Conservative columnist and author Ann Coulter was greeted with a mixture of standing ovations and heckling after she took center stage Tuesday night at Kansas University's Lied Center.
As soon as she stepped up to the microphone, Coulter fired off one zinger after another about liberalism while promising to answer questions from left-wing members in the audience who could "thrash their way to a coherent thought."
"I've come to find I like liberals a lot more," Coulter said early in her speech. "They're kind of cute when they're cold, shivering and afraid."
Coulter spoke as the 37th J.A. Vickers Sr. Memorial Lecture Series lecturer to a crowd estimated by KU officials at about 1,800 people. The lectures, which began in 1971, were established through a gift to the Kansas University Endowment Association by the Vickers family of Wichita.
Coulter received several standing ovations during her speech, but she also found herself interrupted several times by a small, scattered group of hecklers.
"I think there are some people in the audience who meant to be at the sexual reorientation class down the hall," Coulter said, in response to the heckling.
Moments later Coulter stopped and called for assistance from students when hecklers started in again and no one of authority was seen trying to stop them.
"Could 10 of the largest College Republicans start walking up and down the aisles and start removing anyone shouting?" Coulter asked. "Otherwise, this lecture is over."
Several people responded, leaving their seats to confront the hecklers, and verbal confrontations erupted in parts of the auditorium. One of those who answered Coulter's call was Michael Conner, a Shawnee freshman.
"All I did was say they shouldn't stop her from speaking," Conner said of confronting some audience members in the back of the auditorium.
Later, when heckling broke out again, a couple of uniformed KU Public Safety Department officers appeared and escorted about six people out of the auditorium.
Coulter resumed her critical remarks, calling Sen. Ted Kennedy a "human dirigible" and the Democrats' "spiritual leader." She also made fun of the Democrats' dalliance with filmmaker Michael Moore and former presidential candidate John Kerry, who she said got away with telling "big, fat, enormous lies."
Despite Kerry's loss, Democrats think their political stances and ideas just "need new labels for their bottles," Coulter said.
She also blasted the nation's judicial system for its handling of the Terri Schiavo case. "We no longer have a single check on the judiciary," she said.
Coulter's appearance spurred mixed emotions among those who came to see her. About a dozen protesters stood outside the center before her speech, carrying signs bearing quotes from her books and columns. Ron Warman Jr. dressed up in a clown suit to express his dislike of Coulter.
"I think she's a clown or a witch," the 45-year-old Lawrence man said.
Some of the protesters, such as Robert Richardson, said they were members of the Society of Open-Minded Atheists and Agnostics.
"We're just not open-minded enough to like Ann Coulter," Richardson, 28, of Lawrence, said.
Others, such as Mollie Devine, 26, said she was a big fan of Coulter.
"I love her," the Lawrence woman said. "She doesn't back down. She's also funnier than the other (conservative) columnists."
Mary Anne Smith, 38, said she welcomed a chance to hear a noted right-wing conservative speak.
"We hear so much of the liberal side in Lawrence," she said. "I'm excited she came here, and this is not a very easy place to come."
John Altevogt, a conservative GOP activist from Wyandotte County, also welcomed Coulter.
"Ann Coulter is logical, rational and an independent thinker," he said. "In essence, everything the left hates in their womenfolk."
Unhappy with controversy
Others said they were displeased with the hecklers, including brothers Richard and Alfred Dyer, who sat in front of a few hecklers they described as acting like children.
"I think they did a disservice by heckling her," Alfred Dyer, 54, Tonganoxie, said.
"She's got a right to be treated in a civilized manner," Richard Dyer, 53, Lawrence, said.
John Hoopes, 46, Lawrence, said the event reminded him of watching the "Jerry Springer Show."
Coulter was paid $25,000 for her appearance, which was paid from the Vickers endowment fund, said Toni Dixon, director of communications for the KU School of Business. State and university money were not used, she said.