S.E. Cupp

On this date in 1979, columnist and commentator Sara Elizabeth “S.E.” Cupp was born in Oceanside, Calif. Her Catholic family moved around a lot for her father’s work with Boise Cascade lumber products. 

They moved to Andover, Mass., when she was 6. She graduated from high school there and was a student during that time with the Boston Ballet. “I knew at a very young age that I didn’t really buy the whole God gamut. I didn’t know why. I wouldn’t say it was rebellion. It was skepticism. It just didn’t add up to me.” (Daily Beast, June 13, 2010)

Cupp graduated in 2000 with a B.A. in art history from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.  She earned an M.A. with a concentration in religious studies in 2010 from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University. “I was just fascinated by the pomp and ceremony and ritual nature of religion, and yet couldn’t completely get there ever; couldn’t completely wrap my mind around the idea of God.” (CNN Belief Blog, Sept. 9, 2013)

She started using S.E. Cupp in order to have a gender-free byline. At the top of her website after her name, it says “Conservative. Columnist. Commentator.” Then it says “Cupp delivers her passionate voice and fresh perspective on everything from politics, media, sports to popular culture” via her media appearances.

Her columns appeared in numerous publications, most often conservative ones, which was also where her commentary was delivered, although she was paired with a liberal on some programs to offer contrasting views. Co-hosting with Krystal Ball on MSNBC’s “The Cycle” about the role of religion in presidential elections, Cupp said GOP candidate Mitt Romney would have “no chance” running as an atheist. “And you know what? I would never vote for an atheist president. Ever,” Cupp added.

Asked why, Cupp explained: “Because I do not think that someone who represents 5 to 10 percent of the population should be representing and thinking that everyone else in the world is crazy but me.” (“The Cycle,” July 5, 2012)

Two years later on CNN, she argued that atheists on “the left” have a “militant hostility” in reaction “against intellectual diversity” and that they perpetuate the idea “that atheists are somehow disenfranchised or left out of the political process. I just don’t find that to be the case.” (“Crossfire Reloaded,” July 30, 2014)

That didn’t sit too well with Harvard University humanist chaplain Chris Stedman: “Survey data contradict Cupp. For instance, a 2014 Pew Research study found that Americans are less likely to vote for an atheist presidential candidate than any other survey category — even if they share that candidate’s political views. Faring better than atheists: candidates who have engaged in extramarital affairs and those with zero political experience.” (CNN, Aug. 22, 2014)

Cupp identifies as a Log Cabin Republican who supports equal rights for gays. Although she said in 2013 that she had never voted for a Democrat, she announced in August 2020 that she would be voting for Joe Biden for president. In May 2022, she wrote to support upholding Roe v. Wade, stating that she is pro-life but believes abortion should be legal.

Conservatism’s rightward shift with the rise of Donald Trump has perhaps moved Cupp to the left: “The insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6 was in many ways a Christian nationalist event. Crosses, Christian banners and signs reading ‘Jesus is my savior, Trump is my president,’ were unavoidable. … “All of this — the rise in Christian nationalism and the literal and metaphorical weaponizing of faith to intimidate opponents — while the country grows less and less religious.” (Column, N.Y. Daily News, June 22, 2022)

In that same column, she wrote: “Surely, there are atheists in Congress and running for Congress, just as there are atheists everywhere else in America, even if they remain closeted. With the right using God to coax the party into regressive, punitive and at times increasingly scary places, here’s hoping they’ll finally have the courage to come out of the shadows.”

Cupp married John Goodwin, former chief of staff to Idaho Republican U.S. Rep. Raúl Labrador, in 2013. He is head of communications for The Weather Channel. They have a son, John Davies Goodwin III, born in 2014. 

PHOTO: Cupp at the 2016 Politicon in Pasadena, Calif.; Gage Skidmore photo under CC 2.0.

Freedom From Religion Foundation