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The Ann Coulter Defense Center

In the face of more outrageous statements, the Media Research Center aggressively defends Coulter yet again. Is she blackmailing Brent Bozell, or what?

By Terry Krepel
Posted 7/5/2007

Does Ann Coulter have some sort of juicy piece of blackmail on Brent Bozell?

That's pretty much the only logical explanation for the Media Research Center's aggressive defense of Coulter in the wake of her latest controversial remarks -- after all, it has excoriated liberals for making similar claims.

The latest Coulter controversy began as residual fallout from her calling Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards a "faggot" back in February -- a statement over which the MRC similarly defended Coulter, as ConWebWatch detailed, even refusing to disinvite her from being a featured attraction at its 20th anniversary gala (Coulter ended up not attending after all; the MRC claimed she was ill). In a June 25 appearance on ABC's "Good Morning America" to promote the paperback edition of her book "Godless," Coulter said regarding the "faggot" remark: "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."

In fact, that's not what Maher said. On his HBO show in March, he actually said: "I have zero doubt that if Dick Cheney was not in power, people wouldn't be dying needlessly tomorrow. ... I'm just saying that if he did die -- other people -- more people would live." In an item at the Huffington Post a few days later (ironically, criticizing NewsBusters' distortion of his comments), Maher stated, "I don't wish him dead."

In a NewsBusters post that same day, Noel Sheppard -- author of the post Maher bashed for distorting his words, one of many NewsBusters posts in which Sheppard issues distortions and attacks -- uncritically repeated what Coulter said, to which he sarcastically added: "No, Ann ... only liberals like Bill Maher can get away with that."

After Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, called into MSNBC's "Hardball" the next day -- where Coulter was the sole guest for the entire hour and taking questions from the audience and via phone -- and asked Coulter to stop making personal attacks, MRC writers snapped into action, portraying Coulter as a victim and deflecting attention from Coulter's words by attacking Elizabeth Edwards:

  • Tim Graham lamented that in media reports on the dustup, "no one seems to be questioning Elizabeth Edwards attacking Coulter for the 'language of hate' when the Edwards campaign hired Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan as official bloggers, who attacked 'Christofascists,' smeared Pope Benedict as a dictator, and mocked the core doctrines of Christianity as excuses for misogyny." Marcotte and McEwan were bloggers who worked briefly for the Edwards campaign until conservative attacks on them and Edwards over writings done before their hiring forced them to resign. Graham did not note that the pair had not worked for Edwards in months.
  • Scott Whitlock complained that ABC edited out Coulter's "zingers" to Edwards, such as describing John Edwards’ law practice as "bankrupting doctors by giving a shyster, Las Vegas routine." But wouldn't repeating those "zingers" have proven Elizabeth Edwards' point?
  • Sheppard attacked Elizabeth Edwards ("look at the words Mrs. Edwards used. They seem rather scripted and on point, dontcha think?") and "Hardball" host Chris Matthews ("Is this how you treat a guest, by springing the wife of a political candidate on her without any warning?"). Sheppard also accused Matthews of setting the whole thing up "possibly to advance the current Democrat push to squash conservative talk radio."

That last point -- that Coulter was sandbagged by Matthews and wasn't warned in advance about Edwards' phone call -- became a theme of its own at NewsBusters: Geoffrey Dickens referenced Matthews' "now infamous, staging of the Ann Coulter vs. Elizabeth Edwards throwdown," while Matthew Sheffield noted "Chris Matthews's ambush of Ann Coulter."

The problem is, it's not true. Coulter knew in advance that Edwards might call. From a report on the June 27 edition of "Hardball":

DAVID SHUSTER (correspondent): So, how did the Ann Coulter-Elizabeth confrontation happen? Before Tuesday's "Hardball" appearance, MSNBC promoted that viewer comments and questions would be part of the program.

TAMMY HADDAD ("Hardball" executive producer): The Edwards campaign called to ask if it was possible that Elizabeth could talk to Ann Coulter live on the air, and we told them yes.

SHUSTER: In turn, Haddad had a conversation with Coulter.

HADDAD: I talked to Ann before the show and told her that we had gotten a call from the Edwards campaign and that Elizabeth might call in, and she was fine with it.

