(September 11, 1997)
Ann Coulter has international name recognition, with enraptured fans and aggrieved foes. Viewed as both an angel and a devil, Coulter has expressed and exhibited traits of both. For many, the contradictions and conundrums in Coulter’s life and career appear inexplicable. But they are explainable.
In part I of this four-part series examining the root causes in Ann Coulter’s life, we discovered the huge impact her family, pedigree, and upbringing had in creating the conservative icon so many have come to either love or hate. (Albeit, a growing number choose to ignore her.)
In this installment, we will look at another formative stage in Coulter’s life, one which decisively impacted her both personally and professionally.
The Gingrich Revolution provided professional salvation for Coulter, who felt unfulfilled working in corporate law in New York City. Her attempts at establishing a writing career were also barren and she was eager to engage the political enemy in combat in the nation’s capital.
Coulter “moved from an anonymous corporate-law job in Manhattan to the Washington office of a freshman Republican Senator.” Starting as a “legislative assistant to Sen. Spencer Abraham,” she later became his “deputy press secretary.”
Belonging to such an elite political institution – walking among America’s most powerful political leaders, working with their seasoned and talented staffs, socializing with the crème de la crème – was an exhilarating experience for Coulter. But, as a novice staffer herself, Coulter soon realized that she was a very tiny fish in a very big aquarium. It must have wounded her delicate ego to feel so ordinary among the extraordinary.
But the United States Senate became too small for Ann Coulter, whose biggest challenge was dealing with the public. Coulter’s heart was always for writing and public speaking.
So, Coulter left the Senate for the limelight.
Steppingstones to Stardom
Within a few short years, Coulter was catapulted from being an “obscure Senate aide” to become an A-list celebrity and best-selling author.
In short order, Coulter gained employment as a regular contributor on MSNBC, a weekly columnist for Human Events, and a litigator for the Center for Individual Rights (CIR). Beginning in 1996, Coulter became a ubiquitous guest on radio and television talk shows and frequently flew to Hollywood to appear on Politically Incorrect.
Each of Coulter’s jobs were steppingstones to stardom. As a Senate staffer, Coulter met and worked with the political elite. As a pundit on MSNBC, in 1996-97, Coulter interacted with national newsmakers and analyzed current events on-air. Her journalistic résumé was greatly enhanced with her job at Human Events and she gained legal credentials through her one-year employment at the Center for Individual Rights.
Networking opportunities rapidly grew. In June 1997, America Spectator commissioned Coulter to co-host “a kind of debutante weekend for [Internet media guru Matt] Drudge,” who “was guest of honor at a bustling party of young conservatives. Like a visiting head of state, he addressed the National Press Club and then toured Newsweek, creating quite a fuss there.”
That summer, Coulter was intimately involved in Paula Jones’ lawsuit against President Clinton and, in October, leaked attorney-client privileged information to thwart Jones’ desire for an out-of-court settlement. As a result, Jones life would be ruined, but Coulter would gain a career. As Coulter’s ex-beau, James Tully, explained, “The Paula Jones case essentially made her career.”
Coulter’s new beginnings mushroomed into a commanding media presence. She was profiled in five magazines in 1997 alone: National Journal, TV Guide, Capital Style, New Republic, and George.
Starved for Success
With her success, politically and professionally, and her growing grassroots and elitist clout, Coulter became a victim of the success syndrome. An MSNBC Health News article, titled “Power: the greatest aphrodisiac?” provides greater insight into this affliction. The Success Syndrome describes “a set of symptoms characterized by power-driven compulsive behaviors.”
Success Syndrome sufferers experience denial, as well as a belief they can get away with it. Al Cooper, a clinical director in California, concludes, “It’s about power. It’s about gratification. It’s about grandiosity.” Whichever symptoms are manifested, power remains at the root of the syndrome.
I asked a colleague of Coulter’s about this mass of contradictions in her life and he sees those contradictions linked to her desire for fame: “Part of it has to do with being a celebrity, but part of it has to do with being the kind of person who so wants to be a celebrity.”
Child stars are often too emotionally immature to handle their stardom. Here, Coulter’s success struck in her mid-30s. Her own emotional immaturity and insecurities, her drive to prove herself to herself and others, and her obsession with destroying the Clinton presidency all converged to enhance the effects of the Success Syndrome.
Beginning around August, alert MSNBC viewers would have noticed a growing arrogance in Coulter’s demeanor. Abundant media profiles, growing connections within the conservative movement, involvement in the Paula Jones case, awards and lavish praise – these all figured prominently in transforming her personality and chipping away at her character. The Success Syndrome was having its success.
September 11, 1997
In 1997, September 11th was a transformative moment for Coulter. George magazine hosted a luncheon at the elegant Le Cirque restaurant in New York City, in honor of George magazine’s “20 Most Fascinating Women in Politics,” with Coulter one of the honorees.
