Election Coverage Recap: Ann Coulter and the “F-word”

As we get closer to November 4, we here at glaadBLOG thought it would be appropriate to take a stroll down memory lane - reviewing and analyzing how the media have handled LGBT issues and covered supporters of pro-LGBT policies and how they have reported on the positions of the candidates throughout the campaign.  We’ll also recap hot button stories that caused firestorms throughout this election cycle.

One of those hot button stories was the controversy begun by Ann Coulter at the American Conservative Union’s Political Action Conference in March of 2007.

In a speech given to conference attendees, Coulter said:

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 “f**got,” so I’m — 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.

The crowd laughed and applauded her anti-gay slur.

After hearing this statement, there was immediate pushback from progressive and LGBT organizations.  GLAAD issued a statement and called on news outlets to stop associating themselves with her bigotry:

“Our nation’s media have done an admirable job this year holding celebrities accountable for their use of anti-gay slurs,” Giuliano said.  “But they have a heightened responsibility to do so when the person using the slur is a leading face and voice of an anti-gay industry that continues to harm, exploit and dehumanize gay and lesbian people and our families for political gain.”

“In light of her repeated defamatory attacks over the past year, no credible news organization should be associating itself with Coulter or anyone else who trades in on-air anti-gay slurs,” Giuliano said, noting that Coulter is frequently featured on CNBC and appears on other NBC News platforms. “NBC News in particular has a responsibility to consider whether it wants to continue offering a platform to someone who repeatedly engages in on-air expressions of bigotry.”

The blog Think Progress, part of the Center for American Progress, posted the video with this reminder:

Previously, Coulter has put “even money” on Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) “[c]oming out of the closet,” said Bill Clinton shows “some level of latent homosexuality,” and called Vice President Al Gore a “total f*g.”

National media also reported on the incident.  Three days later (March 5, 2007), CNN ran a segment in which they got reaction from Senator John Edwards and members of Congress.  CNN.com also reported that advertisers were pulling out of Coulter’s site.

That same day Fox hosted National Review editor Rich Lowry and Young America’s Foundation spokesman Jason Mattera to discuss Coulter’s comments.  Bothdefended her saying it was simply, “a joke”.

CNN was supposed to have Coulter on that evening to discuss her comments, but she decided to cancel.  Coulter didn’t, however, cancel her interview with Fox News.

Meanwhile, on MSNBC,  “Tucker Carlson claimed: “She called me one, too!” Carlson continued: “[U]nlike John Edwards, I’m not pretending I’m a victim or [that] I’ve been slurred, or I didn’t cry, actually, after she called me that,” adding: “I’m not [gay], by the way.”  Later in the segment he also said, “And we’re always happy to have her on. She’s great TV.”

On the other hand, Carlson’s MSNBC colleague, Keith Olbermann, gave Coulter the gold in his nightly “Worst Person in the World.”

The next day, March 6th, Coulter appeared on far-right Sean Hannity’s nationally syndicated radio show.   Was she sorry about her statement?  Not in the least.  She continued to contend it was a joke, but then added:

I don’t think there’s anything offensive about any variation of f**gy, f**gotry, f**got, f*g. It’s a schoolyard taunt. It means — it means wussy. It means, you know, Hillary giving a speech in a fake Southern drawl — that’s f**gy. A trial lawyer who weeps before juries is f**gy. Lifetime-type TV, f**gy.

GLAAD issued an action alert to all our members, urging people to contact NBC News, CNBC, MSNBC, CNN and Fox News Channel and asking the networks to publicly state that they will refuse to continue providing a platform for Ann Coulter’s vulgar anti-gay remarks.

As well as the advertisers pulling spots off her website, over the course of the next few weeks, many newspapers decided to drop Coulter’s syndicated column.

Months later, in June, Coulter began to promote her new book Godless and once again defended her statement.  This is what she had to say while talking with Chris Coumo on Good Morning America on June 25th :

CUOMO: You say you were — you were joking.

COULTER: Oh yeah, I wouldn’t insult gays by comparing them to John Edwards. 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 going to say anything about John Edwards in the future, I’ll just wish he had been killed in a terrorist assassination plot.

And then two days later with CNN’s Glenn Beck on Headline News, justifying why it was ok to be homophobic at the conference:

COULTER: And by the way, I wasn’t saying it on TV. I was saying it at a right-wing political convention with 7,000 college Republicans. I didn’t put it on TV.

BECK: OK, well — but that doesn’t necessarily — I don’t want to get into that. Here’s — here’s what it –

COULTER: You don’t think it makes a difference what the venue is? There’s nothing you’d say in front of a group of college Republicans that you wouldn’t say on TV? I doubt that.

Keep in mind, the entire conference was being broadcasted on CSPN. 

On the same broadcast, Coulter made fun of Beck and CNN for bleeping the word “f**got” by saying:

COULTER: — I like that you’re bleeping that now. Are you also bleeping “illegal alien” and “amnesty,” other words we’re not supposed to use?

BECK: Well, one is a –

COULTER: “Niggardly?”

BECK: One is a slur. One is a slur. Do you believe — do you believe that word is a slur?

COULTER: No.

It is clear to anyone watching television news programs that Ann Coulter’s appearances have decreased in the later half of the presidential election coverage.  The response from the LGBT and allied community to her comments about John Edwards (as well as the response to her October 2007 statement that “we” Christians “just want Jews to be perfected”) have been primarily responsible for that decrease.

While Ann Coulter has the freedom to say what she likes, news outlets also have the freedom to not promote her hurtful and defamatory commentary.  As for us, we have a responsibility to hold her and the news outlets that give her a platform accountable.