'Today' Fans Its Company's Own Coulter-Edwards Flames; Coulter a 'Flamethrower'

Still stoking the flames of the fire it started on its cable outlet, MSNBC, NBC kept pushing the Ann Coulter vs Elizabeth Edwards fight, this time on this morning’s Today show. Substitute host David Gregory invited on Elizabeth Edwards to continue to bash Coulter on her "hate language." And while the on screen headline asked, "Out of Control? The Politics of Ann Coulter," 'Today', once again, never bothered to mention the Edwards campaign's own "out of control" bloggers.

To his credit Gregory did ask about Edwards using Coulter as a fundraising tool and noted the hypocrisy of John Edward's $400 haircut and his large speaking fees for a poverty group. However Today refused to identify either Edwards as a liberal but repeatedly labeled Coulter as "conservative," and even tagged her as a "flamethrower."

The following are the, loaded teases for the Edwards interview, followed by a full transcript of the Edwards segment as it occurred on the June 28 Today show:

David Gregory: "Also this morning, we're gonna be talking about politics. Elizabeth Edwards is gonna be here after her on air confrontation with conservative commentator Ann Coulter. This whole episode, I think, is a reminder to a lot of people about why they don't like politics. We'll talk about the fallout from all of this coming up."

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Gregory: "Also this morning, cable clash. Presidential candidate John Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, calling into MSNBC's Hardball, you remember, earlier in the week, to take on conservative flamethrower Ann Coulter. But are both sides in this fight profiting from this exchange and is this an example of what a lot of people don't like about politics. Coming up we're gonna have a live interview with Elizabeth Edwards and we'll talk about it."

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Meredith Vieira: "And up next she said/she said. The dustup on national TV between Ann Coulter and Elizabeth Edwards. Is politics getting too nasty? A live interview with Elizabeth Edwards, right after this."

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David Gregory: "It was a battle royale played out on national television. Elizabeth Edwards, wife of presidential candidate, John Edwards, taking on conservative columnist Ann Coulter, live on MSNBC. Well today, the two sides are still fighting. But, in fact, are both sides profiting politically and financially? Caught on cable, a lively debate about cutthroat politics."

[Begin clip]

Ann Coulter: "Don't talk to me about, about how to use language."

Chris Matthews: "Elizabeth."

Elizabeth Edwards: "...that language of hate and I'm, I, I'm gonna ask you again to politely stop using persona attacks as part of your dialogue."

Coulter: "Okay I'll stop writing books...I think we heard all we need to hear. The wife of a presidential candidate is asking me to stop speaking, no."

Matthews: "No she said you should stop being so negative to people, individually."

[End clip]

[On screen headline: "Out of Control? The Politics of Ann Coulter"]

Gregory: "Ann Coulter, the conservative firebrand, has sharply attacked John Edwards for years."

Coulter: "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."

Gregory: "That, she pointed out, was something talk show host Bill Maher said about the Vice President, without receiving any criticism."

Bill Maher: "No, I'm just saying, that if he did die, other people, more people would live. That's a fact."

Elizabeth Edwards: "Hello, Chris."

Gregory: "But on Tuesday, Elizabeth Edwards called into MSNBC's Hardball to say enough is enough. For the Edwards campaign it was a calculated step to speak out against, what it calls, hate speech. And it seized on the exchange, immediately, for a fundraising pitch on its Web site."

Byron York, National Review: "As they say in the business world, there was a revenue component for both sides about this. If, anybody, on the outside, of the political world were to look at it, I think they might just look at it and say, 'you know a pox on both your houses.'"

Gregory: "Senator Edwards insisted presidential candidates have a duty to respond to attacks but he admitted conservatives are not the only offenders."

John Edwards: "I agree it's an issue from the extremes, yeah. And I, but I think in this case, in this case, the language that has been used by this particular person and people like her is extraordinarily damaging."

Gregory: "Coulter's defenders, however, say she represents the voice of conservatives responding to the mainstream media."

Pat Buchanan, conservative commentator: "They feel we're, you know, we're now giving it back, what's been given to us. And Ann Coulter is one of those, at the top of her game, who is very good, very cutting, very witty and very funny."

[On screen headline: "Coulter Clash, Elizabeth Edwards One-On-One"]

Gregory: "Elizabeth Edwards is in Chapel Hill, North Carolina this morning. Mrs. Edwards, good morning, thanks for being here."

Elizabeth Edwards: "Good morning, David."

Gregory: "I have to ask you, when you decided to call in to Chris Matthews' Hardball show on MSNBC were you trying to provoke a confrontation or do, in your own mind, did you think, 'I'm really gonna change Ann Coulter's mind and her tune?'"

