Carl Levin to Ann Coulter: the political history of a pie in the face

Michigan's Sen. Carl Levin got a pie in the face from a protester Monday. Pie-throwing has a political history dating to the 1960s and includes the pastry-based terrorism of 'Al Pieda.'

Nico Rubello/Big Rapids Pioneer/AP
This photo shows Ahlam Mohsen, second from left in background, before a question-and-answer session with Sen. Carl Levin (D ) of Michigan, foreground right, at Pepper's Cafe and Deli, Aug. 16, in Big Rapids, Mich. Mohsen was arrested for hitting Levin in the face with an apple pie during the Armed Services Committee chairman's meeting with constituents in northern Michigan.

A protester hit Sen. Carl Levin (D) of Michigan with a pie on Monday in the upstate town of Big Rapids. The protester in question – Ahlam M. Mohsen, a resident of Coldwater – was arrested and was due in court Tuesday on assault and disorderly conduct charges.

The pie in question was apple, according to news reports. Senator Levin took the incident with good humor, saying he was sorry the filling was not blueberry, which is his favorite.

However, a source with considerable knowledge of fruit-based pastries, who asked to remain anonymous because the whole thing is kind of silly, said that Levin would have been sorry if blueberries had been his attacker’s ammunition of choice.

Blueberry is very staining. Levin’s shirt would have been ruined.

“I tried to get some out of a cloth napkin just this week,” says this source, “It leaves a little dark purple swatch”.

This isn’t the first time Ms. Mohsen has been up in Levin’s face about something. She and a friend were arrested at Levin’s Lansing state office in January, 2009, after they staged a sit-in to protest US war policies.

On Monday, as a compatriot of Mohsen’s read a statement accusing US senators of war crimes, Mohsen herself circled behind Levin and then squashed a pie into the lawmaker’s face.

In a statement issued later, Levin said that Mohsen and her colleague “didn’t hurt me, but they hurt their cause even more than their extreme words already had done.”

Pastry protest has a long history in US politics. Since the 1960s those opposed to the actions of people in power have occasionally made their point pie any means necessary.

But generally pie-throwing has been a form of political theater aimed at those some deem pompous. In its heyday it was a sort of anarchic gesture with leftist overtones. Thus from the 1970s through the early ‘90s, an ex-Yippie named Aron Kay, also known as “The Pieman,” hit such notables as McGeorge Bundy, G. Gordon Liddy, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and William F. Buckley, Jr.

Mr. Kay matched pie fillings to targets. Thus New York Mayor Abe Beame got apple crumb. (Get it? The Big Apple? And Kay judged Mayor Beame a crumb.)

More recently, two men threw custard cream pies at conservative author and activist Ann Coulter during a 2004 speech at the University of Arizona. The pair – Zachary Wolff and Philip Edgar Smith – called themselves “Al Pieda.”

Asked why pie, Mr. Smith said he and his Al Pieda colleague were “throwing pies at [Coulter’s] ideas, not at her,” according to a police report filed after the incident.

Coulter suffered minor crumb stickage in the incident. Her ideas remained intact.

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