Ann Coulter: Marketing Genius?

Media critics wonder what it will take for networks to not air Ann Coulter.


Oct. 17, 2007 — -- She has referred to Sept. 11 widows as "self-obsessed women" who are "enjoying their husbands' deaths," and has even admitted that she wished Timothy McVeigh had bombed The New York Times building instead of the one in Oklahoma City.

Late last week, conservative pundit Ann Coulter landed herself in national headlines, yet again, after an appearance on CNBC's "The Big Idea," where she said she thought the world would be better if everyone were Christian.

When host Donny Deutsch asked her whether that meant she wanted to see Judaism disappear, Coulter — who was on the show to promote her sixth book, "If Democrats Had Any Brains, They'd Be Republicans" — replied, "We just want Jews to be perfected."

Since then, critics have swung into full force. The Anti-Defamation League and the National Jewish Democratic Council have issued statements in response to Coulter's remarks, the latter requesting the media stop inviting her to be a guest on programming altogether.

"No one has been reluctant to book [Coulter], and we've had as many requests as ever — probably more," Coulter's publicist, Diana Banister, told, arguing against speculation that Coulter may soon be less prominent on news talk shows.

Banister also had no explanation for an open letter to readers that appeared on Coulter's Web site Tuesday, claiming that her "career as a media figurehead is over." Members of the blogosphere speculated that her site had been hacked. The letter was removed midday and replaced with Coulter's latest column, opining about the Republican presidential hopefuls.

Coulter's comments, as controversial as they often are, make great television, several media told, but the more outlandish and offensive she gets, the more likely it is that networks will begin refusing her a spot on their programs.

In the meantime, though, Coulter may be playing her cards just right: ruffling the feathers of her critics, while her own market value and name continue to grow.

With a syndicated column published throughout the country, six books — all of which were best-sellers — and, according to Media Matters, more than 200 appearances on MSNBC, CNBC and the Fox News Channel to date, Coulter hasn't had a hard time finding a place to express her opinions.

And some argue that Coulter uses that to her advantage, appearing on shows purely to make a scene, and consequently, generating more press for her books.

"I think [her comments] are highly calculated," said Liam O'Brien, an expert in media criticism and pop culture at Quinnipiac University. "I'm not sure she knows what trigger on which verbal gun she is going to pull at any given moment, but I think at any particular time, she has three or four of these things that are controversial and inflammatory enough to get national press notice above and beyond whatever the topic is of her book or the talk show."

Coincidence or not, a few of Coulter's book releases have, in fact, coincided with a remark that has ignited a media frenzy.

After 9/11, and around the time of her book "Godless: The Church of Liberalism," Coulter appeared on NBC's "Today Show," where she reiterated statements from her book in which she pegs 9/11 widows as "broads" who were actually enjoying the media attention.

Her comments about McVeigh and The New York Times were also made around the same time she released her book "Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right."

"She's absolutely one of the best marketers," said O'Brien. "There is a reason her books do well, and I don't think it's necessarily about the content, but that people want to hear what inflammatory thing she's going to say next."

Chris Ariens, editor of media news Web site, said that he thinks Coulter genuinely believes in what she talks about, but can't deny her financial motivations.

"There is a bit of marketing," Ariens told "I don't think she says outrageous things necessarily solely to sell a book. I think she believes the things she says, and doesn't care what other people think."

"I think there's a reason the shows go on when her book is on sale," said Ariens. "And then, she's often booked to talk about her comments, but then ends up selling more books."

With radio personality Don Imus slowly recovering from his racist on-air faux pas, and Bill O'Reilly's controversial remarks about blacks still in recent memory, how long Coulter will sustain her role as a go-to talking head is unclear. It's quite possible, media critics said, that her marketing skills could turn into a double-edged sword.

"[Coulter's] sort of like a train wreck," said Ariens, who affirmed that Coulter definitely has a following. "You do want to watch the train as it goes down the track, but if you expect it's going to derail at some point, you kind of want to see what happens."

So far, none of the major television networks have said they will refrain from inviting Coulter on their shows.

"The decision to put someone like Ann Coulter on our air is not one we would ever take lightly," said a CNBC spokesperson in an e-mail to "However, when you talk about banning someone from the airwaves because of their views — whatever they may be — you are getting into dangerous territory."

But several media critics said they're not so sure Coulter's popularity will extend past her current book tour.

"[Networks] love people who kind of speak their mind, and they know Coulter is a lightning rod, and anything will come out of her mouth, and it will make great TV," said Gemma Puglisi, pop culture expert at American University in Washington, D.C. "But there are lines you cross, and boundaries beyond that line when you're being really offensive."

"There will be a time when Coulter will care [if she offends people]," added Puglisi. "[It will be] when it affects her bottom line."

"I certainly don't think she's untouchable," said O'Brien. "I think there is something that will be her last straw, and I really don't know why we're not there yet.

"In six months, there will be less of Coulter, not none, but less," added O'Brien.

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