Re: Ann Coulter, an Open Letter to Bill O’Reilly

Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, Fordham Screenshot
Bill O'Reilly introduces a segment on The O'Reilly Factor about the Fordham College Republicans' decision to dis-invite Ann Coulter from a speaking engagement. (Screenshot courtesy of

Blog Editor
Published: December 3, 2012

Mr. O’Reilly,
My name is Nicholas Milanes. I am currently a senior at Fordham University, the school that your colleague, Mr. Watters, painted as a gated community of dunces through intensive editing and selective exposure in this video. As you can likely tell from my tone, I take issue with your program’s overly-simplistic portrayal of my soon-to-be alma mater and of the controversy surrounding Ann Coulter’s invitation to speak at our campus. Presumably you needed to fill some time in your program, and so you sent the celebrated Mr. Watters off to the Bronx, a borough with which I’m sure he’s thoroughly well-acquainted, to lackadaisically film a few sleepy students walking to class and paint a simple enough picture of a complex situation for your viewers to swallow. Since it’s clear that you lack a proper research team, or simply prefer to gloss over such inconsequential details as our school’s population, administrative activity and recent history, allow me to elucidate the key factors that influenced the university’s backlash against Coulter’s invitation.

Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, Coulter’s invective makes regular use of hate speech that is particularly offensive to our student body. Among her store of racist, sexist and otherwise marginalizing terminology, is a particular fondness for homophobic language. Had your research team done its job– I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt from here on out and assume that you do, in fact, have a research team–they would have found that Fordham is home to a large LGBTQ community. Given that Coulter’s comments more often than not tend to inflame and propagate homophobic sentiments rather than engage in mature, grounded discussion about her views and those of her detractors–exemplified most efficiently in her infamous “Disown Your Son Day” tweet–it stands to reason that the Fordham student body would strongly oppose the College Republicans’ actions.

In recent years, our campus has unfortunately been defaced with graffiti spelling out racist and homophobic slurs. These incidents have engendered fear and uncertainty among our ethnic minority and LGBTQ students in an environment where they are supposed to feel safe and at home. Into this threatened environment the College Republicans decided to invite a woman whose rhetoric propagates homophobic and racist behavior. You wouldn’t invite a Klansman to speak at Fisk University, nor would you invite Coulter to speak at Fordham.

Secondly, the headline splayed across your website–“FORDHAM BANS ANN COULTER”–is false. Fordham University did not ban Coulter. The College Republicans cancelled her speech in response to the backlash of the administration and student body. Your words regarding Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J.–which you coupled with footage of him speaking at a podium, a narratorial decision that I presume was meant to depict him as some sort of censorial fascist–are groundless slander. I quote McShane’s statement, which all students received via email:

“Student groups are allowed, and encouraged, to invite speakers who represent diverse, and sometimes unpopular, points of view, in keeping with the canons of academic freedom. Accordingly, the University will not block the College Republicans from hosting their speaker of choice on campus.”

As you can see, the text plainly states that the university decided not to take any action to censor Coulter. You also claimed that McShane “insulted” Coulter. I’m unsure, as there is nothing resembling an insult in the body of the email, but I believe this is what you’re talking about:

“To say that I am disappointed with the judgment and maturity of the College Republicans, however, would be a tremendous understatement. There are many people who can speak to the conservative point of view with integrity and conviction, but Ms. Coulter is not among them. Her rhetoric is often hateful and needlessly provocative—more heat than light—and her message is aimed squarely at the darker side of our nature.”

McShane is simply stating what is already known. Coulter, a self-branded “provocateur,” seeks only to inflame, not to discuss.

This, thirdly, is the primary difference between Ann Coulter and Peter Singer, who Mr. Watters branded a proponent of infanticide without delving into the complexities of his viewpoints. While we may disagree with Singer’s views, Singer presents his opinions and ideas in a logical, thoughtout manner. The impetus behind Singer’s appearance at Fordham was discussion. Fordham’s founding Jesuit principles emphasize a need for discussion between proponents of varying viewpoints. It is by understanding these viewpoints that we Fordham students can come to embody the principle of cura personalis, the idea of individualized attention and care for others. Coulter’s speeches do not elicit discussion. She does not present her arguments in a rational manner open to debate, nor do her principles in any way supplement our Jesuit education.

