WorldNetDaily and Ann Coulter have been the best of buddies for years. WND is one of the few online outlets allowed to post Coulter's syndicated column the evening before print outlets get it, and WND even restored an insult of Helen Thomas her syndicator had edited out.
But in the past week, the relationship between WND and Coulter deteriorated significantly, escalating into a war of words, and the one pushing to dial things down, surprisingly, has been WND -- perhaps because Coulter appears to be telling the truth.
WND started the imbroglio by announcing on Aug. 17 that Coulter had been "dropped as a keynote speaker for WND's 'Taking America Back National Conference' next month because of her plan to address an event titled 'HOMOCON' sponsored by the homosexual Republican group GOProud that promotes same-sex marriage and military service for open homosexuals." The announcement continued by detailing Farah's sense of moral superiority:
Asked by Farah why she was speaking to GOProud, Coulter said: "They hired me to give a speech, so I'm giving a speech. I do it all the time."
Farah then asked: "Do you not understand you are legitimizing a group that is fighting for same-sex marriage and open homosexuality in the military not to mention the idea that sodomy is just an alternate lifestyle?"
Coulter responded: "That's silly, I speak to a lot of groups and do not endorse them. I speak at Harvard and I certainly don't endorse their views. I've spoken to Democratic groups and liberal Republican groups that loooove abortion. The main thing I do is speak on college campuses, which is about the equivalent of speaking at an al-Qaida conference. I'm sure I agree with GOProud more than I do with at least half of my college audiences. But in any event, giving a speech is not an endorsement of every position held by the people I'm speaking to. I was going to speak for you guys, I think you're nuts on the birther thing (though I like you otherwise!)."
But Farah sees this speech to GOProud in a very different light than does Coulter.
"Earlier this year, GOProud was permitted to sponsor the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, the biggest event of its kind," said Farah. "This bad decision resulted in consistently conservative groups dropping sponsorship and withdrawing from participation much to their credit. GOProud is about infiltration of the conservative movement and dividing it from within with twisted and dangerous ideas way out of the mainstream of American public opinion. Ann Coulter is, I'm afraid, validating this effort for money. I support her speaking to people with whom she disagrees on college campuses. That's a good idea. I do it, too. But if you see the way GOProud is exploiting its coup in getting Ann Coulter to speak to its HOMOCON event, you begin to understand what a mistake this is for a conservative icon like Coulter."
Farah later insisted that "the decision was a gut-wrenching one for his team because of their fondness for Coulter as both a person and writer-speaker," adding that Coulter would remain as a WND columnist because, according to Farah, "There's a different standard for columnists and speakers at our conference. ... We boast the broadest ideological forum of commentators in any news or opinion publication or website anywhere on the planet and we will continue to do that."
The idea that it was "gut-wrenching" for WND to dump Coulter is laughable; with very few exceptions -- gay-porn star-turned-WND war correspondent Matt Sanchez being one of them -- WND has adhered to its longtime anti-gay agenda.
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Farah's claim that WND has "the broadest ideological forum of commentators in any news or opinion publication or website anywhere on the planet," meanwhile, is a matter of interpretation. Only two of the 50 or so of WND's regular columnists -- Bill Press and Ellen Ratner -- are explicitly liberal, with the rest are conservative, conservative Christian, libertarian, or some combination thereof. On any given day, liberal opinions on WND's commentary page are outnumbered at least 7-to-1 by right-wing opinions and are rarely, if ever, promoted at the top WND's commentary page. Those liberal opinions are little more than window-dressing that serves no real purpose beyond allowing Farah to claim WND offers a broad spectrum of opinion.
Despite his willingness to drop Coulter as a speaker, keeping Coulter on as a WND columnist demonstrates that Farah doesn't really have the courage of his principles. Coulter likely draws a significant amount of traffic to WND, and if Coulter goes away, so does that traffic. What principles Farah may have apparently do not extend to significantly interfering with his revenue stream.
Coulter -- who presumably had a little anti-gay cred in the bank by smearing John Edwards as a "faggot," Democratic fund-raising off which WND even scowled at because the clip being used was allegedly taken out of context -- responded in surprisingly strong fashion. The Daily Caller reported that Coulter called Farah a “publicity whore” and a “swine” for dumping her:
“[F]arah is doing this for PUBLICITY and publicity alone,” Coulter wrote in an email to The Daily Caller on Wednesday afternoon.
WND posted an email exchange between Coulter and Farah in their public announcement that she would be removed from the list of speakers. Coulter expressed anger that he quoted her from their private emails on the issue.
