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Coulter sparks conversation, controversy

| Thursday, April 10, 2014

Conservative political pundit Ann Coulter will address Notre Dame students tonight as part of the Notre Dame College Republicans’ Lincoln Day Dinner celebration in a public lecture that has sparked debate among several student groups.

In the past, Coulter has commented on issues relating to abortion, illegal immigration, terrorism and Notre Dame’s decision to invite President Barack Obama to speak at the 2009 Commencement ceremony and give him an honorary degree.

Junior Mark Gianfalla, president of College Republicans, said he chose Coulter to speak at the group’s largest event of the year because her views on political and social issues closely align with the points College Republicans has advocated this year. (Editor’s Note: Gianfalla is a columnist for The Observer.)

“We’re a chapter at a Catholic university, and we think issues of abortion and gay marriage are just as important as a balanced budget so we’ve really been focusing on drawing attention to those aspects of conservatism that also don’t get as much attention on campus or from campus groups that are here,” Gianfalla said. “… I think she brought the most attention to what our club is focusing on.”

Junior Tyler Bowen, vice president of Notre Dame College Democrats, said Coulter is “someone who makes a career of … inciting controversy through inflammatory opinions.”

“It’s not that you don’t have the right to bring her here, but in bringing her here, we believe you’re bringing in someone that definitely does not represent what we view as Catholic values, particularly pertaining to social justice and poverty issues,” Bowen said.

Gianfalla said he wanted to bring a speaker with a socially conservative perspective also as a response to what he believes to be an increasingly liberal University administration and student government.

“You have other groups on campus, this year in particular, with a somewhat liberal-leaning student government that has now passed on its reins, that focused on social liberal ideals,” he said.

“You have the Progressive Student [Alliance], PrismND pushing gay rights and — not that we’re against gay rights, just against gay marriage — you had student government supporting the decision to admit undocumented students … and a lot of groups came out in support of a lot of other leftist social ideals.

“So to fairly combat that, we wanted to focus on a socially conservative speaker, and Ann, we thought, did a great job. She brings a lot of attention to that platform and a lot of energy as well.”

Sophomore and College Democrats secretary Michelle McCarthy said her opposition to Coulter’s visit stems from Coulter’s “vitriolic language” that offends many minority groups.

“She engages in very hateful rhetoric that is offensive to a lot of people and groups, and I don’t think that she … is an expert on policy or really involved in actual governing,” McCarthy said. “She’s a political pundit who gets a lot of attention because she is very offensive and that creates media frenzy.”

“Our opposition to her isn’t partisan, it’s about human decency,” she said.

Wednesday, members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) of Notre Dame and other student groups staged a silent demonstration outside of South Dining Hall to raise awareness for the effects of Coulter’s “hate speech,” NAACP of Notre Dame president and junior Niciah Petrovic said.

Ann Coulter silent demonstration, Lesley StevensonLesley Stevenson | The Observer

“It’s in no way a protest and in no way are we opposed to her coming here and speaking,” she said. “We actually think this is a great opportunity to engage in dialogue about this type of speech, how it affects us, what the motivations are … and what we can learn from it.”

“I’m really thankful that she’s coming, honestly,” Petrovic said. “I’m thankful for the free speaker policy because this gives us the opportunity to engage ideas which may sound controversial.

“This is a university. We’re supposed to be engaged in this kind of intellectual dialogue all the time. This is a great opportunity for us to do that.”

Petrovic said demonstrators passed out flyers with quotes from Coulter with cited sources. She said the demonstration was silent and participants wore all black clothing “because the quotes speak for themselves.”

Gianfalla said Coulter’s opinions and her way of expressing them reflect her socially conservative views and ability to promote them effectively.

“[Coulter is] fun to listen to,” he said. “She definitely doesn’t care what’s politically correct. People find that as a problem, but in this day and age too much emphasis is put on being politically correct, and a lot of what she says is based on fact and experience.”

“She’ll get negative attention because people take it negatively, not because she means it negatively,” he said. “Some of the things she said about abortion are controversial, these people think they’re inflammatory, but it’s just really creative ways of phrasing the conservative stance on abortion.”

Junior Shaaya Ellis, a member of College Republicans, called Coulter’s work “really, really phenomenal” and said most of Coulter’s critics have not read her writing. He said he did not always agree with Coulter’s comments but respects her right to free speech.

“Everyone likes free speech until you use free speech,” he said. “Free speech isn’t created to talk about how beautiful the sun is, it’s created to talk about controversial issues that some people don’t agree with. … Free speech is giving people who aren’t going to agree with you the platform to speak.”

Bowen said College Democrats agreed Coulter should be allowed to speak at Notre Dame, but he said the members’ complaints focused on Coulter’s views and manner of expressing them.