I understand that in the current oversaturated media landscape, it’s of utmost importance for programs such as yours to paint the simplest possible narratives for viewers to gobble up piecemeal, rather than slowly consider the various complexities of any given “newsworthy” situation. This occurs in liberal and conservative media alike. However, I would expect the producers of a program with as vast a viewership as yours to feel some degree of responsibility to its viewers and its subjects. In turning the news into cheap entertainment, you have made my school the butt of a poorly-conceived joke and subsequently insulted its every student, professor and administrator. Your lackey, Mr. Watters, scoped out the most dubious-looking students he could find and held them up as representatives of a student body comprised of over eight thousand undergraduates. You then proceeded to call us all idiots.

Mr. O’Reilly, my parents–avid viewers of yours, in fact–and I are drowning in debt so that I can earn the best education I can–an education deserving of my parents’ sacrifices and my grandparents’ sacrifices. There are countless others like me attending Fordham University. We are not mudslinging toddlers who simply wanted to plug our ears and scream. We are not idiots. We are individuals who took action through expression of our opinions–a method of action fundamental to democracy. If you are indeed as committed to lauding patriots and honoring those who champion democracy as you claim to be, you will apologize for the deeply ignorant assault you leveled against me, my place of learning and my classmates.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have exams to study for.


Nicholas Milanes


To read The Observer’s complete coverage of the Ann Coulter controversy, click here.


  1. Although I prefer to avoid commenting on both Anne Coulter’s canceled visit or O’Rielly’s comments, I think this was extremely well written and articulated. Precisely the work a Fordham student is capable of.

    Thank you.

  2. Very, very well done. That was handled perfectly and addressed every single point that needed to be addressed.

    Thank you for that.

  3. “Student groups are allowed, and encouraged, to invite speakers who represent diverse, and sometimes unpopular, points of view, in keeping with the canons of academic freedom.”
    I take it Ann Coulter’s invective qualifies as unpopular POV around Fordham’s admin offices. So this 180 appears 2ba classic case of hypocritical pressure brought to bear by those in power on those not (in this case students enslaved by pursuit of good grades). As we all know, harassment is just as effective served with subtlety using a wink, nod, or cleverly worded e-mail. Simply put–the students caved. So much for teaching Fordham students the lesson of standing on the principle of independent thought and actions (within the ground rules) and not being reduced to puppets acting out wishes of those with popular predetermined outcomes. Moments like this are not forgotten. Campus republicans will never forget the day they became sheep and were shown the proper steps necessary to dutifully toe the line for a superior who thinks he ‘knows better than you’.

  4. On behalf of the students at Rutgers University, rock on Nick. Your words represent the thoughts of every rational-minded college student out there. Props to you.

  5. To knock the quality of Fordham’s students and education is reprehensible and downright insulting. Fordham always pushed me beyond my limits; during my six years at Fordham, 4 as an undergrad and 2 as a graduate student, my brilliant professors taught me to think critically, to seek truth, and to treat my fellow man with kindness. Whatever school of thought O’Reilly and Watters subscribe to clearly does not reach my alma mater’s standards, and that reflects on them and them alone. If Watters had actively sought people who had some deeper insight into the controversy, perhaps he would have been as impressed as I was and always am by Fordham’s student body. But what good is fairness and truth on TV? Hateful, uninformed commentary always tastes better going down for those entertained by base ideas and lies.

    Write on, Nick.

  6. You took my simplistic “fuck you” to Fox News to a well-composed prose. Bravo. I’d like to see what they have to say to this.

  7. (Edited for language….sorry. Anger got the best of me.)

    You took my simplistic, expletive phrases to Fox News to a well-composed argument. Bravo. I’d like to see what they have to say to this.

  8. I agree with Steve–this is a classic case of intimidation. As a parent of 1 Fordham alum and 1 Fordham senior I was, for the first time, extemely disappointed in Fr McShane’s handling of the situation. His very public denouncement of the Republican Club was unwarranted. Liberals always couch any of their condescending viewpoints as erudite and academic in nature and any opposing discussions as racist hate-speech. A perfect example is Ahmadinejad speaking at my alma mater (Columbia) not too long ago.
    Coulter should have been allowed to speak–if the Fordham student body wished to boycott her appearance then they could have done so.