This proved a major turning point in Coulter’s life. Not so much the award – she would receive dozens during her career – but her private conversation with John F. Kennedy, Jr., who gave her effusive praise and affirmation. Doubts vanished. Vacillation disappeared. From that point forward, Coulter would speak her mind, without hesitation and even without thought. Coulter describes that life-transforming moment:
“The first time I met John was at a George magazine luncheon at Le Cirque a few years ago to honor the magazine’s “Twenty Most Fascinating Women in Politics.” First of all, consider that I was named one of them. … He thought it was tremendous that MSNBC kept firing me. That was the first time I stopped feeling lousy about my tenuous relationship with MSNBC.”
Evidence for Coulter’s turning point, on September 11, 1997, was manifested on MSNBC the very next day. Coulter’s entire on-set demeanor was strikingly different. Arrogance and self-satisfaction became hallmarks of that time period. Perhaps the best example is her treatment of the recently deceased. Earlier that year, Coulter was reluctant to express her opinion about the just deceased Pamela Harriman. As Coulter told one reporter,
“I was constantly getting fired at MSNBC for, I thought were some of my wittiest remarks and one of them – which was then featured in George magazine – was after Pamela Harriman died, and I really went out of my way to avoid pointing out [that she was a round heel].”
September 12, 1997
But on September 12th, Coulter vented uncontrolled vitriol against Lady Diana as the world mourned the loss of the People’s Princess. An enraged Coulter erupted with enmity:
“She was running around with a bunch of useless playboys. I mean, Dodi – what an appalling loser he was. …”
“This guy did nothing! He ran up huge debts every place he went, on the basis of his father’s money, and this is the guy she’s hanging around with – and apparently sleeping with – the “good mother?” …”
“She couldn’t hold back so the children wouldn’t know that she’s having premarital sex with some guy who doesn’t pay his debts to the 21 Club in New York? …”
“Well, then, what are we celebrating her for? She’s an ordinary and pathetic and confessional – I’ve never had bulimia! I’ve never had an affair! I’ve never had a divorce! So I don’t think she’s better than I am.”
An astute caller asked Coulter to cite her own accomplishments. Coulter blustered without citing any:
“If you’re trying to say that I’m better off than she was when she was married into this pathetic royal family, and had all this money and everyone loved her and we’re celebrating her death.”
Speaking and writing would become more profitable than politics and legislation. Human Events proved to be Coulter’s ticket to fame and glory. Through its sister publishing house, Regnery, Coulter became an author. Human Events is also a primary co-sponsor of CPAC – the Conservative Political Action Conference – an annual conference showcasing conservative politicians, authors, organizations and power-brokers. Coulter has spoken at every CPAC conference since 1998.
Moreover, at that time, Coulter’s close friendship with Geraldo Rivera enabled her to appear weekly on his television talk show. Coulter’s friendship with Sean Hannity serves the same function today. As one of the first pundettes on MSNBC, Coulter sometimes had difficulty finishing her thoughts [“Please let me finish …”]. Now, no one could get her to shut up.
Chapter 2: “The Cuckolding of Conscience,” The Beauty of Conservatism, 2011, available as a free download at www.coulterwatch.com/beauty.pdf.
Chapter 10: “Equality: Self-Evident Truths,” The Gospel According to Ann Coulter, 2012, available as a free download at www.coulterwatch.com/gospel.pdf.
Chapter 6: “Fame,” Vanity: Ann Coulter’s Quest for Glory, 2012, available as a free download at www.coulterwatch.com/vanity.pdf.
Preface: “Arrogance of Power,” Never Trust Ann Coulter – at ANY Age, 2013, available as a free download at www.coulterwatch.com/never.pdf.
 John Cloud, “Ms. Right,” Time, 4/25/05, pg. 41.
 “Washington, Inc. – Finally, They’re Center Stage,” National Journal, 3/11/95.
 K.C. Swanson, “Hill People,” National Journal, 12/7/96.
 Howard Kurtz, “The Blonde Flinging Bombshells at Bill Clinton,” Washington Post, 10/16/98, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/special/clinton/stories/coulter101698.htm.
 Anne Marie O’Connor, “Ann Coulter: Post-Feminist Pundit,” George, September 1997, p 117.
 Marvin Kalb, One Scandalous Story: Clinton, Lewinsky, and Thirteen Days That Tarnished American Journalism, Free Press. 2001, pg. 85. See Chapter 5, “Enter Mr. Drudge,” http://www.powells.com/biblio?show=HARDCOVER:USED:0684859394:5.60&page=excerpt
 Author interview.
 Annys Shin, “Blonde Ambition on the Right,” National Journal, 5/31/97.
 Mary Murphy, “Look Who’s Talking,” TV Guide, 8/9-15/97.
 Mary Jacoby, “The Pundettes,” Capital Style, December 1997.
 Hanna Rosi, “Radical Chicks,” The New Republic, 10/13/97.
 Anne Marie O’Connor, “Ann Coulter: Post-Feminist Pundit,” George, September 1997.
 Charlene Laino, “Power: the greatest aphrodisiac?” MSNBC, 2/3/98.
 Author interview.
 Carol Lawson, “Chronicle,” New York Times, 9/12/97.
 Ann Coulter, “A Republican Tribute to John,” 7/28/99.
 Ann Coulter, Vantage Points: Issues for Women, Amazon City Radio, 12/5/97.