“I was uncomfortable with it being aimed at getting her to not speak because that is a move towards censoring her, [and] even though I don’t want her speaking, she also has the right to,” he said. “We acknowledge her right to speak here. We also, in doing so, want to vehemently disagree with her views and point out that she is totally unrepresentative of what we view the Notre Dame community as and the Notre Dame family as and how we think America should get along.”

Gianfalla said students and faculty “should realize that having a socially conservative Catholic should not, one, come as a surprise and, two, shouldn’t be seen as something that’s polarizing a largely Catholic student body in a Catholic university.”

“She is someone that embodies the social conservative platform and can bring unmatched attention to that, and that is … something that should be in line with this University’s core on the social conservative issues that I’ve mentioned,” Gianfalla said. “That’s why we’re bringing her, that’s what we’ll gain from it.”

Sophomore Matthew Wong, chair of the Diversity Council (DC), said DC recognizes Coulter’s right to speak at Notre Dame under the University’s open speaker policy and hopes to use her visit as a way to engage students in dialogue.

“Diversity Council does not actively support Ann Coulter coming to speak at Notre Dame,” Wong said. “Although DC does represent people of diverse backgrounds whether it is culture, creed, sexual orientation or political affiliation, we realize that many of Ann Coulter’s comments ostracize and demean the clubs that form our council, our work, what we represent and what we stand for.”

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About Lesley Stevenson

Lesley Stevenson serves as News Editor for The Observer. She is a junior from Memphis, Tennessee studying Film, Television and Theatre (FTT) and American Studies. She lives in Breen-Phillips Hall. Follow her on Twitter at @lcstevenson.

Contact Lesley
  • Peter Castle

    Ann Coulter has been marginalizing herself for years. At CPAC, she decried “the browning of America,” spoke of “death squads” for ObamaCare supporters, and equated immigration with rape. This is why conservatives are learning to Never Trust Ann Coulter – at ANY Age, at http://www.coulterwatch.com/never.pdf.

    • Tedbaxter

      I went to that site and your statement is false.

  • wait what

    “You have the Progressive Student [Alliance], PrismND pushing gay rights and — not that we’re against gay rights, just against gay marriage —”

    Well I think this is pretty telling, right? Accidentally let the truth slip out there.

    • Tedbaxter

      Yes, the truth. ………. Is he supposed to apologize for the truth? “Gay rights” has come to mean crushing the rights of those who disagree.

  • Dorothy Mantooth

    “Free speech is giving people who aren’t going to agree with you the platform to speak.” No, it’s really, really not. A person can say or write whatever they want, but they are not entitled to a stage. Furthermore, freedom of speech applies to the right that the American people have AGAINST the government (the government can’t silence speech just ’cause the government wants). This has nothing to do with telling a racist, classist, and misogynistic person (e.g. Ann Coulter) that no one wants to hear their bigoted, uninformed “opinions.”

    • Tedbaxter

      “‘Free speech is giving people who aren’t going to agree with you the platform to speak.’ No, it’s really, really not.” …………..Dorothy, read this again: frightening.

    • mpolito

      Just because you do not want to hear does not mean that other people do not want to hear them. We do, and will.

    • Zack Y.

      Freedom of Speech is more than just a legal right- it is a cultural and societal value. It long predates the 1st Amendment, its scope is far more broad, and limiting it to government legalities will ensure its rapid death.

      Also, cut the tedious boilerplate about “racist, classist,…”. If you don’t like a speaker’s views, have the guts to challenge them in plain English. All that verbiage amounts to is empty pseudo-intellectual name calling, an overly ornate way of saying “you’re a bad person, so shut up”.

      Lastly, I totally agree that people are not entitled to provide a speaker a stage. I also agree that you should have the right to walk away from a speech or protest you don’t want to hear. However, the corollary of that is that you are not allowed to DENY OTHERS the right to provide one. And if you are not obligated to hear Ann Coulter’s speech, people like me shouldn’t be obligated to attend “we whine, you listen” diversity seminars.

  • sheesh

    I’m glad she’s coming. Most liberals have no sense of humor so they can’t appreciate her unapologetic satire. I wonder if the college democrats would be protesting if Bill Maher were speaking. I suspect not. They’re ok with free speech as long as people are speaking in lockstep with their views. And as for social justice, social justice starts with allowing innocent children to be born.

    • wait what

      I take issue with all of this but uh, how many conservative funny people can you name? And Coulter isn’t funny. And Bill Maher is, usually.

      Part of the reason there are no funny conservative comedians is that comedy comes from punching up. Conservatives punch down. And it’s just not funny.

      • sheesh

        Most liberals tend to take issue with speech they disagree with. You’re proving my point. Apparently, it’s only funny when you deem it to be funny. It’s only free speech when you say it’s ok. Your cries of bigotry, racism and bullying are like the little boy crying wolf.

        • wait what

          Yes sometimes we state that we disagree with things other people say. And it’s funny when…. it’s funny. I’m not even joking. Give me some funny conservatives! You got… Dennis Miller? Heh. I was gonna list another few because it’s funny to think about but I really can’t think of anyone else.