  9. To Steve,

    Perhaps you do not know the history of Fordham University’s College Republicans, or the fact that the commencement speaker last year was John Brennan (also highly protested by some of the graduating class and non-graduating class). Perhaps you do not know that Newt Gingrich, Martin McNulty, Andrew Breitbart, Larry Kudlow, and others have been invited to speak at Fordham University by none other than the College Republicans and were allowed to present their POV (even though some were protested against as well).

    But then again, what do I know? I’m not a part of the College Republicans nor do I know their (true) intentions in canceling this event. However, if I do know the Fordham student body (and I do) then, their intentions are clear. And those intentions have nothing to do with being afraid of the perceived outcome of their actions but to be diplomatic, courteous, and above all respectful.

    So Steve, before you jump to conclusions about any group(s) on Fordham University’s campuses or its administration do your research.

    Sincerely, A member of the student body.

  10. What a splendid letter. Wish my own daughter — a junior at Fordham — had written it. Great to see a Fordham student come down so strongly for accuracy in reporting and respect for all people. Way to go! Down with Fox!

  11. It’s so transparent that polite arm twisting was at work here. McShane had issues with the messenger so the message was effectively squelched as a result of being collateral damage. As for Nick’s rather inexperienced take on Ms. Coulter’s style of cutting straight to the truth– “Given that Coulter’s comments more often than not tend to inflame and propagate homophobic sentiments rather than engage in mature, grounded discussion about her views and those of her detractors” — do some research of your own and learn why a polemicist is what it is for a reason.

  12. Conservatives should really have no problem with Fordham’s rejection of Ann Coulter and its reason for doing so: “she says bad things that we disagree with.” For tens of millions of conservatives who find Ms. Coulter much more reasonable than, say, Bill Maher, for instance, it’s important to identify institutions that hate us and our point of view. Now we know: Fordham University, the school for liberals.

  13. Superb letter, Nick. You show far more intelligence and command of the facts in this post than O’Reilly did in his deceitful segment.

    -Paul Levinson, PhD
    Professor of Communication and Media Studies
    Fordham University

  14. I’m fairly certain that the amount of time and effort placed in writing this letter exceeds that of the entire fox news organization in producing this episode of the “o’reilley factor.” I would make a statement about Journalistic integrity, but it’s hard to see how that even applies to the coverage released by fox news. If I remember correctly, the speaker choice wasn’t even the primary issue, it was the fact that student’s tuition money was being used to support this whole event.

    In the interest of full disclosure to more than just the student body, I am including the email Father McShane presented to the entire student body following these events.

    “University Statement | November 10, 2012

    Late yesterday, Fordham received word that the College Republicans, a student club at the University, has rescinded its lecture invitation to Ann Coulter.

    Allow me to give credit where it is due: the leadership of the College Republicans acted quickly, took responsibility for their decisions, and expressed their regrets sincerely and eloquently. Most gratifying, I believe, is that they framed their decision in light of Fordham’s mission and values. There can be no finer testament to the value of a Fordham education and the caliber of our students.

    Yesterday I wrote that the College Republicans provided Fordham with a test of its character. They, the University community, and our extended Fordham family passed the test with flying colors, engaging in impassioned but overwhelmingly civil debate on politics, academic freedom, and freedom of speech.

    We can all be proud of Fordham today, and I am proud to serve you.”

    Joseph M. McShane, S.J., President

    As a student veteran I feel that the university acted with all due regard for all interested parties and I additionally consider the coverage by Fox news as nothing more than base slander. It seems apparent to me that when slinging insults at an educated student body known worldwide for its humanitarian efforts and ethics, you only serve to highlight your own shortcomings and failures in judgement.

  15. This is a well reasoned letter. Nice job.

    There are two issues discussed here: the first is the Fox News piece and the second is the endorsement by the author of the invitation being withdrawn.

    First: the Fox piece was entirely juvenile, something akin to what Howard Stern or Jay Leno would do by interviewing the “man on the street.” That any student would be offended by another student’s statements on the issue is silly. They spoke for themselves, not for the university as a whole or any other students for that matter.

