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Hunter defends Ann Coulter against critics

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Republican presidential candidate Duncan Hunter defended conservative pundit Ann Coulter’s incendiary commentary Monday, saying Coulter was “closely approaching that level of being a great American.”

The comments by Hunter, a Republican representative from California, came in an interview on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” where he was asked for his reaction to criticism of Coulter by Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, a Democratic presidential candidate.

Elizabeth Edwards telephoned into “Hardball” last week during an appearance by Coulter to complain about attacks by Coulter that suggested that the Edwardses were exploiting the death of their son in 1996 for political gain. But Hunter refused to join the near-unanimous condemnation that has greeted Coulter’s remarks.

“Well, I think what Senator Edwards’ wife said was very consistent with what lots of Democrats and lots of liberals have said since the amnesty bill went down in flames,” said Hunter, who has positioned himself to the right of the leading Republican presidential candidates. “And that is that we need to silence conservative voices.”

Coulter has called Hunter her first choice for president, and Hunter returned the praise Monday, calling the conservative radio talk show host “a particularly articulate spokeswoman for the conservative view.”

“Especially since Ann Coulter said nice things about me, I think she’s closely approaching that level of being a great American,” he said.

Too often, he complained, “when conservatives talk, they are considered to talk in a mean way, and yet when Democrats talk, they’re exercising their right to free speech and they’re simply conveying a philosophy.”

“You know, I’m reminded of the [vice presidential] debates between John Edwards and Dick Cheney [in 2004] in which John Edwards said some pretty personal things about Dick Cheney’s family,” Hunter added. “And Vice President Cheney just kept on talking about the issues.

“So you know, I’m running a campaign on a basis of a strong national defense and enforceable borders,” he said. “... But Ann Coulter — I think Ann Coulter is good.”