The first sign that something was up came when Chelsea Handler posted an Instagram story Wednesday afternoon in which she literally set fire to Ann Coulter’s latest book, In Trump We Trust.
The conservative pundit, fresh off her crash-and-burn performance at Comedy Central’s Rob Lowe roast last month, was scheduled to be a guest on the episode of Handler’s Netflix talk show Chelsea set to start streaming early Friday morning. But as the studio audience learned midway through Wednesday’s taping, Coulter canceled her appearance at the last minute.
A disappointed Handler, who had been looking forward to squaring off with Coulter, made the most of the situation. Setting up a bit early in the show that compared headlines from The Drudge Report and The Huffington Post, the host joked, “The problem is that most news sites are biased. They only filter through stories that you already agree with. That’s why I always get my news from wherever Ann Coulter doesn’t.”
Another joke that would have stung Coulter hard came at the end of that segment when one of Handler’s writers presented a WorldStarHipHop video of a young boy climbing a refrigerator. “I don’t know what nationality that baby was, but if Trump builds that wall, he’ll be able to climb back over it,” Handler remarked.
But it was during the part of the show in which Coulter was supposed to appear that Handler really turned up the heat. Most talk show hosts probably wouldn’t have even mentioned the last-minute cancellation, but Handler decided to go in the opposite direction, calling in her friend and comedian Fortune Feimster to play Coulter’s “body double,” complete with long, blond wig.
“Since I am always accused of not representing both sides in this election, I went out on a limb and booked one of the most vocal Trump supporters in the country,” Handler said of Coulter before introducing her replacement. “And you know what she did? She called in sick just before the show today. Oh sorry, she emailed in sick.”
“Do you know how seriously I take this job?” Handler continued, no longer joking as she held Coulter’s book in the air. “I was up at 5 a.m. this morning reading this piece of garbage.”
Coulter’s replacement talked about how much she “loves” her book, how Comedy Central “tricked” her into participating in the roast, and admitted she’s used to being called the “c-word.” When Handler asked her to share some of her political views with the audience, Feimster pulled out a dog-eared copy of the book and read what appeared to be passages from it aloud, but were really some of the more infamous Coulter quotes from over the years.
“It would be a much better country if women did not vote, that is simply a fact,” she read to groans from the audience, explaining, as Coulter did in an interview with The Guardian, that if only men had voted in every election since 1964 the Republican candidate would have won. Handler shot back, “Which is exactly why women should be voting.”
Asked if she, as a woman, wants the right to vote, Feimster deadpanned, “I’m a woman, but I don’t love it. It’s not my favorite.”
Other quotes singled out from Coulter’s repertoire included the time she said “gays are the molecular opposites of blacks” because “everybody likes gays moving in next door,” and the one in which she declared that the government “should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport,” adding “I’d watch.”
Just as Hillary Clinton is using Donald Trump’s words against him in the campaign ads he thinks are so mean, Handler let Coulter’s words speak for themselves. With each quote, the audience started to boo louder and louder, causing the comedian to say, “You guys clearly didn’t read my book.”
“In all fairness, in defense of my audience, it’s hard to get through that piece of shit,” Handler said in response.
In an interview following the taping, Handler confirmed to The Daily Beast that she did read the entire book this morning before Coulter emailed to say she would be canceling her appearance. “I was like, ‘Oh my God,’” she said. “But it was better to have Fortune anyway. It made it much more fun.”
She had already been texting with Feimster, who had a memorable role in Handler’s Netflix documentary series Chelsea Does, that morning, so it just occurred to her in the moment to have her stand in. She added that she really did want to talk to Coulter about why she supports Trump, but after she canceled she thought, “Why not just throw her out to pasture?”
Handler said Coulter was not the first Trump supporter she invited onto her show, but they tend to turn her down. “All of the people who want to come on are Hillary supporters,” she added. She figured Coulter would be good because she’s not easily “intimidated” and “doesn’t seem to care” about what people think.
If Coulter was worried about what might happen if she appeared on the show, she should have been far more fearful of what would go down if she didn’t.
Stay tuned for a longer version of our interview with Chelsea Handler, including her latest thoughts on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, later this week.