    Second: the issue of withdrawing the invite. According to the author, “Coulter’s speeches do not elicit discussion. She does not present her arguments in a rational manner open to debate, nor do her principles in any way supplement our Jesuit education.”

    Let’s all agree that these statements are the author’s OPINION, perhaps even widely held opinions by other students.

    The first sentence is provably false. Look at the discussion right here. She has provoked discussion even without speaking…pretty powerful stuff, don’t you think? They most CERTAINLY do elicit discussion…fierce, forceful, passionate, reasoned, logical, raw….all of which you WANT on a college campus, thank you very much.

    The second sentence I could say about other individuals who have also spoken at Fordham. Some, like me, may say the same things about Chris Matthews or Bill Maher, both sexists and race-baiting provocateurs in the broadest sense of the words, in my OPINION. Coulter may be incendiary and even provocative in her speech, but no more so than Matthews and Maher. Individuals like me have been called racists by Matthews because we wanted to send Obama back to “Chicago.” No debate. RACIST. I voted for Romney, therefore I am a RACIST. I call Obama the “food stamp president” and I am a RACIST. No debate. No discussion. Matthews can just call someone a RACIST.

    And how, pray tell, does it elicit discussion for Maher to use the C word in reference to a conservative woman politician? Is that rational? Does that supplement your Jesuit education. How does it further your education for a Maher or Matthews to say conservatives want to return blacks to plantations and get back Jim Crow? Is this any more incendiary than what Coulter has said?

    There is an obvious double standard. You want to hear from those you like and not hear from those you don’t.

    Yet, your great institution sought to eliminate Coulter’s speech rather than confront it head on. You invite Matthews and Maher to campus because you “AGREE” with their views. You uninvite Coulter because you “DISAGREE.”

    That’s YOUR choice. But at least have the decency to admit it. If you can’t, you’re just being intellectually dishonest and playing fast and loose with the reality.

    Finally, let me say this: even as a conservative, I think Coulter is particularly fiery. But unlike you, I am not afraid to hear her and judge for myself. Heck, it would have been awesome to have five of the most visceral Coulter haters on stage debating her. I’m not afraid to have Matthews and Maher spew their crap to you or others because I have faith in others to make their own judgments. Just as I applaud you for bringing Matthews and Maher to campus…and Singer….and others in the future, I wish you had the fortitude and gumption to deal with speech you find offensive. In the “real” world, it’s everywhere. But unfortunately, it appears Fordham wimped out. And THAT is the bottom line. Pure and simple. Fox didn’t have to tell me that.

    Good luck with finals…

  16. Since no one is holding their breath waiting for McShane to reverse his opinion about Coulter, how is this anything but “effectively” banning Ms. Coulter from Fordham? If it walks like a duck, can a reasonable person assume Coulter’s zero. expectation of speaking at FU in the near future is ‘in effect’ synonymous with a “ban”. Be honest.

  17. Jack Throck,

    No one is making an argument for Bill Maher. The letter is comparing Coulter to Peter Singer, who is an actual academic.

  18. Wow.. extremely well written and thought provoking. Good for you for voicing your opinion.

  19. Dan,

    I am making the argument re Maher. It’s hypocritical at best for this institution to invite Maher or Matthews and then put pressure on a student group to withdraw an invite to Coulter. That’s my point.

    Invite Singer. Invite Maher. Invite Matthews. But then, when you uninvite Coulter…you make it patently obvious that your institution does not support free speech.

    I have no right to prevent you from hearing Maher, just as you should have no right to prevent me from hearing Coulter. It’s simple. I think Maher is a pig. You think Coulter is. We’re even. But wait…no…Maher can speak, Coulter can’t. Matthews can speak, Coulter can’t.

    This is why this has become a national story. You’re either for free speech…even speech that offends and hurts and fires up people…or you’re not.

  20. Fordham’s College Republicans issued a statement in which they said that they had already decided to cancel the Ann Coulter appearance before Father McShane’s email and that had he reached out to them first before publicly denouncing their choice of speaker, he’d have realized that they did the right thing to respect the views of the student body without his input. So I don’t think this is a case of administration bullying the student body. I think this is a case of the student body working things out for itself while the administration did absolutely nothing of consequence.

