Ann Coulter, controversial author and conservative pundit, made her final Canadian tour stop in Calgary last Thursday. Originally scheduled to take place in Science Theatre 140 at the University of Calgary, organizers relocated her speech to a larger venue, the Red And White Club at McMahon Stadium.
About 900 people showed up, including approximately 20 protesters. Some protesters were part of Anti-Racist Action Calgary, while others came independently. Many were offended that Coulter told a Muslim student at the University of Western Ontario to take a flying carpet or ride a camel instead of an airplane.
Coulter defended her remark as a joke, but protesters were not impressed.
"A racist joke is a racist joke!" they chanted, and "Free speech not hate speech!"
Signs featured slogans like, "Yankee bigot go home!" "Canadians say go home u racist pig!" and "Jesus is a socialist."
Many who weren't protesting still had mixed feelings about Coulter, including Geoff Brisbin, a first-year law student at the U of C.
"I'm here to see Ann Coulter and hear what kinds of things she might say so later on I can say, 'I was there when Ann Coulter said that,' " he said. "I'm not necessarily a fan of her. Some of her opinions I disagree with, but I like her free speech stance. I think it's something we can all get behind."
Some students showed up at the Red and White Club for the entertainment value.
"I think if she ever wasn't a political pundit she could be a stand up comedian," said Nick Nolin, a third-year political science student. "I just want to stand around and see if . . . anything exciting goes down."
Farah Malik, a fourth-year international relations major, expressed frustration over Coulter's statements about Muslims.
"I did a lot of research before coming here today . . . and I disagree with many of her views," she said. "A lot of them I find are completely factless; she just throws random opinions out there without any factual basis. I want to see her, see if what she has to say is any different than what I've read about her."
Malik also addressed Coulter's controversial "flying carpet" comment.
"She can say that it's all like satire all she wants but when put in context with all the other stuff she's said, it doesn't seem like it's meant to be funny at all -- it seems like she's very serious."
Wearing a blue top, black skirt and tall black boots, Coulter entered to a standing ovation after an enthusiastic introduction by U of C alumnus and former Western Standard publisher Ezra Levant.
Coulter kept pace by constantly delivering punch lines that, for the most part, had the audience laughing.
She spoke about political correctness and double standards, attacking liberal heavyweights such as Ted Kennedy, Harry Reid and Gloria Steinem.
"Political correctness has nothing to do with sparing people's feelings," she said. "It's all about power."
The American media does not hold liberals to the same standards as conservatives, Coulter argued. She further claimed that when Barack Obama became president, the media's attitude towards the government changed significantly.
"The mainstream media . . . overnight went from being the people's watchdogs to government guard dogs -- with the exception of the New York Times who became . . . government lapdogs," she said.
Coulter did not disappoint those expecting controversial statements.
Perhaps the most unpopular comment of the night was when she said that diversity was like cancer -- not desirable, but something that the United States had learned to live with.
She also said she would like to see Alberta become the 51st state, a comment that drew a mixed response of boos, laughter and applause.
At one point during her speech protesters could be heard outside banging on the doors.
"This is one popular speech," Coulter remarked. "I'm sorry we just don't have room for everyone!"
It was later discovered that one of the protesters outside cracked a window.
A 40-minute question and answer session followed Coulter's 20-minute speech. She answered a wide array of questions about health care, homosexuals in the military and her previous statements about Muslims and women's suffrage.
"I said the camel was a joke, the flying carpet was a joke. Women not voting? Totally serious."
Coulter claims if women weren't allowed to vote, the U.S would have never voted in any Democratic presidents.
At least 10 people walked out during the event.
"The speaking itself part was very good," said Matthew Johnston, a U of C first-year film studies student. "But the question and answer part was very dodgy. She maybe answered half the questions."
"I thought it was hilarious," said Steven Pridgen, a third-year criminal justice student at Mount Royal University. "It's nice to hear her opinion no matter how jaded it may be."