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Monday, March 5, 2012 1:26 a.m.

Political pundits spar on social issues

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Delaney Walsh.

Right-wing maven Ann Coulter and liberal commentator Lawrence O’Donnell locked horns on health care, stimulus spending and the voting age at a debate Sunday that drew a boisterous crowd of hundreds of students.

The pair of ideological opposites traded turns at the mic, defending their stances on issues tossed to them by moderator and School of Media and Public Affairs Director Frank Sesno.

Sesno asked the pundits about the Georgetown University law student whom conservative Rush Limbaugh called last week a “slut” and a “prostitute” for advocating for health insurance plans to cover the cost of contraception. Limbaugh apologized for the comments Saturday.

Coulter denied contraception as an issue of religion, arguing that the issue is the stated purpose of insurance.

“Why not cover movies? Why not cover firearms?” she said. “Insurance is supposed to be for unexpected disasters.”

O’Donnell, who hosts “The Last Word” on MSNBC, defended health insurance policies that cover the cost of contraception, arguing that it reduces costs by preventing unwanted pregnancies. He jokingly referred to Limbaugh’s four marriages and lack of children as “not the practice of birth control [but] the perfection of it.”

Coulter shocked many in the crowd when she called for the voting age to be upped to 26 years of age – the point at which individuals must leave their parents’ health care plans.

O’Donnell brought up Coulter’s 2003 interview with The Guardian, when she said women should be denied the right to vote because they cast ballots for more liberal candidates and wreck the elections.

When asked by Sesno if she still backed the opinion, Coulter said the quote was “identical,” and she continued to defend her stance.

“If women couldn’t vote, we would have a Republican president every year,” Coulter said.

As the audience booed, O’Donnell replied, “I rest my case!” and pretended to walk off the stage, yielding a boom of cheers and applause. After returning, he praised Coulter for “hanging in there with her own stuff” and refusing to back down.

The debate was co-sponsored by the College Republicans, College Democrats, the Student Association, Program Board and the Young America’s Foundation.

Chris Wassman, public relations chairman for the College Republicans, called out Sesno for acting less than impartial toward the speakers.

“If the moderator is getting applause, that says a lot of things,” Wassman said. “He was obviously not fair.”

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