Know Your Right Wingers
SOURCE: August Pollak
What happens when you take an attorney’s argumentative skill, throw in Hillary Clinton’s hairdo, and add just a dash of Ann Coulter’s lust for blood? The result is Kate O’Beirne, the right-wing media’s anti-feminist steamroller.
O’Beirne’s had an unflinchingly conservative career. Trained as a lawyer, her previous positions have included Vice President of Government Relations at the Heritage Foundation, head of the Presidential Commission on Women in the Armed Forces under Bush I, and talking head on CNN’s The Capital Gang, Crossfire, MSNBC’s Hardball, and NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Before becoming the career woman she is today, O’Beirne traveled with her husband, then an officer in the Army, and raised their two sons.
O’Beirne currently serves as the Washington Editor for The National Review, an unabashedly right-slanted print and online magazine. O’Beirne also writes a National Review column called “Kate’s Take.” Do you get it? You just scramble the letters in ‘Kate’ and get ‘take.’ Brilliant! The column’s main focus is on telling women to “get over it” instead of trying to fix gender inequalities in America.
O’Beirne’s most recent missive against progressive values exists in her 2005 book, Women Who Make the World Worse: and How Their Radical Feminist Assault is Ruining Our Schools, Families, Military, and Sports. If you can’t remember her verbose and inflammatory title, we’ve boiled it down for you: “Everything Kate Hates about Feminists.” The book is a laundry list of the most common, mundane and erroneous arguments against feminism, repackaged by a successful career woman who undoubtedly benefited from the women’s movement.
For instance, O’Beirne wholeheartedly buys into that old line that feminists are just girls who can’t get boyfriends—“I have long thought that if high-school boys had invited homely girls to the prom we might have been spared the feminist movement,” she explains. She lays the blame for the women’s rights movement on the fathers and ex-boyfriends of leaders like Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan.
Not safe, either, is the widely accepted identification of the gender wage gap. No, O’Beirne insists, those who claim that women make 76¢ on the male dollar aren’t paying close enough attention to the statistics. “The persistent fable that women are denied equal pay for equal work,” she says, “has been a never-empty tank of gas that fuels feminism. A sympathetic public is largely unaware that the claim that women face widespread wage discrimination is a myth aggressively advanced by feminists.” It’s hardly a fable that even when the data takes work experience and presence of children into account, American women still make significantly less than men, and it’s not good for anyone.
In addition to running the usual gamut of press appearances to promote Women Who Make the World Worse, O’Beirne made sure to get an appearance in her home base, National Review Online. In an incestuous NRO interview, O’Beirne gets lobbed soft pitches like “What’s the worst thing that women who make the world worse do?” by NRO editor Kathryn Lopez. This, of course, allows O’Beirne to get up on her factually unsound soapbox once again, firing back that “They put us at war with the men in our lives, the fathers, husbands, and sons who love and support us.” Right. So despite the fundamental belief that more equality is good for everyone, feminists have it in for all men, especially their sons and boyfriends. Unfortunately for O’Beirne, What Kate Hates about Feminists is annoying but not groundbreaking. In fact, her attacks on feminism are ultimately defensive and pathetic—like when she told a Salon interviewer that “mainstream feminists denigrate marriage and motherhood—they just do!” How convincing.
Not content to offer her trite views and unpersuasive arguments about feminism, O’Beirne, as Media Matters notes, has weighed in on a whole laundry list of conservative talking points: the Plame case, Social Security private accounts, abortion and the Global War on Terror. And she’s no run-of-the-mill right-wing talking head—O’Beirne sets herself apart by consistently misstating facts and misattributing quotations and statements.
On CNN’s The Capital Gang in 2005, O’Beirne stated that “76 percent of people under age 50 like the idea of the personal accounts.” Never mind the fact that the poll she was referring to did not break down demographic data by age nor did it ask if respondents “like the idea” of private accounts. In addition to that, O’Beirne’s underlying contention—that a majority of younger workers approve of private accounts— is actually refuted by other polls that do ask this question.
In another memorable instance, O’Beirne blamed Bush’s poor response to Hurricane Katrina on America’s deep cultural distrust of meteorologists. Even after the release of the tape showing that Bush knew of the potential levee crisis, O’Beirne defended his lack of action, telling Chris Matthews that “we all bring a lot of skepticism to weather reports… We’re habituated to thinking weather reports are wrong.” Apparently, to O’Beirne, calling your local weatherman an idiot and ignoring a presidential briefing by federal disaster officials are practically the same thing.
O’Beirne singled out another group for criticism that we can all agree is a divisive, far-left organization: the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). O’Beirne said that the ICRC “wants POW status conferred on an enemy who violates the Geneva Conventions by viciously waging war on civilians.” Undoubtedly trying to paint the Red Cross with the same anti-American brush as anti-war activists, O’Beirne asserted that ICRC “objects to the centuries-old practice of holding enemy combatants until the end of hostilities.”
Both statements, however, are not true. The ICRC did not demand POW status for the detainees, but instead asked for a modicum of human decency under the Fourth Geneva Convention, which would bar torture, mutilation and cruel treatment, as well as “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.”
“Why exactly does the United States contribute $200 million a year to this left-wing interest group?” she cried. Despite her polished, knowledgeable veneer, bolstered by quickly recited numbers and polls, O’Beirne’s appearances range from dishonest, to dishonest, to ignorant, to dishonest to dishonest. So add a dash of complete disregard for the truth to her anti-feminist demagoguery and you have a formula for Kate O’Beirne, the gray-haired Ann Coulter.
Illustration: August J. Pollak