Conservative pundit Ann Coulter spoke to students and guests Sunday night in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center Ballroom as part of a speaking tour to promote her new book, Never Trust a Liberal Over 3 — Especially a Republican.
The conversation with Coulter, who has written nine New York Times best-sellers, was moderated by Jim Hughes, a writer whose work has been featured in and on Politico and Fox News.
The event was co-sponsored by the Political Student Assembly, the USC College Republicans and the Hancock Park Patriots, a grassroots Tea Party organization in Los Angeles.
Mark Sonnenklar, president of the Hancock Park Patriots, said he was happy Coulter was on hand for the event.
“She brings a lot of attention anywhere she goes,” Sonnenklar said. “If Ann Coulter can support the USC College Republicans and the Hancock Park Patriots, that’s really a good thing.”
Coulter did not originally expect to be speaking at USC.
“I was just doing this fun little Tea Partier event and then they combined with the USC College Republicans,” Coulter told the Daily Trojan.
Coulter and Hughes discussed the high points of Coulter’s book, a collection of her favorite weekly columns from the past 12 years. The talk combined the controversial satire and biting wit Coulter is known for with her more serious thoughts on the future of the Republican Party.
After describing how she envisioned each MSNBC host committing suicide, Coulter turned the conversation to improving the Republican Party’s chances in the 2016 election and beyond.
“Half of the candidates running in GOP primaries shouldn’t be running at all,” she said.
Coulter also criticized the special interest groups that take candidates’ focus away from the voters, citing “the role of consultants, ego and greed” as a negative force in American politics.
Before the event, a group of students gathered to demonstrate their opposition to Coulter’s views.
One of the protesters was Nora Snyder, a senior majoring in international relations and Middle East studies.
“The political rhetoric in this country is the most polarized it’s ever been,” Snyder said. “When [Coulter] comes out making statements that are anti-Islam, anti-[lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender], anti-Hispanic and anti-rational speech, we’re out here to show that not all Trojans support that type of rhetoric.”
Ultimately, both the protesters and the event organizers agreed that it was important for Coulter to be given the chance to speak.
“The First Amendment protects everybody, even those people we don’t agree with,” Snyder said. “She can say her piece, and we can say ours.”
Jennifer Massey, president of the USC College Republicans, said the last-minute opportunity provided the rare chance to bring a conservative speaker to campus.
“We wanted to bring another opinion to school and let the students decide, because we don’t get a lot of conservative speakers on campus, if any at all,” Massey said.
Massey also praised the PSA, who worked with the College Republicans to put together the event, for helping bring speakers from both major political parties to USC.
“The PSA is supposed to be a nonpartisan organization that helps bring speakers to campus, and they have been such a great help to me and the USC College Republicans,” Massey said.
When asked if she was happy that the event had inspired a demonstration, Massey was emphatic in her support.
“Absolutely. I believe in free speech, and the USC CR believes in free speech,” she said.
Coulter, who also spoke at a meet-and-greet prior to the talk, criticized those who said she shouldn’t speak on campus.
“I think the ones who are happy to have me here are very, very smart,” Coulter said. “I think the ones who are unhappy to have me here are a little stupider.”
Eric Dubbury, a junior majoring in music industry and a member of the USC College Republicans, said the event was a shining example of encouraging a diversity of opinions on campus.
“What our club has been trying to promote is giving the opportunity for any of these speakers, even if we disagree with them, to give them the freedom to speak their views,” Dubbery said. “So far it’s been collaborative, positive thought as to what is happening here promoting freedom of speech for these events for everyone involved, including those who disagree with us.”
Several other students, even those who did not agree with Coulter’s political views, were also appreciative of the pundit’s strong opinions.
Sameer Suri, a sophomore majoring in communication and creative writing, captured the spirit of the love-hate relationship many students said they felt toward Coulter.
“I don’t agree with her, but how can you not love a woman who writes a column called ‘Attack France!’ and closes it with the line, ‘What are they going to do? Fight us?,’” Suri asked.
Follow Nathaniel on Twitter @Haas4Prez2036