Has Ann Coulter gone too far? “Good Morning America” reporter Jake Tapper posed that question on Tuesday’s program. Commenting on Coulter’s use of a slur at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference, he used the words “vicious” and “mean spirited” to describe the author. An ABC graphic described the speech as “nasty.”
And yet, the ABC program has not aired a single story on prominent liberal HBO personality Bill Maher (he calls himself libertarian) and his March 2 comment regarding the attempted assassination of Vice President Cheney. On his “Real Time” program, Maher remarked, “I’m just saying, if he did die, other people, more people would live. That’s a fact.” In comparison, NBC’s “Today” did manage at least a small mention of the HBO host’s statement. Mr. Tapper began the piece by insinuating that conservatives are drawn to Coulter because of her “vicious” disposition, and not because of an attraction to the conservative views the author expresses:
ABC Graphic: “Conservatives Run From Coulter: Her Nasty Speech Causes Outrage”
Robin Roberts: “Diane, we're going to turn now to the controversy over conservative firebrand Ann Coulter. Shocking people is her stock and trade. But has she now gone so far over the line that her conservative allies are deserting her? ABC’s senior political correspondent Jake Tapper has more in Washington. Good morning, Jake.”
Jake Tapper: “Good morning, Robin. Well, Ann Coulter has always prided herself on her vicious, often mean-spirited attacks on liberals, and conservatives have rewarded her handsomely for it. But, speaking at a conference along side a number of Republican presidential hopefuls, Coulter may have finally gone too far and that’s according to many conservatives. She has been the queen of the conservative movement. From making a splash on the cover of ‘Time’ magazine as Ms. Right, to hobnobbing with Bill O’Reilly. But on ‘Hannity and Colmes’ last night, Ann Coulter was in the hot seat.”
Alan Colmes: “Where do you draw the line?”
Ann Coulter: “It isn't offensive to gays, it has nothing to do with the gays. It's a school yard taunt meaning wuss. And unless you're telling me that John Edwards is gay, it was not applied to a gay person.”
Colmes: “You’re tap dancing around my question. I asked you a very simple question.”
Coulter: “No, I’m not.”
Tapper: “So what's behind this latest Ann Coulter brough-haha? Feeding this convention of red meat conservatives, Coulter used an offensive slur for gays, as seen on C-SPAN.”
Coulter: “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 [bleeped]. So- So, I’m kind of at an impasse, can’t really talk about Edwards.”
Tapper: “John Edwards denounced her.”
John Edwards: “I think it's important that we not reward hateful, selfish, childish behavior with attention.”
Saying that conservatives only appreciate Coulter for her meanness is a bit like asserting that millions of Americans watch CSI simply for the gore. Tapper closed the piece, which aired at 7:15am on March 6, by noting that “even Governor Mitt Romney,” who has made a concerted appeal to conservatives, denounced the author:
Tapper: “But Republicans now say they're getting sick of her, too. After last year, when she called Arabs rag head and attacked the 9/11 widows, and even more so now. Republican presidential hopefuls are now running from her as fast as they can.”
Rudy Giuliani: “My reaction was that the comment was inappropriate, unnecessary, rude.”
Tapper: “Senator John McCain called the comments wildly inappropriate. Even Governor Mitt Romney, who said this at the conference--”
Mitt Romney: “I’m happy to learn also that after you hear from me, you're going to hear from Ann Coulter. That is a good thing. Oh, yeah.”
Tapper: “-called her comment offensive. Has Ann Coulter finally gone too far? And now a group of conservative bloggers calling Coulter’s remarks ‘reckless, intolerable and vicious’ are demanding of the organizers of the conference that Coulter not be invited back to speak next year. They say she hurts the cause of conservatives by making them all appear bigoted and mean. Robin?”
In comparison, CBS’ “Early Show” only briefly covered the story during Monday’s program and made no mention of the Bill Maher’s statements. (It should be noted that the HBO host has attempted to back away from his comments.) NBC’s “Today,” however, followed a path similar to ABC. Co-host Meredith Vieira termed the comment “radioactive.” However, at least NBC managed to mention the Maher comment about Vice President Cheney:
[7:30am] Meredith Vieira: "Coming up in this half hour foot-in-mouth disease. Political activist Ann Coulter is only the latest public figure to utter a slur that can be radioactive. Remember what happened to Seinfeld star Michael Richards? We are gonna take a look at what happens when celebrities trip over their own tongues."
[7:36am] Lester Holt: "Open foot, insert, open mouth, insert foot. I just did it. We've all done it but when celebrities say the wrong thing there's no place to run and no place to hide. Now political commentator Ann Coulter is the latest to feel the heat. Here's NBC's John Larson."
[On screen headline: "Foot In Mouth Disease, Celebrity Slips of the Tongue"] Ann Coulter: "Hillary Clinton is to, fill in blank."
John Larson: "You can tell in the first moment after Ann Coulter used the 'f' word, the slur against gay people that her Republican audience was a bit stunned."
Coulter: "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 [bleep]. So-"
Larson: "But then applause. Her comment comes after actor Isaiah Washington used the same anti-gay slur."
Isaiah Washington: "No I did not call T.R. a faggot."
Larson: "And really did check in to rehab."
Neil Giuliano, Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation: "We appreciate that so many people in the political world really in many walks of life are stepping forward now and saying that this kind of defamation is not to be tolerated."
Larson: "But when it comes to crossing the line, like basketball's Tim Hardaway did in his radio rant." Tim Hardaway: "I hate gay people." Larson: "Where exactly is the line?"
Prof. Robert Thompson: "Well if we're looking for a simple rule about what is the line of where you can say and when you can say it forget about it. It is not simple."
Larson: "Attacks on individuals like Bill Maher's comments, seemingly suggesting the country would be better off if Vice President Cheney had died in Afghanistan-"
Bill Maher: "I have zero doubt that if Dick Cheney was not in power people wouldn't be dying needlessly tomorrow."
Larson: "-are outrageous but attract less outrage than Michael Richards using the 'n' word."
Michael Richards: "There's a [bleep] He's a [bleep]."
Thompson: "If someone says something bad about some individual then they're only insulting that individual. If, however, you insult an individual by calling them a nasty term for an entire body of individuals you are insulting all the other people who find that word offensive."
Larson: "And the rules about crossing the line change fast. Ask the Dixie Chicks. Blacklisted because they insulted the President, now Grammy-winning heroes. As for Coulter's comment? John Edwards is using it to raise money for his campaign, hoping to prove that crossing the line comes at a price. For Today, John Larson, NBC News, Los Angeles." [Video shown of Coulter clip on Edward's Web site and a highlighted line reading: "Can you help us raise $100,000 in 'Coulter Cash.'"]
So, while reporter John Larson included the liberal Dixie Chicks in the “foot-in-mouth” category, notice how he made sure to mention that they are now “heroes.”
Regardless of what one thinks of conservative author and pundit Ann Coulter’s comments, shouldn’t Bill Maher, who is a well known liberal author and pundit, receive similar scrutiny for his “mean spirited” comments about a failed assassination attempt on the Vice President?