Lawrence O'Donnell Worries 'We Are So Free Ann Coulter Can Joke About Jailing Journalists'

February 14th, 2011 11:43 PM

MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell on Monday expressed concern that someone like conservative author Ann Coulter has the "freedom" to make a joke about jailing journalists.

This was amazing expressed moments before "The Last Word" host applauded the free flow of information that enticed and united protesters to rebel in Egypt (video follows with transcript and commentary):

LAWRENCE O’DONNELL, HOST: Meanwhile, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC, Ann Coulter felt perfectly comfortable taking a contrarian stand against freedom, and the freedom-hating crowd loved it.


ANN COULTER: What do you mean knowing that there are jailed journalists? I think there should be more jailed journalists.


Nice cherry-pick. Here's a more complete video of that question and answer (forward to 1:57):

According to

The comments were sparked by a question about why Coulter and other Republicans advocate for free elections in Iraq but warn against them in Egypt.

Coulter, echoing John Bolton, said that pre-revolution Egypt was an ally of the United States and "you don't go around disturbing countries where you have a loyal ally."

As O'Donnell moved forward bringing on OWN's Lisa Ling, he admitted not knowing the context of Coulter's remarks despite being offended by what was obviously a joke and a darned good one:

O’DONNELL: I want to go quickly to what Ann Coulter said about jailed journalists. You’ve had some experience with this with your sister being held in North Korea and Bill Clinton coming to the rescue to get her out of there in a very dramatic situation. I am sure you and your family were terribly afraid of what was going to happen and how long she was going to be held. What is your reaction when you hear Ann Coulter just so flippantly make a reference like that?

LISA LING, OWN NETWORK: It makes me incensed, and certainly there were those people who said my sister and her team should not have been there and they deserved the punishment they received, and that just angers me so much because I’m such a fierce advocate of free press. And I suppose if, if, if there weren't, we should just kind of sit and remain ignorant, and not have the desire and just allow people who sort of pontificate and profess to know things about which they may not know to be our sources of news. And I think that's actually a very dangerous attitude, and I think that these days with so much media, the need for journalism and people being out in the field is more important than ever.

O’DONNELL: And it seems that what we're seeing there with Ann Coulter and with the thinking even in the focus group is this huge abundance of American freedom. We are so free that Ann can just make a joke about jailing journalists. I, I think it was a joke. I’m not sure what the full context was. And that those people in the focus group can very freely just think whatever they feel like thinking without necessarily having facts to back it up. Is there, is there a kind of laziness that you find that comes with our freedom?

We are so free that Ann can just make a joke about jailing journalists?

Does O'Donnell wish there were laws governing such speech? Does he feel the same way about jokes made by liberal comedians like Bill Maher, or should only conservatives be so constrained?

LING: I actually don't think there's a lot of thinking at all. I think that we're so sort of desperate to be told what to think that we take so much of what we hear as, as, as fact or reality or as news, and I actually think that that's dangerous.

O’DONNELL: Now, you've been everywhere. You've just been everywhere on the planet. Surely you have been to Egypt.

LING: I have been to Egypt, yes.

O’DONNELL: Of course. Like, how many times?

LING: Yeah, I've been to Egypt twice.

O’DONNELL: What you saw happen in the previous 20 days in Egypt, how much did that surprise you? What of it made sense to you as you were watching it unfold?

Now, watch as these two liberal media members, who both were appalled by Coulter's freedom to make a joke, are suddenly enthralled by the freedom of information that led Egyptians to protest their government's oppression:

LING: Well, it was surprising, but having just sort of seen what happened in Iran last year was, I think that there's a movement happening throughout the world. It is increasingly more difficult for any dictator to maintain this kind of stranglehold over the people. And I just think it is so incredible that these social networks that were created by American young people are now destabilizing governments and allowing millions of people to organize. I think the consequences however for the U.S. government will be kind of interesting. I think from here on out, we really need to to really rethink U.S. policy toward authoritarian regimes, because they, they can no longer continue to, to, to maintain the stranglehold.

O’DONNELL: Yeah, the social media and the internet and all of this free flow of information is something that the regimes don't know how to deal with. They used to be able to just clamp down on newspapers, control the newspapers and you're done. That's it. That controls information in these countries. But it is different now.

Some classic liberal hypocrisy there, don't you agree?

There's way too much freedom in America allowing folks like Coulter to make jokes and Iowa Republicans to think the President isn't a Christian or a citizen, but such freedom is a wonderful thing when people thousands of miles away rebel against their leaders.

And it's just awful when foreign regimes prevent information from being disseminated that might be dangerous to their existence, but when people in America express views counter to the regime in power here, it's a disgrace.

So, in this pair's view, conservatives in America should have less freedom of speech than folks in countries thousands of miles away.

It must take a heapin' helpin' of rationalizations to advocate the tenets of the First Amendment in distant lands while you rue its existence in the nation where it was created.