American conservative firebrand Ann Coulter won't be in London until Monday but already the dust is flying.
Local activist and one-time NDP candidate Megan Walker says of Coulter, "She's venomous . . . She crosses the line and promotes hatred and violence."
Walker's comments provoked a response from a woman instrumental in bringing Coulter to London, Mary Lou Ambrogio, whose group, the International Free Press Society, is paying $10,000 for the appearance, the balance of Coulter's fee coming from an American group that promotes conservatism in young women, the Claire Boothe Luce Policy Institute.
Coulter couldn't be reached by phone. In a brief e-mail, Coulter offered to comment, but hadn't done so by Friday.
Ambrogio said Coulter was chosen to test the tolerance of Londoners for free speech, a test she says Walker has flunked.
"She pays lip service to free speech," Ambrogio said.
While Coulter pushes peoples' buttons, she doesn't incite criminal activity nor hatred, she said.
"That's pretty outrageous," Ambrogio said, challenging Walker to, "Prove it."
Walker responded with 10 comments made by Coulter including:
* "My only regret with (bombing terrorist) Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building."
* After American abortion doctor George Tiller was gunned down in church last year, Coulter was asked to condemn the killing by conservative Fox host Bill O'Reilly. She replied: "I don't really like to think of it as a murder. It was terminating Tiller in the 203rd trimester. ... I am personally opposed to shooting abortionists, but I don't want to impose my moral values on others."
Ambrogio defended Coulter, saying, "Incitement to violence is very specific and these comments, while they may be offensive or hurtful to the people involved are not criminal. . . Ms. Coulter, like millions of others, happens to believe that terminating the fetus is murder. She is simply using their language in a clever way, I think, to point out how absurdly their language strikes those who defend abortion."
Walker's comments have served to shine the spotlight on Coulter's visit, and in doing so, has sapped attention from another American visiting two days later, Robert Kennedy Jr., a talk paid for by Western.
So says Mark Wellington, manager of student life for the University Student Council at UWO.
"It's frustrating, all this attention on Ann Coulter," he said, adding tongue-in-cheek, "Maybe if I protest (Kennedy) we'll get more attention.
It was a student group, the Campus Coalition for Democracy, and two young conservatives in London, Ari Fine and Andrew Lawton, who arranged through the student council for Coulter to speak.
Lawton believes most prominent speakers brought to UWO have come from the political left and it's only fair that students hear other views.
"I like her as a person and an author. She's not hateful," he said.
It's a view Walker rejects and she question why UWO and the student council is allowing Coulter to speak.
"I don't think you can espouse hatred or violence and hide behind the guise of free expression," she said.
"I'm disappointed in the organizers (who are bringing her here) and I'm disappointed UWO would free up space for someone like her."
UWO president Amit Chakma, joined the debate, saying, "I support free speech and tolerance in our community." "These are the cornerstones of our democratic process. But more importantly, they are fundamental to our teaching and research mission. "It's our role to provide a venue for people to express their views."
The event Monday will be in room 101 of the North Campus Building and doors open at 7 p.m., with a talk and question and answer period followed by Coulter selling and signing her 7th book, Guilty.
Coulter on Canada
In 2004 George Bush won a second term as a president of the United States after a race in which some democrats lamented they'd move to Canada if Bush defeated Al Gore. Weeks later, Ann Coulter appeared on Fox. Here's what she said:
"The worst Americans end up going (to Canada). The Tories after the Revolutionary War, the Vietnam draft dodgers after Vietnam and now after this election we even have blue states moving up there . . .
When you're allowed to exist on the same continent of the United States of America, protecting you with a nuclear shield around you, you're polite and you support us when we've been attacked on our own soil. They [Canada] violated that protocol.
They better hope the United States doesn't roll over one night and crush them. They are lucky we allow them to exist on the same continent.
They don't even need to have an army, because they are protected, because they're on the same continent with the United States of America , , , we're their trading partner. We keep their economy afloat."
A quick note to the haters: freedom of speech is freedom of speech and the speech that needs to be protected is the outrageous speech like that of Ann Coulter. Be careful, haters, when you take away her freedom you encroach on your own.