“[T]his was an email exchange [between] friends and even though I didn’t expressly say “OFF THE RECORD” and I believe everything I said, he’s a swine for using my private emails politely answering him.” Coulter wrote in the email to TheDC. “[W]hy would he do such a despicable thing? ... for PUBLICITY.”
The conservative pundit said that WND is well known for making decisions just to get attention, citing the conspiracist site’s regular articles about President Obama’s birth certificate.
“I will say that [Farah] could give less than two sh-ts about the conservative movement as demonstrated by his promotion of the birther nonsense (long ago disproved by my newspaper, human events, also sweetness & light, american spectator and national review etc, etc etc). He’s the only allegedly serious conservative pushing the birther thing. for ONE reason: to get hits on his website.”
(She mentioned in the email that she had typed it in a rush.)
Coulter added that she would not be losing anything from the dropped speaking engagement since WND had not been able to come up with the money to pay her anyway.
WND responded to Coulter in a similarly surprising way: trying to ratchet down the rhetoric. From an Aug. 18 WND article:
Farah responded to Coulter's remarks, saying, "Ann is angry. I hope she calms down and there can be some restoration, repentance and forgiveness. She said some mean things about me, but I can sleep at night knowing I did the right thing in God's economy."
David Kupelian, WND's long-time managing editor, added, "Ann Coulter's a hero to many, but her angry accusation that we were motivated by publicity couldn't be more off-base. This wasn't Farah's sole decision; our executive team, including me, discussed this at length in a serious and thoughtful manner, and in the end, we went with what we considered to be the principled decision."
Kupelian's claim that WND made a "principled decision" that wasn't "motivated by publicity" is laughable considering WND's general lack of principles (demonstrated by its propensity for lying about Barack Obama) and historic embrace of attention-getting stunts (i.e., the "Where's the Birth Certificate?" billboard campaign). And if WND wasn't trying to milk the controversy for publicity purposes, why did it devote an entire article to reactions to the kerfuffle?
The article neglected to address Coulter's claim that WND can't afford to pay for her appearance at the convention and her criticism of Farah for reprinting private emails without her permission.
Farah responded further in his Aug. 20 column, mostly by acting defensive and deflecting the issue. He quoted Coulter's statement that he is "a swine for using my private e-mails politely answering him. ... Why would he do such a despicable thing ... for PUBLICITY," then in the very next paragraph suggested the only evidence Coulter offered that he's a "publicity whore" was his birther obsession. Did he not read what he had just written?
Apparently not, since he was too fixated on the birther stuff; he then complained that WND's birther obsession "has cost WND dearly." The only evidence Farah provides of that? "I have not appeared on even one television news show for the last 15 months as a direct result of my commitment to this issue." Really? That's it?
Farah again failed to address Coulter's complaint about reprinting her private emails without her permission, but he reprinted his letter to Coulter urging her to withdraw from her speech. The letter reveals not only Farah's hatred of gays but also his arrogance, prefacing it by claiming he sent the same letter to "a personality more famous and popular than Coulter," who "immediately saw the light and made a correction":
Homosexuality is a sin, according to the Bible. God calls it an abomination. Paul (Romans 1:18-32) calls it a judgment on societies that turn away from God. I'm sure it has not escaped your attention that America is now one of those societies. Meanwhile, we have people homosexual and heterosexual who take pleasure in the increase of this abomination and its acceptance, just as Paul said.
This is how homosexuality literally destroys societies.
I know you don't want to see America destroyed. I've read all your books, and I'm a fan of your columns. I know you want what's best for our country and I believe you're a sincere Christian.
Whether you believe it or not, or whether or not it is your intent, your acceptance of this speaking engagement is affirming GOProud, which is, I'm sure you've noticed, winning the hearts and minds in the conservative movement with CPAC, Grover Norquist and others who don't necessarily bring a Judeo-Christian worldview to the party. GOProud is having a field day marketing you and legitimizing itself further in the conservative movement through its association with you.
Speaking to this group is not the same as speaking to a group of college students anywhere. Presumably, you speak to them not just for money, but to change their minds. The only way you might change some minds and hearts at Homocon is to confront them with their sin. I don't get the impression that is what you are being paid to do. These are folks who are being sheltered from the consequences of their sin. By giving a standard conservative rah-rah speech to them, you are embracing them as part of the conservative movement.
GOProud truly represents a blight on the conservative movement. The more the movement embraces them and accepts them, the more it will render the conservative movement useless and irrelevant.