Edwards: "Well I actually didn't think I was gonna change Ann Coulter's mind but I did think that our silence against her, you know, for a number of years, hasn't changed what she's said. When there was outrage, actually some newspapers withdrew, withdrew her column from their, from their papers, because, because readers wrote in and said they were tired of that kind of dialogue. And yet she continues. So I hope that I was provoking people across the country to speak out when they hear this kind of hate language. You know, David, it made a difference in the South, when racist language used to be the way everyone spoke. But when decent people spoke out and said, they don't want to hear that any more, it changed. And now racist language is not a part of civil dialogue in the South. We can accomplish the same thing, but only if, if people across the country speak out. And I hope I was giving them a permission slip to do that."

Gregory: "You, you, you said rather pointedly, that you think Ann Coulter is guilty of hate speech against your husband and, and others as well. If you strip away some of the inflammatory rhetoric against your husband and, and other Democrats, the point she's trying to make about your husband, Senator Edwards, running for the White House, is in effect, that he's disingenuous, especially on the signature issue of poverty, whether it's a $400 haircut or taking big, big money to speak in front of a poverty group. If you, again, strip away the inflammatory rhetoric, is that a real point of vulnerability that you have to deal with in this campaign?"

Edwards: "David, that is not, that is absolutely nothing to do with what she was saying, whatsoever. I have a response for that and if you, people, John has a lifetime of dedication to poverty issues and if you don't trust him on that, because he once got a haircut that was too expensive, don't vote for him and don't support him. But if you believe that lifetime, as opposed to, the price of a single haircut, then, then, then do support him but the truth of the matter is, is this is not just stripping away inflammatory language. The things she said, not just about John but about other candidates, about people as, who are as courageous as Kristin Breitweiser, one of the 9/11 widows, who helped force the 9/11 commission. She said that, she and the other Jersey Girls delighted too much in their husband's death. This is not, this is not legitimate political speech. This is speech of hatred and meanness meant to, to distract us from the issues, such as, the validity and importance of something like the 9/11 commission's recommendations."

Gregory: "Do you think it's an issue of not just, with Ann Coulter, but with some of the commentators on the left as well?"

Edwards: "On both sides and not just Ann Coulter on the right but a large number on the right. Michael Savage is another example of someone who uses awful, inflammatory language that degrades the political process and, and the same is true on the left. We, we, we, I, I, I wrote a letter in 2003, in response to a column Ann Coulter wrote about a number of, of sad events in families' lives. So she, I have to say, has been particularly on my mind for a number of years."

Gregory: "You, you, you, as I pointed out in, in the piece, you immediately seized on this confrontation, as you've been doing for some time. I say, you, I mean the campaign, to use Ann Coulter in this confrontation, to pitch your base for money, for campaign funds. We're just a couple days away from the end of the second quarter fundraising totals. Why shouldn't be that viewed as a rather calculated effort on, on the part, on your part and the campaign, generally, to provoke, to engage Ann Coulter for political gain, for financial gain, for the campaign?"

Edwards: "Well I suppose if I had booked Ann Coulter on, on ABC or on, on Hardball on MSNBC at the end of the political, at the end of the fundraising quarter, that complaint might be legitimate. I had no idea, when she was gonna roll out her book or when she was gonna get back on the air again. You know it's been sometime since she's been on. Also name-calling about John but, so it was, just, it just happened to be at the end of the quarter. And we're asking people to make a choice about what kind of politics they want. John's pol-, John's political campaign has been based on real ideas and substance that ought to be the subject of the political dialogue. And I know that the letter I wrote made exactly that point. That we have a choice here. And if people choose to support John's campaign or frankly another campaign that's something we want them to do. Get engaged, to speak out."

Gregory: "Can I just ask you quickly, I want to switch gears. Your prominence in the campaign is pointed up by this and I know a lot of people are, are wondering how you're doing, how your health is."

Edwards: "Actually I'm doing well and I appreciate your asking, David. It's a, one of the reasons I'm out there speaking, is so that people can see, that it's possible to live with cancer, to live vital, full lives with cancer and to maybe support the people that they know who are undergoing the same kind of struggle that we are."

Gregory: "Has your outlook changed at all and your level of involvement in the campaign?"

Edwards: "You know I, I think, probably, I may be a little more driven but I also have to be a little more careful because I have to keep myself healthy."

Gregory: "Alright, Elizabeth Edwards, thanks very much for coming on this morning."

Edwards: "It's great to be with you David."

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.