Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards denounced conservative activists’ applause for a pundit who described him using a gay slur, saying Tuesday that such rhetoric had to be stopped before it poisoned the political process.
At a meeting of the American Conservative Union’s Political Action Conference, conservative writer Ann Coulter said she regretted that she could not get away with calling Edwards a “faggot” because of political sensitivities.
Edwards, a former senator from North Carolina who was the Democrats’ vice presidential nominee in 2004, said Tuesday in an interview on MSNBC’s “Hardball” that he could not decide whether activists who laughed and applauded Coulter’s remarks were homophobic. But “I can tell you that’s a very unhealthy thing,” he said.
“It’s so critical that when this happens, no matter who does it nor who they’re talking about, that we stop it, we stop it in its tracks by standing up and saying it’s wrong and denouncing it,” Edwards told “Hardball” host Chris Matthews.
Coulter defends comment
Coulter frequently draws attention for her outrageous anti-Democratic, anti-liberal commentary. She has accused liberal politicians of treason and was once dropped from a conservative magazine for writing after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.”
She defended her latest remark as a harmless joke that had nothing to do with sexuality. She posted her speech on her Web site with the comment, “I’m so ashamed, I can’t stop laughing,” and accused Edwards’ campaign chairman of “fronting for Arab terrorists.”
But as they have on other occasions, numerous prominent conservative figures criticized her, as did three Republican presidential candidates: former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Her remarks were also disavowed by the head of the organization that organized the conference, Amy Ridenour, president of the National Center for Public Policy Research.
“Ann Coulter not only once again went out of her way to use a nasty epithet, she pushed her offensiveness up a notch,” Ridenour said Sunday on the center’s Web site. “We conservatives have enough trouble overcoming the false things that are said about us without paying for a platform upon which we shoot ourselves annually in the foot.”
Edwards has aggressively sought to counter Coulter’s slur, which he quickly turned into an asset. He posted the video of Coulter’s comments on his campaign Web site and quickly raised more than $100,000 in “Coulter Cash” to “fight back against the politics of bigotry.”
Edwards: No pardon for Libby
Edwards appeared on “Hardball” shortly after a federal jury convicted I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, of perjury and obstruction of justice in the CIA leak investigation.
Edwards, who debated Cheney during the 2004 campaign, would not answer when asked whether he thought the vice president should resign, saying Cheney had “not been tried before a jury.” But he suggested that the culpability reached higher than Libby.
“I think that the American people deserve to know how far this goes,” Edwards said. “You know, does it stop at Scooter Libby? Does it go to others in the administration, the vice president, Karl Rove and others?”
That is why it is imperative, Edwards said, that President Bush not pardon Libby to block him from cooperating with prosecutors while his convictions are on appeal.
“This is a situation where he has been convicted of a crime committed as part of his official responsibilities and working for the vice president,” Edwards said. “He absolutely should not be pardoned. There should be accountability.”