During an interview with right-wing pundit Ann Coulter on the June 28 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough asked Coulter about an exchange Coulter had with Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, on the June 26 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews. Scarborough noted that Elizabeth Edwards "said that you had written some column where you had made light of John Edwards' dead son," and asked Coulter: "What's the story behind that?" Coulter replied: "Needless to say, that is not true. ... You can look it up. It's all over the Web. It's a fabulous column, titled 'The Party of Ideas,' written in 2003. I had to go back and get the full gist of the column. It was about all of the Democratic primary opponents." In the column, published on November 19, 2003, Coulter, addressing John Edwards, wrote: "If you want points for not using your son's death politically, don't you have to take down all those 'Ask me about my son's death in a horrific car accident' bumper stickers?" Coulter further said on Morning Joe, "I'm the only person in America who has to go back and constantly explain an entire column when it is lied about like this. ... I am getting a little fed up with being described as the aggressor in these matters. In any event, it was about the Democratic presidential nominees back then." But Coulter did not explain how what Elizabeth Edwards said constituted a "lie."
On the June 26 Hardball, Elizabeth Edwards, who called into the show to speak to Coulter, said: "You had a column a couple of years ago, which made fun of the moment of [brother of then-presidential candidate and Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean] Charlie Dean's death, and suggested that my husband had a bumper sticker on the back of his car that said, 'Ask me about my dead son.' " But contrary to Coulter's claim on Morning Joe that Edwards "lied about" the content of her November 2003 column, Coulter did joke that John Edwards "had a bumper sticker ... that said, 'Ask me about my dead son.' " From the column:
John Edwards injects his son's fatal car accident into his campaign by demanding that everyone notice how he refuses to inject his son's fatal car accident into his campaign.
Edwards has talked about his son's death in a 1996 car accident on "Good Morning America," in dozens of profiles and in his new book. ("It was and is the most important fact of my life.") His 1998 Senate campaign ads featured film footage of Edwards at a learning lab he founded in honor of his son, titled "The Wade Edwards Learning Lab." He wears his son's Outward Bound pin on his suit lapel. He was going to wear it on his sleeve, until someone suggested that might be a little too "on the nose."
If you want points for not using your son's death politically, don't you have to take down all those "Ask me about my son's death in a horrific car accident" bumper stickers? Edwards is like a politician who keeps announcing that he will not use his opponent's criminal record for partisan political advantage. I absolutely refuse to mention the name of my dearly beloved and recently departed son killed horribly in a car accident, which affected me deeply, to score cheap political points.
I wouldn't want John Edwards to be president, but I think even [White House senior adviser] Karl Rove would be willing to stipulate that the death of a son is a terrible thing.
Furthermore, Coulter wrote of Charlie Dean's death in the same column:
Howard Dean talks about his brother Charlie's murder at the hands of North Vietnamese communists. Bizarrely, after working on the failed George McGovern campaign, Charlie Dean went to Indochina in 1974 to witness the ravages of the war he had opposed. Not long after he arrived, the apparently ungrateful communists captured and killed him. Hey fellas! I'm on your s-- CLUNK!
When Edwards mentioned the column on Hardball, Coulter did not claim -- as she would later on Morning Joe -- that her column had been "lied about"; she merely responded, "That's now three years ago," and, echoing an audience member, asked, "[W]hy isn't John Edwards making this call?"
Also on Morning Joe, Coulter claimed that her March 2 comments at a meeting of the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) were misunderstood. She said, "And if you want to go back to CPAC, I was speaking to a group of 7,000 College Republicans and no, I will not be arranging my words so the stupidest person in the liberal blogosphere understands what I'm saying." On the June 25 edition of ABC's Good Morning America, Coulter similarly suggested that her CPAC comments had been misconstrued, asserting, "I did not call John Edwards the F-word. I said I couldn't talk about him because you go into rehab for using that word." At CPAC, Coulter concluded her speech by saying: "Oh, and I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards, but it turns out that you have to go into rehab if you use the word 'faggot' ... so I'm kind of at an impasse, can't really talk about Edwards. So I think I'll just conclude here and take your questions."
From the June 28 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
SCARBOROUGH: OK, but Ann, you -- I think sometimes you give people too much credit when you make references to Isaiah Washington at CPAC, from Grey's Anatomy, when you make references to Bill Maher --
COULTER: I described the entire Bill Maher scenario in one sentence. If the Good Morning America audience -- which is pretty large and pretty broad -- gets the joke and no one figured out a way to truncate that sentence until 36 hours later -- I mean, it's not like the liberal blogs weren't -- as they always do -- watching my appearance and instantly posting from the moment I walked off Good Morning America all of their indignation, which apparently centered on my comparing George Bush to FDR, because he's great on foreign policy, lousy on domestic policy. Nobody even thought of how to lie about what I said for 36 hours. So don't tell me I was giving them ammunition. And if you want to go back to CPAC, I was speaking to a group of 7,000 College Republicans and no, I will not be arranging my words so the stupidest person in the liberal blogosphere understands what I'm saying.
SCARBOROUGH: Now, I will tell you the part of that Elizabeth Edwards interview that jarred the most people -- jarred me, jarred just about everybody I spoke with -- was the part where she brought up the fact -- she said that you had written some column where you had made light of John Edwards' dead son. What's the story behind that?