  21. Your well-written, intelligent letter shows the true nature of Fordham students (as opposed to the misleading hackjob O’Reilly offered). Bravo.

  22. I am an alumnus, FC’72. I am thoroughly disappointed with the Ann Coulter speaking engagement at Fordham fiasco.
    Basically, Fordham (College Republican students and President McShane) have practiced self-censorship: let’s not hear what we may be afraid of hearing, because it may challenge our beliefs.

    One might argue that the Singer engagement belies the preceding, but it is not so. Having Singer over to “discuss” his extreme views at Fordham just shows that deep down, Singer’s views, however abhorrent, may find a resonance among some of the hosts. This is very common among those who have embraced the liberal mindset: extreme
    views of liberals are somehow, less extreme than extreme views of conservatives. To wit: during the election campaigns, liberals spoke of Republican’s “war on
    women”. But their silence is deafening when women are actually oppressed and mistreated in some Islamic societies. I guess their excuse is that their liberal,
    secular creed prevents them from criticizing oppression, when they have sympathies for the oppressors, only if it’s because they view them as comrades in their fight against the “broader” oppression of Western Christian civilization.

    And I think it is extremely hypocritical to argue that Singer may speak because he is an academic and Coulter is not. As if having an academic background somehow made it OK to spouse and promote views like Singer’s, which are absolutely worse than what Coulter does: Singer lays the PHILOSOPHICAL FOUNDATION for evil. Once that foundation is laid out and, in spite of its falsehood, accepted by many who may not realize its corruption, or who may use it to rationalize their crimes (isn’t infanticide still a crime?) it becomes hard or impossible to uproot. To think that “engaging” Singer in an academic discussion of his evil may result in a positive outcome, where his system’s flaws are exposed and he acknowledges them
    and maybe even recants, is like thinking that Fr. McShane, Mr. Milanes and Prof. Lewinson could argue with Voltaire and convince him of becoming a Jesuit. What
    Fordham’s administration and some of its faculty and students don’t seem to realize is that Singer is just one of the many secularists who are constructing the new Enlightenment, no longer based on the “autonomy” of man, like the old 18th. century Enlightenment, but on the “intranscendence” of humanity. There is little or nothing to discuss when such philosophy is used to justify evident evil. Or, maybe they do realize it and agree with it.

    Coulter shouts out politically “incorrect” views, which may be offensive to some but, as far as I know, the First Amendment has not been abrogated in the US, except, maybe, in campuses like Fordham.

    Let me close by stating that I don’t agree with some of Coulter’s views, or her way of expressing them, but I much less can agree on censoring them, especially when far worse, actually evil, views are given a gratuitous forum at a formerly(?) Catholic university.

  23. Get off your high horses! All of you!

    Stop writing about O’Reilly and Maher. They’re both idiots!
    Take the subway to BRO JIM’S AND GET WEIRD!

  24. I am very troubled by recent events at Fordham University, my Alma Mater.

    How could a University that honored Peter Singer, Bill Maher and Chris Mathews as official speakers, not allow Ann Coulter to even appear as a student organization sponsored speaker?

    The University that I attended believed in free speech and the open exchange of ideas.

    The University that I attended was all about support for hard working immigrant families and the support of Catholic values.

    The University that I attended was not about an entitlement mentality and an elitist, restrictive and politically biased educational environment.

    When I attended Fordham, I fondly remember reading, and being intellectually challenged by, both William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal in the Duane Library. Are Buckley’s writings even allowed in the Walsh Family Library today?

    I am embarrassed that my graduate degree institutions of Columbia and the University of California at Berkeley now represent more open ideological communities than does Fordham.

    However, I am mostly disappointed that Fordam’s leadership has apparently given in to the political correctness of our day leading to an increasingly more secular society that is the antithesis of the core Catholic foundation of my Alma Mater experience that I will always remember and fondly love.

  25. Liberals hold free as speech sacred…as long as it agrees with their own point of view.

  26. If this letter was written by a student from a non-denominational or secular, but Nicholas, you contradict your stance when defending homosexuality while glorifying your “Jesuit” education. Whether it is right or wrong, Catholicism does not support homosexuality. I believe that your letter is well written, I believe that you are advocating for a good cause, but it baffles me that a Jesuit University is “home an LGBTQ community”.