March 3, 2007, 10:32 am
Fallout Over Coulter’s Anti-Gay Remark
By Adam Nagourney
There’s some big fallout from the meeting in Washington of the Conservative Political Action Conference, three days of conferencing, caucusing, presidential addressing and book-hawking. These conferences have historically been known for displaying what its own organizers would describe as over-the-top behavior, and one of the regular speakers – Ann Coulter – offered an example of it when she used an anti-gay epithet on Friday to describe John Edwards, the former senator from North Carolina and Democratic presidential contender.
“I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word ‘faggot,’ so I — so kind of an impasse, can’t really talk about Edwards,” she said, speaking to an overflow room of activists.
That rehab remark was apparently a reference to Isaiah Washington, one of the stars on Grey’s Anatomy, a television series, who called a co-star T.R. Knight anti-gay names and went to rehabilitation over it.
Mr. Edwards’s campaign quickly responded.
“John was singled out for a personal attack because the Republican establishment knows he poses the greatest threat to their power,” said his campaign manager, David Bonior. “Since they have nothing real to use against him, Coulter’s resorting to the classic right-wing strategy of riling up hate to smear a progressive champion.”
Howard Dean, the Democratic National Committee chairman, said: “There is no place in political discourse for this kind of hate-filled and bigoted comments. While Democrats and Republicans may disagree on the issues, we should all be able to agree that this kind of vile rhetoric is out of bounds.”
Democrats were not the only denouncing Ms. Coulter. “The comments were wildly inappropriate,” said Brian Jones, a spokesman for Senator John McCain, a Republican candidate for president who did not attend.
Kevin Madden, a spokesman for Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, said: “It was an offensive remark. Governor Romney believes all people should be treated with dignity and respect.
The question of whether the remark was offensive enough aside, the Edwards campaign saw an opportunity in the remarks of a woman who is about as popular in liberal Democratic circles as Hillary Rodham Clinton is in Republican circles (not very). Mr. Bonior sent an e-mail to supporters last night urging them to make contributions to the Edwards campaign.
“If we can raise $100,000 in “Coulter Cash” this week, we can show that bigotry will only backfire on those who use it,” Mr. Bonior wrote. “John is not the first progressive leader to face this kind of slime, but together, we can make sure he is one of the last.”
Times being what they are, Mr. Bonior let in to a little bit of excess in his plea for cash. “Coulter’s attack was no accident,” he said. “It happened on national television at one of the year’s biggest conservative conferences. Dick Cheney and most of the Republican candidates were in the audience. She was even introduced by Mitt Romney.”
Mr. Cheney was not there. Mr. Romney preceded her and mentioned that she was speaking later — he jokingly referred to her as a “moderate” — but he did not formally introduce her.
That said, attendees said that Ms. Coulter not only spoke warmly about Mr. Romney but all but endorsed him.
Postscript: Check out memeorandum.com for a roundup of blog chatter on this subject.