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An Offensive Double Standard

The Media Research Center is normally eager to marshal its forces against those who make remarks it considers offensive. So why won't the MRC criticize Ann Coulter?

By Terry Krepel
Posted 3/7/2007

Last year, when Ann Coulter attacked 9/11 widows as part of her promotion for her then-new book "Godless," ConWebWatch noted that the ConWeb eagerly ran to her defense, raising the question of what outrageous, offensive claim Coulter would have to make to lose ConWeb support.

We may have an answer. In a March 2 appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Coulter said of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards: "I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word 'faggot,' so I -- so kind of an impasse, can't really talk about Edwards." That comment has much of the ConWeb somewhere between wavering and outright critical.

The exception to that is the Media Research Center.

Why would the MRC refuse to take a stand on such an obviously offensive statement? After all, it devoted two CyberAlert items, a Media Reality Check, a Brent Bozell column and numerous NewsBusters posts to attacking two bloggers hired by Edwards' presidential campaign, calling posts they made on their own blogs before their hiring by Edwards "offensive," "hateful and bigoted," "anti-Catholic," "anti-Christian," and calling the bloggers themselves "hater[s]" who "spewed ... venom." (The bloggers later resigned.)

Certainly calling someone a "faggot" is as offensive as what those bloggers were accused of writing. So why won't the MRC criticize Coulter?

Perhaps because it would rather hang with her instead. She's scheduled to be a main attraction at the MRC's 20th Anniversary Gala and Dishonors Awards. Coulter was also a member of the "jury" of the 2006 Dishonors Awards (though it strangely denied that she was one of the "judges") and also put in appearances or served as judge at the 2005, 2004 and 2003 Dishonors Awards. Why disturb a five-year streak?

MRC head Brent Bozell also appear to have a cozy relationship. Bozell and Coulter have also made joint appearances on Sean Hannity's radio show, and Bozell has lavished praise on one of Coulter's previous book. In a June 2006 MRC press release defending Coulter over her attacks on the 9/11 widows, Bozell called Coulter's critics "moral, editorial hypocrites" and criticized "those who selectively abuse conservatives while turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to appalling remarks by the left."

Related articles on ConWebWatch:

Not Offensive Enough

Cuckoo for Coulter

Such an attack by Bozell would be defensible had the MRC offered any criticism whatsoever of Coulter. Indeed, the MRC has given Coulter a free pass on pretty much all of her controversial statements. A search of the MRC archives could uncover no acknowledgment, let alone criticism, of two of her most extreme statements: that "We need somebody to put rat poisoning in [Supreme Court] Justice [John Paul] Stevens' creme brulee" and "My only regret with [Oklahoma City bomber] Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building."

The MRC's response to Coulter's "faggot" slur is little different. What little response there has been to it has been limited to the NewsBusters blog:

  • A March 3 post by Noel Sheppard noted only that Coulter made a "remark about John Edwards" but didn't say what it was, let alone offer any condemnation of it. And a March 3 post by Matthew Sheffield complaining about profanity on "left-wing" blogs didn't mention Coulter at all.
  • A March 5 post by Warner Todd Huston actually did criticize Coulter, writing that "she isn't much different than Whitney Houston, Paris Hilton, or Britney Spears all of whom seem to feel a need to continuously up the ante of crazy behavior to keep getting noticed" and adding that "she is hurting us on the right more than helping us." But Huston's not an MRC employee, merely a "contributing writer," so he doesn't count. And despite his criticism of Coulter, he tried to equivocate her slur with a statement by HBO host Bill Maher that if Vice President Dick Cheney had died during a recent suicide bombing at the U.S. military base in Afghanistan where he was visiting, "other people, more people would live. That’s a fact." Huston wrote: "Coulter's comment is intemperate, childish, lowbrow, even frat house-like for its part, but it was just a derogatory name in the end. Maher wants people KILLED, for Heaven's sake." But as noted above, Coulter wants people killed too, something Huston didn't mention.
  • A March 5 post by Justin McCarthy also played the equivocation game, this time against the Edwards bloggers.

The MRC's "news" division, also initially sought to downplay Coulter's slur. A March 5 article by Payton Hoegh on Coulter's CPAC speech led not with the biggest news -- the slur -- but with her attacks on Al Gore. It's not until the fourth paragraph that Hoegh alluded to "[h]er much-publicized 'faggot' comment in relation to former senator and 2008 Democratic Party presidential hopeful John Edwards," but he didn't repeat the full comment in context, writing only that it "drew a much cooler response" from the audience. In fact, as the video showed, while Coulter's slur drew an initial gasp from the audience, it then drew fairly hearty applause -- not exactly a "cool" response.