Farah, by the way, spent the previous day's column complaining that "I can't even count how many times I've written in books and columns about why I am not a 'conservative.'" If he's not, why is he declaring himself the arbiter of what the conservative movement should do? He can't have it both ways.
The ball back in Coulter's court, she smacked a lob over the net on the Aug. 21 edition of Fox News' "Red Eye," calling WND "fake Christians trying to get publicity."
Needless to say, WND's Joseph Farah didn't take this well, as detailed in an Aug. 21 WND article:
In response, Farah issued the following statement: "Coulter called me a 'publicity whore' for my decision. But look who is on television talking about this throwing mud, name-calling, smearing not only me but my entire staff. I will not engage in the kind of ad hominem attacks that have made Coulter so famous and that are making her even more of a media darling in this age of reckless anger and character assassination for the sake of entertainment. Every day, since we made this decision at WND, I thank God for giving me the clarity of mind and discernment to make the right choice."
As to Coulter's new accusation that she was never even booked for the conference, Farah had this to say: "Coulter agreed to speak. She was retained through her speakers bureau on the basis of a previous fee for an unfulfilled engagement. We promoted her appearance at the event for six months in a high-profile manner with no objections by Coulter. We were just about to pay the balance due on the remainder of the speaker's fee when this bombshell dropped about her keynoting the Homocon event in New York one week after our conference. If Coulter didn't consider herself booked, she had ample opportunity to tell me that during the last six months and during our e-mail conversations. Knowing how quick-witted she is, it would likely have been the first reaction she had, rather than one she had to think about for days. We haven't asked Coulter to refund the money we paid to her for a speech she will never deliver. But, if I were making the charge that I was never booked, I would be more than willing to refund the money I was paid by supposedly 'fake Christians,' 'swine' and 'publicity whores.'"
Farah's disavowing "the kind of ad hominem attacks that have made Coulter so famous"? That's a laugh, considering that Farah has engaged in them so frequently, particularly against critics of WND (as ConWebWatch knows all too well). And Farah mentioned nothing about ad hominem attacks when Coulter was first announced as a speaker for the WND conference; to the contrary, Farah said that "reading and listening to Ann is always informative, engaging and fun." Apparently, Coulter stopped being "fun" for Farah when he became her target.
WND continued by promoting the discredited idea that its has principles: "Farah said he will deal only with the principles involved in the issues raised by Coulter's appearance at GOProud's Homocon event, the facts behind WND's decision to drop Coulter from the WND's Miami conference Sept. 16-18."
Farah returned to the subject -- at least the moral superiority part of it -- in his Aug. 23 column:
I have no doubts that many who call themselves Christians have encouraged Ann Coulter to take this speaking assignment. I can't judge their motives. Maybe they are enamored of her celebrity. Maybe they put their friendship with Ann above giving her what they know in their hearts to be sound advice. Maybe they're afraid of being called names and cast out of impolite conservative company. Maybe they are misguided or immature or carnal Christians. Maybe they are not Christians at all.
I don't get my notion of what being a Christian is or how to be one from other Christians. I get it from the Bible.
And understand what I am saying here: I do not suggest it is wrong for Christians to associate with homosexuals, as some have charged. In fact, if we love them or, as Ann Coulter suggests, "like" them we should engage them. We should bring them the truth. We should share the good news of the Gospel. And that, however uncomfortable it is, means confronting them with their sin just as we would any other sinner.
I believe that's what Jesus meant when He told us to love our enemies. The ultimate demonstration of love for a Christian should be to evangelize the lost.
Farah concluded with another shot at Coulter and his fellow evangelicals:
There is no indication Ann Coulter has ever used one of her paid speaking engagements to do this. In fact, I'm not even sure a paid speaking engagement is an appropriate forum for evangelizing.
Nevertheless, I have heard from a few Christians who compare Coulter's paid speaking gig to Homocon with Jesus sitting down with tax collectors and sinners.
That is not good discernment.
Coulter is a political activist, a pundit, a satirist. She is not Jesus. And she is not an evangelist. No one is likely to get saved at Homocon because Ann Coulter gives a conservative stump speech.
What will happen as a result of her appearance is that a compromise will be made with sin. Sin will be condoned or appeased. A conservative icon will find accommodation with a sin that would undermine the foundations of Western civilization, the Judeo-Christian ethic and the most basic biblical standards of sexual morality.
Perhaps if Farah didn't act so arrogant about his perceived moral superiority, he might be a little more persuasive.
