.

If Ms. Coulter had appeared as an insult comic on the Hannity show, her “monkey business” could be viewed differently. In 1983, legendary broadcaster Howard Cosell, who changed sports reporting forever with his “insult comic” style, compared a Washington Redskin’s wide receiver to a “little monkey” in a commentator’s role on ABC’s Monday Night Football. The player, Alvin Garrett, was an African-American. Cosell’s comment drew complaints for being “racist.” No one who knew Cosell gave any credibility to the charge. Years before, Cosell, alone among prominent television commentators, defended Muhammed Ali during his forced retirement on false draft dodging charges. The ABC “motor mouth” had long been a leading advocate of equal rights for African-Americans.

If Ms. Coulter had a similarly distinguished record, her monkey business would be of no significance, especially if she had used the term for white athletes as had Cosell had done on prior occasions. But Ms. Coulter, to my knowledge, lacks Cosell’s resume.

Has Ms. Coulter referred to any other President as a monkey? I don’t believe so.

But let’s assume, arguendo, as Ms. Coulter would have said while attending Michigan Law School, that Mr. Putin had indeed played the president as if the Russian were the organ grinder. This still leaves the question: Why compare the first African-American President to a monkey, given the history of the term, when, for sake of this sake argument, you have never used it to describe any previous president?

Ms. Coulter, in her role as Queen of Denial in this matter, evidentially would say the following: it was either (1) in good fun, or (2) fair comment. Given her view of the President, the “good fun” explanation isn’t credible especially given the context of the term. Thus attorney Coulter would have the jury believe the following: calling President Obama a monkey is fair comment because, arguendo, he was being played for one by the Soviet strongman.

But this of course leads to our question: Can it possibly be fair comment to call an African-American holding the position of commander in chief, a person who Ms. Coulter bitterly opposes and holds in maximally low regard, a monkey? The answer: Of course not.

If you watch the TV clip of her Fox News appearance, the body language suggests Ms. Coulter thought she was being ever so clever. Does she have a First Amendment right to call the President whatever name she wants? Of course.

But the Queen of Denial evidentially thinks so little of conservatives she assumes they will accept her claim the use of monkey had nothing whatsoever to do with the color of the president’s skin. It is astounding she is popular among conservatives given how little respect she has for them.