ABC: Elizabeth Edwards vs. ‘Professional Provocateur’ Coulter; Skips Edwards Bloggers

Elizabeth Edwards appeared on the Thursday edition of "Good Morning America" and was portrayed by co-anchor Chris Cuomo as simply the wife of Democratic ‘08 contender John Edwards. However, Cuomo singled out columnist Ann Coulter, who debated Mrs. Edwards via phone this week on MSNBC’s "Hardball," with descriptions such as "professional provocateur."

He also wondered why the wife of the North Carolina Democrat would want to spar with "someone like Ann Coulter." Additionally, Cuomo failed to mention the provocative actions that the Edwards campaign has taken. After allowing Elizabeth Edwards to expound on how her phone call to "Hardball" was simply an attempt to get Coulter to stop being hateful, the GMA anchor did not bring up the liberal, anti-Christian bloggers hired by the Edwards campaign. Cuomo didn’t mention it all, despite the fact that the story was partially broken by an ABC colleague.

Mr. Cuomo, who is the brother of New York’s Democratic Attorney General, did play the original context of Coulter’s comments about John Edwards and the lack of media outrage over a statement made by Bill Maher:

Chris Cuomo: "...Much has been made of the statement about a terrorist bombing and whether it's a threat against your husband. Let me play what was actually said on our program. I was asking Ann about why she would say anything like this, threatening or making an aspersion about your husband. Here is what she said. Let’s listen to her."

Ann Coulter: "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."

Cuomo: "Now, hearing it in that context, that it wasn't so much a direct threat against your husband that he die in a attack, but in context to what other people hadn't wanted to talk about, do you feel any differently?"

However, as noted earlier, he also allowed Elizabeth Edwards, who is obviously very involved with the campaign of her liberal husband, to come across as simply a wounded spouse. When Mrs. Edwards claimed that she called into Chris Matthews’ show simply "to help my children," Cuomo failed to point out the hypocrisy of decrying hate speech when the Edwards campaign itself employed hateful bloggers who made virulently anti-Christian slurs. (Amanda Marcotte, one of the bloggers in question, made jokes about Mary, mother of Jesus, using birth control.)

The ABC anchor also allowed her to cite Coulter’s comments about 9/11 widow Kristen Breitweiser and failed to follow up with any mention of Breitweiser’s liberal advocacy.

A transcript of the segment, which aired at 7:11am on June 28, follows:

Chris Cuomo: "Okay. And Elizabeth Edwards joins us now not by phone, thankfully, but live from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Elizabeth, thank you so much for joining us. A lot of politics to talk about. But what’s first should be first. How are you feeling? How's your health?"

Elizabeth Edwards: "I actually feel great. I've been on the road and I feel I’ve got a lot of energy out there both from people I've talked to and I've got it, too."

Cuomo: "You certainly do. You seem very robust and you decided to get involved with someone who is a professional provocateur. I understand the statements that triggered it. But why decide to call in and go toe to toe with someone like Ann Coulter?"

Edwards: "Well, obviously, not confronting her is not working. The first time that I wanted to speak out against her was in 2003, when she wrote a column that was extraordinarily offensive. I actually wrote a letter to her at the time. I didn't send it. I didn’t– I was going to send it to newspapers that she published her column in. But I've been listening for too long. She's obviously not going to stop unless we confront her. Not just me, of course. People across the country."

Cuomo: "Understood. Just to set the stage, much has been made of the statement about a terrorist bombing and whether it's a threat against your husband. Let me play what was actually said on our program. I was asking Ann about why she would say anything like this, threatening or making an aspersion about your husband. Here is what she said. Let’s listen to her."

Ann Coulter: "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."

Cuomo: "Now, hearing it in that context, that it wasn't so much a direct threat against your husband that he die in a attack, but in context to what other people hadn't wanted to talk about, do you feel any differently?"

Edwards: "You know, honestly, having listened to Ann Coulter for a number of years and even listened the other day on your show and on ‘Hardball,’ I don't trust her rendition of what somebody else said. All I know is that she used words of hate with respect to my husband yet again, and not just my husband, of course. She uses it against a variety of people. Kristen Breitweiser, the courageous 9/11 widow who has spoken out, was one of the reasons the 9/11 Commission was formed. She– He– Ann Coulter attacked her, saying that she delighted too much in her husband's death. That's an outrageous statement to make. And she's made them about other candidates in this race, about Senator Clinton’s physical appearance, about Senator Obama's name, Unless some of us stand up and say we're not going to take this, that we want to raise the dialogue where it needs to be, our children are going to be listening to the same kind of language as their entire political dialogue."

Cuomo: "Now, while I understand that point, on the other side, people are offering some criticism saying that the campaign is using Coulter's statements to raise money. Is that fair criticism, that the Edwards campaign is making some political hay out of the situation for their own benefit?"

Edwards: "Well, I suppose if we had been responsible for her being on the air or being on the air at the end of the fund-raising quarter, it might be. But as I said, the first time I wrote out a complaint to her was 2003. We were, I was not intending to raise money anywhere with that complaint and I was not intending when I called her to raise money. The fact that she continues, gives us an opportunity to ask people to get involved either in our campaign, another campaign, to write letters, to call radio stations or television stations when they hear this kind of hate speech. We're asking people generally to become involved in, in trying to move the political dialogue back to a dialogue of substance. And, you know, I'm happy to say to say that’s what John's campaign represents. That if that's where they want to go to speak out, register their objection, I'm happy to have that happen. But, honestly, it's more important to me that we change the tenor of the dialogue than on some particular day we raise, we raise money."

Cuomo: "Have you seen any sign that the situation has helped? I mean, you know, as everybody is well aware, your husband is in third in most polls now. And that has got to be disappointing after all the exposure that he's had. To the extent he has not been gaining any traction thus far, do you believe this could be a turning point?"

Edwards: "Well, you know, I actually think that in the early states, where they're paying the most attention to the substantive political dialogue, John, John’s doing quite well, first in Iowa, second or third in New Hampshire. But that's not really the point. The point is, for all of us, for our children, to change the dialogue. I'm not interested in– It never occurred to me when I made this call that it was going to help John in, in some poll some place. It was going to help my children is what I was hoping it would do and the rest of us who are sick and tired of this kind of language."

Cuomo: "Because of the reaction that's come out of this situation, I understand that this is, you say this is something that you did on your own accord. Is it something you would do again now that you've seen the reaction?"

Edwards: "Well, I mean, the more attention that is called– I mean, I've gotten enormous support really from around the country after this, and if what I did called attention to it and maybe empowered people to act, to speak out, or to get involved in campaigns that are substantive instead of campaigns based on imagery either positive or negative, then that, I've done a good thing and I'd do it again. I remember in the south people speaking out against-racist language. It made a difference to speak out. And I spoke out then and I'm not unhappy to have spoken out now."

Cuomo: "All right, Elizabeth, Mrs. Edwards. Thank you very much for joining us and talking to us about it."

Edwards: "Thank you, Chris."

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org