Farah took another dig at Coulter and GOProud in his Aug. 25 column, noting that "Some conservatives have tried to explain Coulter's appearance at Homocon as part of the old Ronald Reagan philosophy the so-called 80-20 rule: If you agree with someone 80 percent of the time and disagree 20 percent, then he's your political ally. Maybe so." Farah then examined GOProud's 10-point legislative agenda and found six of them insufficiently conservative (or way too gay) for him:
• The kind of tax reform GOProud wants demands "domestic partner tax equity."
• The kind of health-care reform GOProud wants demands expansion of benefits to "domestic partners."
• GOProud wants open homosexuality flaunted in our military ranks.
• GOProud wants the U.S. standing up to extremists around the world not because they threaten the U.S. or oppress their own populations, but when they don't legalize sodomy.
• Defending the Constitution in the eyes of GOProud means fighting for same-sex marriage.
• Encouraging community entrepreneurship means the federal government handing out perks to people based on their sexual proclivities.
Farah then howled: "Have conservatives learned nothing about insidious attempts to subvert movements for self-government, the rule of law and the will of the people from within?"
Meanwhile, Farah surprisingly appeared on Michelangelo Signorile's gay-oriented satellite radio show on Aug. 23, where he said he "would never be fine" with gay marriage being approved by the public and would "move out of the country" if it happened. "This is the biblical standard with me," he said. "It will destroy this country." When Signorile asked Farah if he now agreed with gays who had previously criticized Coulter for being dishonest, Farah replied, "Let's just say my eyes have been opened."
Even after all that, WND still hasn't canceled Coulter's column -- it published her Aug. 25 column as scheduled.
It should be noted that while this war of words was going on, WND was turning up the anti-gay hate on its commentary page:
- An Aug. 16 column by Nancy Pearcey asserting that homosexuality is a "denigration of physical anatomy."
- An Aug. 17 column by Farah attacking Glenn Beck for not opposing gay marriage, which somehow demonstrates that he "shares a materialistic worldview with Marx, Engels and Saul Alinsky."
- An Aug. 17 column by Kupelian, who like Farah argued that if you don't hate gays, you're not a real conservative.
- An Aug. 17 column by Les Kinsolving embracing the fallacious reasoning that homosexuality equals pedophilia equals bestiality equals necrophilia.
- An Aug. 18 column by Ken Hutcherson -- the officiant at Rush Limbaugh's latest wedding -- declaring that homosexuality "inarguably kills its participants," adding, "Oh, by the way, God wants His rainbow back!"
- An Aug. 19 column by Kupelian claiming that the agenda of GOProud "sounds an awful lot like a mainline homosexual-rights organization pretending to be 'traditional conservative' and fooling Republicans." And
- An Aug. 19 column by Farah once again criticizing conservatives for not being as anti-gay as he is. This is the same one in which he complains about being labeled a conservative.
- An Aug. 20 column by Alan Keyes declaring that "Beck's display of contempt for the 'gay marriage' issue is clear evidence that he has no respect for the political authority of God."
- An Aug. 21 column by the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer, who wrote that Coulter and Beck "have forfeited the right to consider themselves any longer culture warriors" because they don't hate gays as much as he does.
- An Aug. 21 column by Sharon Kass lamenting "the refusal of even fellow conservatives to make effective use of ex-gay information." Kass engages in a substantial bit of armchair psychology of homosexuality and its cure: "Concerning the nature, causes, prevention and healing of homosexuality and transgenderism, the basic facts are these: These conditions indicate deep-seated gender self-alienation. This is generally caused by faulty bonding and identification with the same-sex parent figure, starting at age 2 or before. Homosexual feelings are the mind's automatic attempt to heal the same-sex emotional breach. Transgender feelings result from automatic identification with an opposite-sex figure filling the emotional vacuum left by the same-sex figure. Healing is achieved psychodynamically, by getting in touch with buried feelings of shame, anxiety, depression and rage; releasing those feelings deeply; forming healthy, platonic same-sex bonds; and learning to appreciate one's natural gender without caricaturing it."
Matt Sanchez aside, WND has never been all that shy about hating gays, but its war with Coulter showed just how visceral that hatred is -- and how hollow the moral core of Farah and Co. really are by taking only the low-risk road of dropping Coulter from its little shindig and not the high-risk move of dropping Coulter's column, which would likely have an actual impact on Farah's company.
Farah's and WND's self-professed principles, it seems, can be tossed by the wayside when there's real money involved.