updated 10/14/2004 8:23:51 PM ET 2004-10-15T00:23:51

Vice President Dick Cheney called himself “a pretty angry father” on Thursday after Sen. John Kerry mentioned their gay daughter during the final presidential debate — comments Kerry said were meant to be positive about families with gay children.

The vice president’s wife, Lynne Cheney, called Kerry “not a good man” and his remarks about daughter Mary Cheney “a cheap and tawdry political trick.” Meanwhile, Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of vice presidential candidate John Edwards, suggested in a radio interview that Mrs. Cheney might feel “a certain degree of shame” because her daughter is a lesbian.

Mary Cheney, one of two Cheney daughters, is openly gay and an official in the Bush-Cheney campaign. The vice president has spoken at length about his daughter’s sexuality and his view of gay relationships, even disagreeing with the president about the need for a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriages.

Kerry addresses choice issue
Asked Wednesday night by debate moderator Bob Schieffer whether homosexuality is a choice, Kerry said: “We’re all God’s children, Bob, and I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney’s daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she’s being who she was. She’s being who she was born as. I think if you talk to anybody, it’s not a choice.”

Kerry issued a statement Thursday after the Cheneys had expressed anger over his remarks: “I love my daughters. They love their daughter. I was trying to say something positive about the way strong families deal with this issue.”

Cheney told supporters at a rally Thursday in Fort Myers, “You saw a man who will do and say anything to get elected, and I am not just speaking as a father here, although I am a pretty angry father.” He made no other reference to Kerry’s remarks about his daughter.

This is not a good man’
Mrs. Cheney, introducing her husband in a post-debate appearance Wednesday night in Coraopolis, Pa., also avoided a specific reference to her daughter’s sexuality when she made clear she thought Kerry had crossed a line into family privacy.

“Now, you know, I did have a chance to assess John Kerry once more and now the only thing I could conclude: This is not a good man,” Mrs. Cheney said. “Of course, I am speaking as a mom, and a pretty indignant mom. This is not a good man. What a cheap and tawdry political trick.”

In an interview Thursday with ABC Radio, Elizabeth Edwards said of Mrs. Cheney: “She’s overreacted to this and treated it as if it’s shameful to have this discussion. I think that’s a very sad state of affairs. ... I think that it indicates a certain degree of shame with respect to her daughter’s sexual preferences. ... It makes me really sad that that’s Lynne’s response.”

No Cheney objection in earlier debate
Cheney expressed no objection when Edwards brought up Mary Cheney during their debate. Edwards expressed “respect for the fact that they’re willing to talk about the fact that they have a gay daughter, the fact that they embrace her. It’s a wonderful thing.”

Cheney thanked his opponent for the “kind words he said about my family and our daughter. I appreciate that very much.”

Bush said in their debate he does not know whether homosexuality is a choice or fate. He and Kerry spoke of their belief that marriage is the union of man and woman, but the president supports a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and the Democrat does not. Kerry supports giving gay couples many of the civil rights that come with marriage, while stopping short of conferring that status on same-sex couples.

In an interview in the Oct. 26 issue of the gay magazine The Advocate, Kerry said gay Americans should support his candidacy because he will appoint Supreme Court justices who will fight for equality and a fair interpretation of the equal protection clause and due process. He said he pays a political price for opposing attempts at “gay bashing” in the Senate.

“The difference between me and George Bush will be the difference to gay and lesbian couples and individuals across this country — whether rights are afforded them or whether or not they are discriminated against,” Kerry said. He added, “If people take a walk on those things, life’s going to be worse.”

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