The Nativists

Around the country, an anti-immigration movement is spreading like wildfire. An array of activists is fanning the flames

MADELEINE COSMAN
AGE: 68
SAN DIEGO, CALIF.

Speaking at major anti-immigration events like those in Chicago and Las Vegas in 2005, the late Madeleine Cosman rattled off a list of scary illnesses, each allegedly brought to this country by what she called "deadly time bombs" -- illegal aliens. She talked about how the undocumented spit out "anchor babies," children who automatically are U.S. citizens because they are born here and who can then form the basis of an appeal for legalization of their parents under family unification policies. And she claimed that these parents prefer sick babies to healthy ones, presumably because they're able to get public benefits for which they'd otherwise be ineligible.

Though she talked endlessly about disease, Cosman, who died in early 2006, was not a doctor. She was a wealthy lawyer who advised physicians on how to sell their medical practices; a former Renaissance Fair queen; a devotée of hard-line libertarian Ayn Rand; and a member of the far-right Jews for the Preservation of Firearms. She was also a contributor to the conspiracy-minded "News With Views" website, where she offered up fare like "Violent Sexual Predators Who Are Illegal Aliens" and "Bird Flu and Illegal Aliens," wherein she theorized that a Muslim terrorist could "create his own weapon of mass destruction" by smuggling an infected person across the border.

Cosman said she'd written more than a dozen books. Her most successful, she said, was Fabulous Feasts: Medieval Cookery and Ceremony, a 1976 volume that she claimed was "nominated" for both a Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award (these claims are repeated on the book's back cover). But Pulitzer officials say that there were no official "nominees" for the prize until 1980; before then, there were only "submissions" from writers or publishers. In the case of the National Book Award, prize publicist Camille McDuffie sent the Report complete lists of all past nominees and winners of the award; neither Cosman's name nor that of her book is anywhere on those lists. Immigrant-bashing, it appears, was not the only field in which Madeleine Cosman was prone to exaggeration.