To the editors:
In “Bringing Hate to Harvard” (Column, Oct. 31), Nader R. Hasan writes that that Ann Coulter “spewed her hateful rhetoric” and asserted “her racist ideology” during her Oct. 25 speech to the Harvard Republican Club (HRC). Nothing could be further from the truth. We want to set the record straight.
When Coulter spoke to the HRC in a packed Fong Auditorium, the University of Michigan Law School graduate devoted the entirety of her 35-minute lecture to the perils of judicial activism, discussing topics from partial-birth abortion and elements of the criminal justice system to race-based university admissions and affirmative action.
Only after her speech, when Hasan and others asked pointed questions unrelated to any of the constitutional issues that she had discussed, did Coulter even broach the subject of her recent controversial remarks. That night, Hasan questioned her directly about the exact quotes from her articles he included in his editorial. Coulter responded that the quotes and assertions were taken out of context and distort her actual claims.
Coulter explained with clarity that what she wrote in her magazine column had specific reference to a small group of people directly involved in or celebrating the brutal attacks of Sept. 11. Hasan’s assertion that Coulter “openly advocated the wholesale destruction of the entire Muslim and Arab world” is inaccurate, offensive and absurd. At the event, at least, she did not “brazenly advocat[e] cleansing American soil of [all] Muslims,” but responded to questioners only by suggesting that for security reasons, illegal immigrants who could no longer be legally detained for suspected terrorism ought to be deported. Hasan’s claim that Coulter advocates “ethnic cleansing” is especially puzzling considering her boyfriend in attendance is Muslim himself.
Many Republicans, even those of us on the board, disagree with Coulter’s immigration policy proposals. This is why she was asked to (and did) speak on other topics. But to label Coulter a “proselytizer of hate” and deride her as a “racist” is unjustified, unsubstantiated and inappropriate. To suggest, given the context of the event and the topic of the evening, that the HRC “is guilty of bringing hate to Harvard” is ridiculous, unless one regards protection of the unborn, judicial restraint and color-blindness as hateful. Indeed, one of the central themes of the evening was the constitutionality of race-based discrimination, and Coulter spoke out against what many consider a particularly pernicious form of racism.
Instead of debating Coulter’s controversial policies, Hasan’s column resorts to ad hominem attacks, discrediting her as a “telebimbo” and the HRC members as “callous” xenophobes, all the while distorting and misrepresenting the views of a speaker, the substance of an event and the motivation of a campus club. If The Crimson had any courage, it would censure Hasan for his misleading journalistic tactics and reckless comments.
Hasan’s article represents a growing trend within our campus community to label opponents as racist without compelling substantiation. The charges of racism bandied about during the debate over the causes of grade inflation serve as a recent reminder. For a campus that prides itself on fostering an environment of “toleration,” many recklessly abuse terms like “racist” and “hate monger” with shocking liberality. Perhaps Hasan ought to apply his hopes for “human decency,” “civility” and “respect[ing] others” to his own behavior. Hastily and wrongly categorizing people and groups as “racist” is what leads to the resentment and enmity that breed true hatred.
Perhaps most distressing, Hasan’s piece calls for censorship under the guise of “tolerance.” He implores the Harvard Foundation, the administration, and “every non-racist student organization” to denounce such events on campus, and suggests that Coulter ought not to have spoken here. It is the height of hypocrisy that “liberals” who love to appear as champions of toleration are often the first to sound the trumpet of censorship when speech hurts their collective feelings. She has been judged worthy to appear on ABC’s “This Week,” CBS’s “Good Morning America,” NBC’s “Today Show,” and CNN’s “Larry King Live”—but according to Hasan’s warped logic, her views aren’t close enough to his for her to come to Harvard. The HRC will continue to present new viewpoints and intelligent political discourse with confidence that our open marketplace of ideas at Harvard will determine their merits.
Robert R. Porter ’02
Brian C. Grech ’02
Nov. 1, 2001
The writers are president and treasurer, respectively, of the Harvard Republican Club.