By Margaret Fosmoe
South Bend Tribune, Ind.
Conservative commentator and writer Ann Coulter brought her rapid-fire rhetoric to the University of Notre Dame on Thursday, offering her take on topics ranging from health insurance and gun rights to Hillary Clinton and the death penalty.
She was greeted with warm applause by an audience of student Republicans and their invited guests.
Coulter’s visit split the student body, raising issues about free speech, hate speech and what makes for an appropriate campus speaker. Her invitation to campus by the Notre Dame Campus Republicans has been debated for weeks among students and on the pages of the Observer, the campus newspaper.
Some students said they opposed Coulter’s visit to Notre Dame because of her record of incendiary remarks concerning liberals, black Republicans, gay people, Arabs, single mothers and other groups.
Coulter’s scathing style was on display during her campus speech.
Once President Barack Obama’s second term is over, “it’s not looking so good for the Democrats,” Coulter told the audience. Obama had two qualities when running for office, she said: he had “no record” and he’s likable.
“I think the only people who will be fainting at Hillary Clinton rallies are the chubby girls from NOW (National Organization for Women),” she said to applause.
Coulter spoke in the Hesburgh Library auditorium at an event hosted by the Notre Dame College Republicans, following a private dinner on campus. The speech wasn’t open to the general public.
Coulter’s talk included her trademark brand of caustic comments skewering liberals and Democratic Party policies, including:
–“The history of liberals is to replace things that were with things that sound good on paper.”
–“Liberals can’t learn from what is right in front of them. Mollusks can learn. Viruses can learn.”
–Her advice to conservatives running for political office: “Lure your opponent into talking about guns.”
–On the death penalty: “It’s used very rarely, but in extreme cases I think it’s just.”
–“A new idea has taken hold that it’s somehow unfair for America to skim the cream and take the best immigrants.”
On Wednesday, members of several student groups conducted a silent demonstration on campus. The students handed out cards with quotations from Coulter criticizing single mothers, Arabs, illegal immigrants and other minority groups, and on the other side the statement: “We fight for the end of hate speech! #NoHate.”
The demonstrators weren’t calling for Coulter’s visit to be canceled. “It gives us a moment to demonstrate against hate speech,” said student Niciah Petrovic, one of the organizers.
In an Observer column, Campus Republicans club president Mark Gianfalla wrote that Coulter was selected as the club’s Lincoln Day speaker because “no other speaker is capable of bringing the same level of relatable energy and attention to the social conservative platform that is at the core of Catholic Social Teaching and our club’s mission; i.e. traditional marriage and abortion, to name a few.
Those who have spoken out against our hosting of Miss Coulter have falsely stated, aside from accusing our club of intentional polarization, that she is a racist and encourages hatred.”
Notre Dame has an open speaker policy, which permits student groups to invite any person of their choosing to campus to speak, as long as such events don’t disrupt the regular operation of the university.
Senior Jacob Kaminski, a lifelong Republican who was involved in the ND College Republicans as a sophomore, said he was disappointed that the group invited Coulter. “I’ve heard her radical message and I didn’t think she was an appropriate speaker considering how divisive she is,” he said. He didn’t attend the speech. “I personally don’t believe this represents the Republican contingency of Notre Dame students,” he said.
Notre Dame has come under Coulter’s fire in the past.
President Obama gave the 2009 Notre Dame commencement address and received an honorary degree, despite outcry from critics who said a Catholic university shouldn’t honor a president who is pro-choice on the issue of abortion.
After that commencement, Coulter said on Geraldo Rivera’s FOX TV show: “I think more interesting than watching Obama give a speech for graduation … they should have had the administrators of Notre Dame onstage taking a polygraph test on whether they believe in God.”
She also wrote in a syndicated column: “How about for next year’s graduation ceremony Notre Dame have an abortionist perform an abortion live on stage? They could have a partial-birth abortion for the advanced degrees.” She suggested the president could throw out the “ceremonial first fetus,” like an opening day in baseball.