Sick jokes: Coulter, Caldara laughed about Sen. Johnson's illness the night he was stricken

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

Newsradio 850 KOA host Jon Caldara and his guest, right-wing pundit Ann Coulter, dismissed U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson's (D-SD) illness as "agita" and "indigestion," after Johnson was hospitalized for exhibiting strokelike symptoms. Caldara also joked that Johnson's illness was part of a "mission," and alluded to a former KGB agent's recent death from radiation poisoning.

Discussing U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson's (D-SD) illness on the December 13 edition of Newsradio 850 KOA's The Jon Caldara Show, host Jon Caldara and his guest, right-wing pundit Ann Coulter, joked about Johnson's then-undetermined condition. Coulter said Johnson -- who was hospitalized after reportedly being unable to move and barely able to speak -- "probably just has indigestion," to which Caldara responded, "[H]e's got agita. ... all the Republicans are just praying that the guy kicks it." Caldara later joked that Johnson's illness was part of a "mission," and alluded to a former KGB agent who recently died of radiation poisoning.

Coulter also suggested that the cable news network MSNBC, speculating on the potential political ramifications of Johnson's condition, was trying to cow South Dakota's Republican governor into filling the seat with a Democrat in the event the senator died.

Johnson was hospitalized on December 13 for what doctors at the time considered a possible stroke. That evening he underwent surgery to correct a congenital condition that caused bleeding in his brain. Speculation about Johnson's condition generated widespread media reports about whether the Democrats would be able to hold onto their current 51-49 seat advantage in the U.S. Senate if Johnson is unable to serve and his replacement is appointed by South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds.

On the December 13 edition of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann, host Keith Olbermann reported that Johnson was suffering "strokelike symptoms at the Capitol."

OLBERMANN: Make no mistake that the most important aspect of our fifth story on the countdown, if not the only one, is the health of Senator Johnson himself, and the desire for him to recover swiftly and completely after some kind of medical episode today that left the senator unable to speak.

Secondary to that, the question of what would happen to the balance of power in the Senate should Mr. Johnson, a Democrat, be unable to continue in office, and the prospect then that a Republican governor re-elected last month by less than 86,000 votes would become the most important political person of the moment.

The first sign of the trouble for the senator, only days away now from his 60th birthday, coming today, when he began to stutter during a conference call with reporters. He recovered shortly thereafter, but not much later, having walked back to his office, Senator Johnson, sitting at his desk, unable to move, and barely able to speak, the Capitol physician ordering an ambulance to take the senator to George Washington University Hospital in downtown Washington, where he was said to be undergoing evaluation by stroke specialists tonight, their diagnosis not expected until tomorrow, but again, Senator Johnson's spokeswoman saying only there was no stroke, and no heart attack.

On Caldara's show later that evening, Coulter asserted: "MSNBC said every 30 seconds tonight, 'If he dies, the Republican governor would replace him.' And like I say, he probably just has indigestion."

Caldara then joked: "He's got, he's got agita, so they took him away to, you know, whatever hospital out there in D.C. And, and so everybody -- all the Republicans are just praying that the guy kicks it."

Returning to MSNBC's coverage, Coulter then said:

COULTER: [O]n all the other channels people are all saying, "We don't really know what it is yet. And by the way, it could change the balance of the Senate." But on MSNBC they keep talking about if he dies, in order to immediately start mau-mau-ing the Republican governor into -- out of, out of some guilt or something -- filling his seat with, with a, a Democrat.

Coulter later added: "I just don't want MSNBC leering over his death," to which Caldara, apparently referring to former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, responded:

CALDARA: Right. The kind of radiation poisoning that we gave to the senator that caused him to collapse, you know, it takes a long time to take effect. We saw that in the U.K. And it's going to take, it's going to take some time before -- before we finish this mission.

From the December 13 broadcast of Newsradio 850 KOA's The Jon Caldara Show:

COULTER: This Tim Johnson business, and how they're all leering over it on MSNBC, demanding that -- I mean, my God, for all we know he had indigestion --and, and on MSNBC they're talking about "if he dies." [Coulter laughs]

CALDARA: Oh, this is the senator?

COULTER: Yes, he is the senator for South Dakota.

CALDARA: Yeah, all right. For those -- for those people who aren't up to this, a senator from South Dakota --

COULTER: He is a Democrat and the governor is a Republican. So as MSNBC said every 30 seconds tonight, "If he dies, the Republican governor would replace him." And like I say, he probably just has indigestion.

CALDARA: He's got, he's got agita, so they took him away to, you know, whatever hospital out there in D.C. And, and so everybody -- all the Republicans are just praying that the guy kicks it.

[Coulter laughs]

CALDARA: And it's -- and, and, you know, so they're out there and they got séances going --

COULTER: That is so not true. Though --

CALDARA: Are you kidding? You know the, the -- GOPAC already has little [Johnson] pin dolls; you can start hitting him with pins and try to give him bad mojo -- it's, it's a terrible thing.

COULTER: You're such a liar. No, I have been watching. I'm a very busy person; I've been watching TV like mad tonight, Jon [laughing].

CALDARA: And I've heard your solitaire score is near record right now; that's great.

COULTER: Yeah. And no one's gloating, and on all the other channels people are all saying, "We don't really know what it is yet. And by the way, it could change the balance of the Senate." But on MSNBC they keep talking about if he dies, in order to immediately start mau-mauing the Republican governor into -- out of, out of some guilt or something -- filling his seat with, with a, a Democrat. Which, by the way, as far as I know, would be completely unprecedented. Zell Miller, a Democrat was -- and, and by the way, he used to be a Democrat -- was, was appointed by the Democrat governor of Georgia when Coverdale died. Heinz, the man who earned all of the money that John Kerry is now wasting -- when his plane crashed he was a Republican and of Pennsylvania, and the Democratic governor replaced him with a Democrat. I think it was Harris Wofford. I mean, this has happened many times in the reverse and it would be outrageous for a Republican governor. So just be prepared for that if anything happens, with this or some other senator.

CALDARA: All right, but we're still -- we got one little step to take care of before that, which is --

COULTER: I said this or some other senator. I'm just talking about the Democrats.

CALDARA: I got it, I got it, I got it. But I just want to make it, I just want to make it clear --

COULTER: I just don't want MSNBC leering over his death.

CALDARA: Right. The kind of radiation poisoning that we gave to the senator that caused him to collapse, you know, it takes a long time to take effect. [Coulter laughs] We saw that in the U.K. And it's going to take, it's going to take some time before -- before we finish this mission.

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.