          Conservatism as an ideology just doesn’t lend itself to comedy. That’s the only point I’m trying to make here.

          • wait what

            ….and also I’m not sure how you got the idea that Ann Coulter is a satirist? What is her work a satire of?

          • sheesh

            Oh honey, do I have to spoon feed you, too? Satire: irony, or sarcasm used to expose vice or folly.
            Do I need to spell out what the vice or folly is?

          • wait what

            I asked you what she was satirizing, not for a definition of satire.

          • sheesh

            Oh, you’re making a point. Haha. Just not the one you think you’re making.

  • Pat

    I’m glad Ann Coulter is coming to our campus and I hope as many people as possible attend. When she starts speaking her offensive and baseless conservative garbage our intelligent students will be able to see just what an idiot she is. Bringing her here will be counterproductive to what Mark wanted.

    • Tedbaxter

      Ooops! Your prejudiced predictions turned out to be WRONG! Sorry she didn’t say what you had hoped she’d say.

  • Listen to yourself

    “…a lot of what she says is based on fact and experience.”

    Hold up, are we talking about the same person?

  • NDaniels

    Perhaps Ann Coulter is not a good role model for Our Lady’s University and should not have been invited, however, if respecting the Sanctity of Human Life and The Sanctity of Marriage and the Family is polarizing the largely Catholic student body at a Catholic University, it could only mean there has been a Great Falling Away.

    • Walter

      This isn’t a discussion about the marriage or family; this is a discussion about showing respect towards others and their views, which Ann Coulter knows nothing of. This isn’t a “perhaps” Ann Coulter isn’t a good role model. Her actions are antithetical to the mission statement of Notre Dame and its publicized desire to welcome all into the community with love and respect, so she absolutely is not a good role model for Notre Dame.

      Discussing marriage, the family, and abortion is important and something that should be done, but in a respectful and constructive way. Bringing Ann Coulter to campus, who spouts bigoted hatred, contributes nothing constructive to this discussion. That is what we are talking about.

      • Tedbaxter

        You are not “showing respect toward others” with these false, inflammatory comments. Take a chill pill and cool the hate.

        • Walter

          My comments are false? Please, I’d love for you to defend the inflammatory comments Ann Coulter made regarding Notre Dame, victims of 9/11, homosexuals, democrats, Hispanics, Blacks, and so on. Please, I’d love to see it. Keep drinking the cool aid.

  • Tedbaxter

    Ann Coulter rocks, and her strength against the intolerant left is inspiring.

    • Johnny

      Yes, because her racism is such an inspiration to the intolerant whites of the Republican party.

      • Tedbaxter

        “Whites?” Why do you have to inject your racist hate into this? “Whites?”

      • Tedbaxter

        “Whites?” Why do you have to inject your racist hate into this? “Whites?”

  • Peter Castle

    Coulter claims to be pro-life, yet her rhetoric is ardently pro-death. The book, The Gospel According to Ann Coulter (at http://www.coulterwatch.com/gospel.pdf) provides an analysis of her
    dismissal of the pro-life movement in practice and also contains an entire appendix devoted to her elimination rhetoric.

  • william duffy

    Junior Tyler Bowen, vice president of Notre Dame College Democrats, said Coulter is “someone who makes a career of … inciting controversy through inflammatory opinions.” In other words, she is someone with whom Mr. Brown disagrees. Sounds like the guy at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

    • Gtech

      Like Coulter and many radical conservatives, you are unable to make clear distinctions. It is one thing to hold a political opinion diametrically opposed to another’s belief. Different political opinions have been around since the birth of this country (just look at all the ways the framers disagreed with each other). However, racist, hateful opinion and speech are never valid. Furthermore, the inflammatory and hateful expression of conservative principles and racist opinions is not the same thing as an opinion you disagree with. Obama, your president, does not go around the country yelling out irrational statements on race, welfare, and a whole host of other topics. He is nothing at all like the immature, hateful woman who disgraced our campus.

      • william duffy

        Why don’t you divulge your name like I did? I presume your comments are some kind of late April Fools joke. Remember what your President said about the Cambridge police and Professor Gates? Oops! That didn’t have racial overtones? No irrational statements? If you like your plan, you can keep it. What exactly was the basis for this oft expressed statement? Finally, as the architect of the ever-expanding socialist state, one would not expect him to be critical of welfare. You can sleep well knowing the NSA is watching over you sort of like your guardian angel.

  • Tedbaxter

    “Gothic protests” are so ten years ago… Ann Coulter just keeps out-classing the left wing haters. Keep up the great work, Ann– you are an inspiration. Stand up to the intolerant left, ND! Speak truth to power!!!!

  • Tedbaxter

    “Gothic protests” are so ten years ago… Ann Coulter just keeps out-classing the left wing haters. Keep up the great work, Ann– you are an inspiration. Stand up to the intolerant left, ND! Speak truth to power!!!!