(December 8, 1961)
Is Ann Coulter insane or evil (or both)? When asked that question, I typically respond that Ann is a little lamb who has gone astray, lost without a firm foundation.
Friends, strangers, colleagues, and talk show hosts have questioned why Coulter has become a person who can be called both the “most hated woman in America” and “an exemplar, in word and deed, of what a true leader is.”
From whence did America’s premiere polemicist arise? What events and forces coalesced to create the “mass of contradictions” evident in Ann’s life and work? How can someone who claims to be “an extraordinarily good Christian” behave in such an unchristian manner?
That Coulter, in recent months (and over the span of almost two decades) has said and done some things which could rightly be called crazy or evil is undeniable. Is it all an act, a charade, shtick, a carefully developed persona? Or do those words and actions accurately represent the person of Ann Coulter?
In this four-part series, we will look at the formative forces and key events and periods in Ann’s life which have shaped and molded her into the person we see before us today.
So, to begin with, let’s begin at the beginning.
Ann’s Birth and Pedigree
The first formative stage of Ann’s life began with her birth. Ann was born in Norwalk, Connecticut, on December 8, 1961. Ann spent the first few weeks of her life in an incubator. She would continue to be the center of attention – the center of her universe – throughout her years growing up in the Coulter home.
Born into a wealthy, well-connected family, in the most prosperous county in America, Ann was raised with high expectations and had high aspirations. Ann’s distant ancestors were Puritans, dating back almost to the Mayflower, while her more recent relations were all staunch Republicans. Expectations were high. Aspirations would follow suit. Even at birth, Ann had a heritage – a patriotic and religious heritage – to which she must live up.
Growing up in elite circles, she would come to develop an elitist outlook on life. Her crème de la crème worldview is shamelessly stated in her high school yearbook: “I’m against homogenizers in art, in politics, in every walk of life. I want the cream to rise.” Clearly, Ann considered herself the crème de la crème. Paradoxically, she suffers from low self-esteem, knowing she does not really measure up. This cognitive dissonance would accelerate and infiltrate every area of her life.
Ann was the last of three children and the only girl – the “baby princess.” The last born, especially a baby princess, is often treated as special, and is frequently indulged and pampered. Yet, being the last, the baby princess often isn’t physically, mentally, or emotionally able to do what her older siblings can do, thus often engendering feelings of inadequacy and a lack of worth.
Ann’s father, a prominent New York attorney, seems to have governed with a strict hand as a prototypical authoritarian father. Authoritarian fathers tend to focus on the rules while failing to exhibit compassion. Psychologist and counselor Gary Smalley terms this a “controlling parent,” one who enacts laws without exhibiting love. An authoritarian father can cause a daughter to feel love is conditional, can create deep feelings of insecurity and fears of rejection, and can inculcate feelings of hostility and resentment. The child’s fear of failure fuels her ambition.
Ann’s mother was probably the typical “Trophy Mom,” rewarding good behavior with fulsome praise, but being critical when expectations were not met. A trophy mom, in conjunction with an authoritarian father, can put tremendous pressure upon the baby princess to perform for acceptance and praise. A sense of inadequacy and fear of rejection can, in time, become pathological.
In her parents, Ann was heir to both strict Catholic theological doctrines and the Protestant work ethic. Both tended towards performance-based relationships which seem to have instilled a sense of insecurity in Ann, who seems to have pined for unconditional love (don’t we all?).
It was probably as a child and adolescent that Ann developed her censorious spirit, legalistic temperament, and that perfectionism which would forever plague her. Ironically, the more Ann sought to be (or at least appear) perfect – in order to be loved – the more glaring her imperfections became.
It appears – or at least it probably appeared to Ann – that she was the recipient of performance-based love. Hence her insatiable need to get attention by performing.
One gets the sense that Ann needed (or felt she needed) to perform in order to belong. Victims of performance-based love are emotionally insecure. They tend to put on a show for others (which reinforces the “last born” trait of being an entertainer). As one Coulter profiler would later observe, “She’s like a puppy waiting to be thrown a ball.” (Because they are putting on a show for affection, they can become both disingenuous and distrustful of the genuineness of others.)
One section title in The Birth Order Book speaks volumes: “Last Borns Often Love the Limelight.” Last borns “often desperately crave attention” and “are notorious carrot-seekers as in, ‘Look at me, I’m performing – toss me a carrot.’” Ann’s family gave her plenty of carrots.
Victims of performance-based love also tend towards narcissism. Being perfectionists, their imperfections loom large in their consciousness, instilling self-doubt. Admitting error is anathema to them. They are often afflicted with depression, anxiety and shame. Consequently, they are prone to “compulsive and addictive behaviors.” Their deep-seated need for acceptance and unconditional love prevent them from doing the very thing they need to do to free them from themselves: acknowledge their inadequacies and repent from wrong behavior.
Ann received a strict Catholic education (K-8) at St. Aloysius Catholic School until she entered public school. She graduated from New Canaan High School in 1979.
After graduation, Ann was beset by two competing drives: a desire for greatness and a yearning for fun. She initially chose the latter before seeking the former. The last-born trait of rebelliousness arose with her escape from the family homestead. She would spend time doing what she wanted. Absent the presence of her parents, Coulter would take time for herself.
Consequently, Ann’s psychological template was set by the time she embarked for college. Ann later attended an Ivy League college (Cornell) and an elite post-graduate school (Univ. of Michigan).
Ann rejected her father’s Catholicism in favor of her mother’s Presbyterian faith, yet, upon reaching adulthood, she apparently disengaged herself from religion altogether at the same time as she was tossed to and fro by competing lifestyle and career choices. The absence of an internal moral compass would forever plague her.
Deeply conflicted, with a remarkably dynamic internal ambivalence, Coulter believes herself to be the crème de la crème (still wanting “the cream to rise to the top”) while simultaneously questioning her own self-worth, especially when confronted by people who are brighter and more accomplished than her, or by situations which are beyond her ability to resolve.
Chapter 1: “The Seduction of Ann Coulter,” The Beauty of Conservatism, 2011, available as a free download at www.coulterwatch.com/beauty.pdf.
Chapter 1: “Roots: Ann Coulter’s Christian Heritage,” The Gospel According to Ann Coulter, 2012, available as a free download at www.coulterwatch.com/gospel.pdf.
Chapter 1: “Rising Crème: Narcissism – A Primer,” Vanity: Ann Coulter’s Quest for Glory, 2012, available as a free download at www.coulterwatch.com/vanity.pdf.
 Ann Coulter, “NELL HUSBANDS MARTIN COULTER,” 4/22/09.
 Ironically, both a sense of entitlement and fear of inadequacy come to coexist in a psyche which is never at peace.
 See http://www.rockridgeinstitute.org/research/lakoff/mp21?b_start:int=2 on authoritarian father figures.
 See chapters 8 and 9 of The Mom Factor: Dealing with the Mother You Had, Didn’t Have, or Still Contend With, by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, Zondervan, 1996.
 Ann Coulter, Washington Journal, C-Span, 5/24/99. Coulter: “My father’s Catholic and my mother’s Presbyterian.”
 Although they can be misused to create performance-based relationships, that is not their intent.
 Gaby Wood, “Lethally blonde,” The Observer, 6/11/06. http://observer.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,,1794552,00.html.