An article by Melanie Hunter posted later on March 5 noted that Coulter "sparked controversy not only among her customary critics, but among conservatives as well." But nowhere did she note the reaction of her MRC bosses.

Bozell himself has commented to the New York Post about Maher's remark by calling Maher "a vile and repugnant human being," adding, "Anyone who wishes for the death of the vice president in a time of war is, at best, a very sick puppy." Yet Bozell clams up about Coulter, though she is arguably also "a very sick puppy" whose statements are similarly "vile and repugnant."

Meanwhile, in the rest of the ConWeb, the once-monolithic facade of defending Coulter at all costs seems to be cracking.

WorldNetDaily -- which once restored an reference in one of Coulter's columns, edited out by her syndicator, to longtime reporter and columnist Helen Thomas as an "old Arab" -- has been nearly as silent as the MRC. Its lone original WND article to date on the subject is a March 5 column by Tom Flannery whose criticism of Coulter is mostly sarcastic and portrays her as a victim of political correctness:

There are some things you just can't say, not even in jest. And at the top of that list right now is anything derogatory about the "gay" lifestyle or, worse yet, anything that is considered a slur against homosexuals, a protected class of people with special rights which entitle them to live free from all offense.

Flannery claimed that there was a "larger cultural context in which she made her remarks regarding Edwards" and that "the media once more ignored the salient argument she was making to focus instead on the sensational aspect of the language she used." He added that "the same liberal elites who are calling for the public condemnation of Ann Coulter have been largely silent about John Edwards' anti-Christian bloggers."

NewsMax, meanwhile, has reprinted wire articles calling Coulter's remark a "slur," but it has given more prominent play to an article that regurgitates a NewsBusters item on Bill Maher's remarks about Dick Cheney. That item, by the way, falsely characterized Maher's 2001 remarks about the 9/11 hijackers, stating: "Maher got in trouble once before with his televised comments. After the 9/11 attacks, Maher said on his ABC show 'Politically Incorrect' that the hijackers were 'warriors' and not 'cowards.' "

In fact, as even the NewsBusters post got right, it was Dinesh D'Souza -- whose new blame-America book NewsMax has flacked -- who said the hijackers were "warriors," to which Maher responded: "We (the United States) have been cowards lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That's cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it's not cowardly."

At Accuracy in Media, however, there's no such wishy-washiness and equivocation. In a March 5 column, Cliff Kincaid tore into Coulter, calling her remark "[t]he political equivalent of Britney Spears shaving the hair off her head," adding that "Coulter must be a liberal infiltrator whose purpose is to give conservatism a bad name." He also announced that AIM's online store was discontinuing sales of Coulter's books.

A second March 5 column by Kincaid denouncing the equivocation of Coulter's slur with Maher's statement on Cheney, though not entirely for the best reasons: "Such a comparison brings conservatives down to the liberal level. It says that conservatives are incapable of maintaining higher standards." He went on to question whether Fox News "is serving the interests of the conservatives it claims to represent" for running "trash" as the new show "Red Eye," hosted by "a blogger for the liberal Huffington Post" and "a former college sex columnist whose blog is peppered with obscenities."

Kincaid's deviance from the ConWeb Coulter lovefest was no surprise; he previously bashed Coulter over her attacks on the 9/11 widows.

By comparison, the MRC's silence has been deafening. Bozell finally broke in his March 7 column. In it, he resorts to the equivocation copout, comparing Coulter's remark to the "foul-mouthed" Edwards bloggers and "leftist talk-show host" Maher, complaining that Maher "wants to make the world safe for assassinate-our-top-leaders humor," never mind that is exactly what Coulter herself has engaged in.

Conspicuously lacking from Bozell's column: any criticism of Coulter. He explained her joke (Earth to Bozell: if you have to explain why a joke is funny, it's probably not much of a joke), then whined that "[t]he word used to be coarse and insulting, but liberals are now elevating it into a profanity." There's no indication that Bozell found it "coarse and insulting," which is odd because he purports to be insulted by a lot of things. But not Coulter, apparently.

Again, it must be asked: Why won't the Media Research Center criticize Ann Coulter? Is Bozell and Co. too close to Coulter to tell the truth? Or does she bring in too much conservative cash into the MRC for them to cross her?

If the ex-Edwards bloggers and Maher are offensive to Bozell, why isn't Coulter? Does his silence equal assent to the idea of resorting to immature schoolyard taunts in political debate? Are gays an acceptable group to subject to public insult as far as Bozell is concerned? It appears so.

Will Coulter have to actually follow through on her threats to poison John Paul Stevens or blow up the New York Times building before Bozell finally furrows his brow in concern -- or would he withhold any disapproval until after she bashes a few more liberals for him at the next Dishonors Awards?

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