by David Shuster, Hardball correspondent
It was dramatic, confrontational, and the newest chapter in a bitter political feud that began four years ago.
- In November 2003, Ann Coulter wrote a column attacking John Edwards and accusing him of using his son’s death for political gain. Coulter wrote: “If you want points for not using your son’s death politically, don’t you have to take down all those ‘Ask me about my son’s death in a horrific car accident’ bumper stickers?” The shocking comments ignited a political fire storm.
- Earlier this year, Coulter continued to target Edwards when she used a derogatory word to describe him at a conservative political conference.
Coulter at CPAC conference, on Edwards: “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 faggot, 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.”
- On Monday, Coulter stepped up the attacks on Edwards again while plugging her latest book. On GMA this week: “I wouldn’t insult gays by comparing them to John Edwards. Now, 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 gonna say anything about John Edwards in the future, I’ll just wish he had been killed in a terrorist assassination plot.”
The Edwards campaign immediately cashed in on the controversy by featuring it on their Web site in a fundraising appeal.
While the campaign was raising money, Elizabeth Edwards decided to confront Coulter herself on Tuesday’s “Hardball.” Every major blog and Web site that covers politics and covers the news has featured the video of that phone call—from The Drudge Report, Huffingtonpost, TV Newser. And the downloads keep coming on YouTube.
So how did the Ann Coulter-Elizabeth Edwards confrontation happen?
Before Tuesday’s Hardball appearance, msnbc and msnbc.com promoted that viewer comments and questions would be part of the program.
According to Hardball executive producer Tammy Haddad, “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.”
In turn, Haddad had a conversation with Coulter. “I talked to Ann before the show and told her we had gotten a call from the Edwards campaign and that Elizabeth might call in and she was fine with it,” she says.
In the third block of the show, Elizabeth Edwards was patched in. This morning, the confrontation got more air time on the Today Show. On the show, Chris weighed in, saying “In human terms, Elizabeth Edwards has won this round.”
A history of provoking… or is it marketing?
Coulter has a lengthy record of provoking critics and making new enemies—all of which fuels her notoriety and book sales.
Shortly after 9/11, she referred to the Muslim world and said, “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity.”
While covering the 2004 Democratic convention for USA Today, Coulter began one article with “here at the spawn of satan convention in Boston…”
Last year, Coulter attacked the 9/11 widows known as the Jersey girls, saying “These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them…. I’ve never seen people enjoying their husbands’ deaths so much.”
A boost to the Edwards campaign as well
But the attention is just what the Edwards campaign was hoping for, according to msnbc political analyst Pat Buchanan. “You want to get into fights with people who are terribly unpopular with the constituency you are after,” says Buchanan. ”People will say, ‘Good, the Edwards are going after Ann Coulter, she really deserves it, good for them. They are standing up to the beast,’ as it were.”
The Edwards campaign is raising more money off of Coulter. Today, the campaign added another fundraising appeal on their Web site featuring clips from Coulter’s appearance on Hardball.
Coulter, though, is also benefiting from the confrontation. Over the last day, sales of her latest book are way up.