COULTER: Needless to say, that is not true. And coming from people who have done what we have just seen them do in the earlier segment, I don't think they deserve a lot of credibility on this. You can look it up. It's all over the Web. It's a fabulous column, titled "The Party of Ideas," written in 2003. I had to go back and get the full gist of the column. It was about all of the Democratic primary opponents. And by the way, lifting a quote out of context from a short, five-minute TV interview is a little quicker to correct than an entire column --
COULTER: -- written four years ago. There is a point to a column. There is a woof and a wharf, and let's see -- oh yeah, that's right. I'm the only person in America who has to go back and constantly explain an entire column when it is lied about like this and describe why I chose this adverb rather than that adverb. And was this a joke? Was that a joke? So, you know, I am getting a little fed up with being described as the aggressor in these matters. In any event, it was about the Democratic presidential nominees back then. You know, [former Rep. Dick] Gephardt [MO], Dean, of course, this guy -- the trial lawyer -- and how they were not talking about the war, they were not talking about the economy.
What they were talking about was either they're running for president either because they had a dead relative -- "Vote for me!" -- or had suddenly discovered a Jewish heritage. And in the various dead relative categories, that included, of course, "well, one who wasn't running, but the one who started it all" Al Gore in two, two speeches at the Democratic National Convention. Once, it was the sister, once, it was the near fatal accident of his son, so that it got to the point that all of his family members had to start fearing more runs for higher office.
You had Dean's brother. You had Gephardt's -- I don't know -- sister or the close death of a child. And then I went through the trial lawyer. A fact that is now memorialized in Bob Shrum's book, who describes John Edwards telling -- John Kerry felt queasy about it and almost didn't put John Edwards --
SCARBOROUGH: That's right. Yeah.
COULTER: -- on the ticket because Edwards kept saying to him, "I've never told anyone this story before," and then tells a tear-jerking story about how he climbed up onto his dead son's slab at the funeral home.
SCARBOROUGH: Again, I wouldn't have written that in a column, Ann, but certainly, nobody's talking about this.
COULTER: Why not?
SCARBOROUGH: Because it's not just who I am. I don't do that.
COULTER: You would write what in a column? [inaudible]
SCARBOROUGH: I wouldn't have put on a bumper sticker -- I would not have put on a bumper sticker 'ask me about my dead son.' That's just not me. That is you. And there are certainly people out there that provoke thought that way. I don't do that, but at the same time --
COULTER: Well, I kinda think you have to read the full thing in context.
COULTER: And apparently, however I write --
SCARBOROUGH: OK, fine. Hold on a second, Ann. Let me make a point.
COULTER: I have written five New York Times best-sellers.
COULTER: People like the way I write.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Ann. Let me make my point, Ann.
COULTER: I comment on America in a lively and entertaining way. These are legitimate topics and I'm a little sick of being browbeaten by a bunch of harridans about why I chose this word or why I told that joke. And then people turn around and say "Oh, you're so mean! You're so mean!"
SCARBOROUGH: Well, Ann, I'm not browbeating you here. I'm trying to put it in proper context.
COULTER: Well, you haven't spent 24 hours being asked, "Oh, why did you use this word?"
COULTER: I've never seen people avoid ideas so much in such an obvious way and try to alert Americans not to read anything, not to listen to something someone says -- not because of what she's saying, but by trying to portray her as a Nazi. This happens every time I put a book out, and I'm getting a little bored with it. To use a Smith College word, it's getting a little tiresome.
SCARBOROUGH: Yeah, that is a Smith College word. I -- again, trying to put this in context. We're reading Shrum's words, and --
COULTER: "The Party of Ideas" -- November 20th, 2003. It is one of the greatest columns ever written and I highly recommend it.
SCARBOROUGH: OK, well, we will recommend that to everybody Ann, and I greatly appreciate you being on with us. And again, the thing is -- I appreciate it, Ann. The thing is, you know, obviously Ann is very angry right now. And you all have been around me when I've been angry because my words have been wrenched from their context. And, you know, the thing is, again, whether you talk about the first issue -- whether it's Good Morning America where they just cut out the last part of that instead of telling the whole story about it, you know, it's misleading. There's no doubt. The wire services have been misleading, a lot of news shows, because people hate Ann Coulter so much that you can get away with it. That's just the bottom line.
From the June 25 edition of ABC's Good Morning America:
CHRIS CUOMO (co-host): Some tough words for you by the three top candidates in response to what you had said. Some were calling it a homosexual slur, you said it was a taunt. They all came out when you were talking about John Edwards and said, "This was wrong. We must deny it." Fair criticism of you or a shift towards the tolerant among the GOP?
COULTER: No, no. There were -- I was denounced all over. All over. I think the one that hurt the most was from I'mALittleGirlInAPinkPartyDress.com.
COULTER: Very upsetting.
CUOMO: You --
COULTER: Though about the same time, Bill Maher said -- and by the way, I did not call John Edwards the F-word. I said I couldn't talk about him because you go into rehab for using that word.
CUOMO: You say you were joking.
COULTER: About the same -- oh yeah. I wouldn't insult gays by comparing them to John Edwards. Now, that would be mean. But about the same time, you know, Bill Maher was not joking and saying he wished Dick Cheney had been killed in a terrorist attack. So I've learned my lesson. If I'm gonna say anything about John Edwards in the future, I'll just wish he had been killed in a terrorist assassination plot.