But far be it from the MRC to let the truth get in the way of a good defense. A June 27 MRC press release managed to work in most of the above arguments -- Coulter is the victim, it's an audition for return of the Fairness Doctrine, and look over there, Amanda Marcotte! Completing the package was a fluffy topping of hyperbole: Brent Bozell ranting about "the iron boot of liberalism" and claiming, "Hugo Chavez does this type of censoring in Venezuela -- but in America, we don't." Nowhere does the press release mention what Coulter said to prompt Edwards' confrontation.

Bozell also claimed that Marcotte and McEwan "insulted Christians and their faith in the most repulsive words imaginable, which I won’t repeat here." Well, his Repulse-O-Meter must have rather abruptly recalibrated itself, because the very next day, the MRC issued another press release detailing the "repulsive things" they wrote. Again, there's no mention of what Coulter said.

Another June 28 press release -- the second Coulter-related MRC release of the day -- complained that "[s]ome leading national media are misreporting conservative Ann Coulter’s remarks about liberal Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards." But in repeating Coulter's "entire quote" that "Bill Maher was not joking and saying he wished Dick Cheney had been killed in a terrorist attack," the MRC does not note that Coulter distorted Maher's words not dissimilar to the way the MRC accused the media of distorting Coulter.

The release went on to quote Bozell explaining Coulter's "humor":

"Ann Coulter was making the point that (a) a leftist like Bill Maher made the serious statement that it might be a positive thing to have Vice President Dick Cheney killed by terrorists,” Brent Bozell continued, and, "(b) it received no condemnation from the national press; and therefore (c) she would escape negative media scrutiny in the future were she to take that line against John Edwards.

"It is an inescapable truth that Ann Coulter was dripping with sarcasm when she made her remark."

But Bozell softened Coulter's distortion. She didn't say that Maher said "it might be a positive thing to have Vice President Dick Cheney killed by terrorists," she said Maher said "he wished Dick Cheney had been killed in a terrorist attack." No "might" involved -- and, again, not what Maher said.

Also, in the previous MRC press release repeating those "repulsive" quotes from Marcotte and McEwan, Bozell noted one of Marcotte's comments regarding the Duke lacrosse rape case: "Can’t a few white boys sexually assault a black woman anymore without people getting all wound up about it?" That remark was clearly "dripping with sarcasm," but Bozell didn't give Marcotte the pass he gave Coulter.

Unmentioned by Bozell is that Coulter made the arguably serious statements that "My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York  Times Building" -- which she called "prescient," not exactly the sign of someone who's joking -- and that "We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens' creme brulee." Both of these statements predate Maher's remark, so it can be plausibly argued that Coulter set the precedent for making death threats against her political enemies and that Maher was merely following her lead. 

A June 28 NewsBusters post by Tim Graham also touched on some of those themes, but in a sadly unironic way. In writing about ABC's Jake Tapper's pointing out that Coulter misquoted Bill Maher to justify her own hateful rhetoric (though Graham doesn't say that), Graham conceded that "Maher didn't say he wished Cheney would die." He didn't, however, apologize for all the MRC press releases and NewsBusters that made that false claim about Maher.

Graham then added: "I think it should be obvious to everyone in the talk-show wars that death-wish jokes are more trouble than they are worth, and that free speech doesn't mean that some speech isn't deplorable, and it's our right to speak out and deplore it." But Graham didn't "speak out and deplore" Coulter for her numerous "death-wish jokes."

In other words, Coulter engaged in the exact same behavior Graham criticized, but he didn't criticize Coulter for engaging in it -- a encapsulation of the MRC's attitude toward Coulter.

Bozell capped off the hypocrisy in a July 3 column recycling the MRC's tropes -- yet again repeating and attacking Marcotte and McEwan's statements he purported to find so "repulsive" that he wouldn't repeat them (failing to mention that the two left the Edwards campaign months ago) and Elizabeth Edwards, repeating statements that "[e]ven Chris Matthews would find ... hateful and ugly." Unsurprisingly, Bozell was silent yet again on Coulter's actual words.

Does Bozell find what Coulter has to say even more repulsive than Marcotte's and McEwan's statements, given that, unlike the latter, he actually won't repeat them? Or does Coulter have some incredibly nasty blackmail material on Bozell and his crew that forces them to spend untold amounts of nonprofit money and resources deflecting the slings and arrows of her critics?

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