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The March 5 edition of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson featured National Review editor Rich Lowry and Young America's Foundation spokesman Jason Mattera downplaying and defending right-wing pundit Ann Coulter's March 2 attack on former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) as a "faggot" during the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Mattera claimed that Coulter "was making a joke not about homosexuality, or calling John Edwards a fag," but was instead "pointing out that political correctness stifles speech." Mattera later claimed that Coulter was, in fact, making a joke about Edwards, but that "she was basically calling John Edwards a wuss, that he was a girlie-man, and that if he were elected president he would probably embolden Al Qaeda to attack us," adding that Coulter "knows how to communicate a message to an audience, especially to college students, and she got rousing -- rousing applause and rousing standing ovations throughout the event."
Lowry said Coulter's remark was a "schoolyard slur" and that "[y]ou don't really expect anyone over the age of about 12 to use it, especially in polite company," but referred to her remarks and the ensuing firestorm as "a typical kind of manufactured controversy all around." Lowry also chastised "the press" for ignoring HBO host Bill Maher's recent comment that if Vice President Dick Cheney "did die [in a February 27 attack on a U.S. base in Afghanistan where Cheney was visiting], more people would live," saying: "I mean, it's absurd that you have people on the left in this country advocating, basically, the assassination of the vice president of the United States, and no outrage." However, Lowry himself has joked about New Yorkers running over Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) with their cars. In an August 5, 2005, speech to the National Conservative Student Conference, Lowry said: "In New York we also have a very famous junior senator, and when people ask me about her I always say I'm the wrong person to ask because the people I hang out with in New York, we put our 'Run, Hillary, Run' bumper stickers on the front of our cars."
Lowry's magazine dropped Coulter's column shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks when she advocated that the United States should "invade their [terrorists'] countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."
From the March 5 edition of The Big Story with John Gibson:
GIBSON: Joining me now, Fox News political analyst Rich Lowry, the editor of the National Review, and Jason Mattera, a spokesman for Young America's Foundation. He was at the CPAC convention when Coulter spoke on Friday. So, Jason, you first. Did you find Coulter's remark shocking and deplorable and something she ought to be condemned for?
MATTERA: No, I was one of the people who laughed right away, because I understood her point, and many people who did understand her point. She was making a joke not about homosexuality, or calling John Edwards a fag. What she was doing was pointing out that political correctness stifles speech. In the case of Isaiah Washington in Grey's Anatomy, he used the word, and he was told in order to keep his job he had to go to rehab. That was the brunt of the joke. She wasn't -- in fact, she said it was a joke, and it would be mean to the homosexual community if she was comparing them to John Edwards.
GIBSON: Rich Lowry, where are you on this Ann Coulter remark?
LOWRY: Well, look, the word, John, it's a schoolyard slur. You don't really expect anyone over the age of about 12 to use it, especially in polite company. But it's not the biggest thing in the world. She meant it as a joke, and obviously the way that the Democrats and the press are using it is entirely opportunistic and ridiculous. On the one hand, you have John Edwards saying no one should pay attention to this or reward her with any attention for this remark, then his campaign is trying to raise $100,000 off of it. So the whole -- it's a typical kind of manufactured controversy all around, I think.
GIBSON: Let me put this on the screen, "Coulter and the 'F' Word." And the question, was it worse that Maher wishing Cheney was dead? Jason?
MATTERA: No, of course not. In fact, I would like to also point out she was basically calling John Edwards a wuss, that he was a girlie-man, and that if he were elected president he would probably embolden Al Qaeda to attack us. He's not a real man. And many at CPAC held that sentiment. I mean, it's grassroots -- many -- I want to point this out, too. There were thousands of college students there, and she knows how to -- communication 101 principle -- she knows how to communicate a message to an audience, especially to college students, and she got rousing -- rousing applause and rousing standing ovations throughout the event.
GIBSON: Rich, let me ask you this thing. Why all the outrage about what Coulter said -- and I could see why somebody would want to condemn it -- and none about what Bill Maher said?
LOWRY: Well, because the press would prefer to talk about Ann Coulter and portray Ann's remark in that instance as typical of all conservatives, and the press has very little interest in doing the same with Bill Maher. And, you know, also the Democrats -- Howard Dean went out of his way to highlight Ann's remark and make it a controversy. Republicans should be doing the same thing with Bill Maher. I mean, it's absurd that you have people on the left in this country advocating, basically, the assassination of the vice president of the United States, and no outrage.
GIBSON: Jason, the -- are you guys going to have -- you continue to sponsor Ann Coulter, right?
MATTERA: That's correct, happily.
GIBSON: Do you expect Ann Coulter to continue to make outrageous comments like this?
MATTERA: We have to understand that Ann Coulter packs out student audiences every time she goes to college campuses. There are thousands of kids -- in fact, you would think that we were handing out free condoms every time she comes to speak because there's so many people who want to hear her. She has five -- let me repeat that -- five bestselling books, so she knows how to communicate a point, and I think this, I thought, was a well-crafted joke on her end.