Ann Coulter made a guest appearance on The View to promote her latest book Adios, America: The Left’s Plan to Turn Our Country Into a Third World Hellhole. Since Coulter has built an entire career on the shock value of her political opinions, it is not surprising that this interview was filled with controversial statements about immigrants, and a questionable presentation of United States history.
A couple minutes into the interview, host Ana Navarro challenged Coulter’s views about immigrants by asking if her family immigrated to America. Coulter responded to Navarro’s question by stating that she is actually a Native American because she descended from the early settlers who founded the United States. Coulter goes on to say that she is also not an immigrant because she does not currently reside on tribal land (even though she likely does). The interview transcript that is listed below outlines the conversation between Navarro and Coulter:
AnaNavarro: “What’s your family’s immigration story, right, are you a Native American?”
Ann Coulter: “Why, yes I am. I am a settler. I am descended from settlers—not from immigrants.”
Raven-Symoné: “So that’s not a Native American, you are…”
Padma Lakshmi: “That’s not a Native American, that’s an immigrant…That’s just a holder…”
Ann Coulter: “No, if you mean Indian…If you mean INDIAN…”
AnaNavarro: “Were you already here when the pilgrims showed up? Were your people here?”
Ann Coulter: “Well no, but I am not living in Cherokee Nation. So, I am not an immigrant to Cherokee Nation. I am living in America—which was created by settlers, not immigrants.”
Although Coulter shares a number of questionable comments throughout the interview, I would like to focus this discussion on why Coulter chooses to call herself a Native American.
Coulter’s beliefs about the history of the United States are steeped in a Manifest Destiny narrative. To Coulter, America came into existence because of the efforts and ingenuity of early settlers to discover an unoccupied territory and forge a government. Coulter defends this half-truth by stating that: “[she is] not living in Cherokee Nation. So [she is] not an immigrant to Cherokee Nation. [She is] living in America—which was created by settlers, not immigrants.” Her views on how America came to be purposefully ignore the long legacy of aboriginal land ownership. Moreover, she does not acknowledge that America was not unoccupied when it was “discovered” by settlers, or the atrocities that were committed against Native people that resulted in the displacement of these societies to the reservations that exist today.
The core of Coulter’s argument against immigration (which is highlighted in the interview transcript) is that there exists two classifications of immigrants, (1) the early settlers that predate the United States, and (2) everyone else. Coulter is not using the term Native American to claim a connection to a Native Nation, rather, she is using the label as a rhetorical tool to weave a semantic argument. Her bastardized definition of Native American enables her to craft an artificial (and arguably racist) hierarchy where her ancestry and individuals sharing a similar background as her are deemed “real Americans.” In essence, Coulter has given herself the right to define who belongs in this Country, and who does not. Following Coulter’s argument to its logical end, neither Native people or anyone who has immigrated in the last 100 years can fit into Coulter’s narrowed definition of a “real American.”
Coulter is soft-selling this Country’s painful history of colonization in order to spin a more palatable creation story of the United States that is in alignment with her political orientations, and her understanding of herself as a “true American.” However, for Coulter to admit that she is anything other than a Native American would weaken her broader ideological arguments against immigration to a-pot-calling-a-kettle-black debate.
Dr. Christie Poitra holds a PhD in Educational Policy from Michigan State University, and a Master of Arts degree in American Indian Studies from UCLA. She writes about tribal governments, educational policy and politics. Feel free to Follow Christie on Twitter@Dr_Poitra, and Instagram:Dr_Poitra.