For 9/11 widows, book adds insult to injury. Writer says they relish husbands' deaths

For 9/11 widows, book adds insult to injury
Writer says they relish husbands' deaths
June 07, 2006
Star-Ledger Staff

No one is much surprised that outspoken conservative columnist Ann Coulter attacks environmentalists and Bill Clinton in her new book, "Godless: The Church of Liberalism."

But Coulter has raised eyebrows by taking aim at a different target: The widows of 9/11 victims.

Calling them "broads" who are "enjoying" their husbands' deaths, Coulter made her attack on the widows public yesterday, through the publication of the book and during a raucous appearance on NBC's "The Today Show."

"I was shocked that she was focusing on us," said Lorie Van Auken of East Brunswick, who lost her husband, Kenneth, on 9/11, and who was personally attacked in Coulter's book.

Much of Coulter's television interview consisted of the show's host, Matt Lauer, reading portions of the book aloud, including this passage about the 9/11 widows:

"These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by grief-arazzis. I have never seen people enjoying their husbands' death so much."

Coulter, who appeared on the show wearing a short black dress, did not flinch when Lauer asked: "Do you believe everything in the book or do you put some things in there just to cater to your base?"

"No, of course I believe everything," Coulter replied, chiding Lauer for "getting testy" with her as the television audience howled.

"This is as idiotic as Congress debating gay rights," said Kristen Breitweiser, who lived in Middletown when her husband, Ronald, was killed at the World Trade Center on 9/11. Breitweiser is a member of the September 11th Advocates group, also called "the Jersey Girls" because four of the five widows who make up the group lived in the Garden State in 2001. Breitweiser has since relocated to New York City.

"We never met (Coulter); we didn't know that she knew who we were," said Van Auken, another member of the group.

In the book -- published by Crown Forum -- Coulter's attacks get "worse" than they were on television, according to Van Auken, and are addressed specifically toward the New Jersey women.

"We were rather surprised that she had such vitriol toward us. ... She calls me and Mindy (Kleinberg, another 9/11 widow) 'the witches of East Brunswick.' I guess she had nothing better to do with her pages and her words," Van Auken said.

While none of the widows saw Coulter's television appearance -- "Mornings are a little hard for us, we're getting our kids to school," said Breitweiser -- they were deluged with calls by those who had seen the show, as well as calls from the press.

"My reaction is basically that I was not happy that my husband was killed, I took no joy in telling my children that they would never see their father again," Van Auken said. "It's unfortunate that Ann Coulter has focused her energy on trashing people who were trying to fix obvious problems."

"It boggles the mind," said Monica Gabrielle of Bating Hollow, Long Island, the only member of the group originally from New York, when reached yesterday afternoon. "I'm still pretty much speechless. We're debating whether to give any credence to Miss Coulter's comments" by responding, she said.

"Considering the nation is still not as safe as it could be, there are still a host of issues that should get more attention than this," Gabrielle said.

But by early yesterday evening -- in between doctor's appointments, dog walks and dinner preparations -- the widows had decided to write their own rebuttal to Coulter's remarks on television and in her book. They were writing it yesterday evening and hoped to release it before midnight, they said.

"We're going to write a response, but it's going to be handled in the manner we fought for the 9/11 commission (to be established). We are going to take all the erroneous statements by Miss Coulter and refute them in a way that's factual, not political," Breitweiser said.

Among Coulter's comments, the ones that seemed to bother the widows most were not the more personal attacks, but her claim that the widows' activism was motivated by politics.

"They were cutting commercials for Kerry. They were using their grief to make a political point while preventing anyone from responding," Coulter said on "The Today Show."

"We've never been political, we've always been factual. And it's not our fault that the facts look bad politically for some people," Breitweiser said.

"What we fought for -- we just didn't want anyone else to go through what we went through. That was our motivation," Van Auken said.

As of yesterday evening, "Godless: The Church of Liberalism," was ranked No.5 by Amazon.com's sales ranking system.


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