Three of the leading Republican presidential candidates on Saturday denounced one of their party’s best-known conservative commentators for using an antigay epithet when discussing a Democratic presidential contender at a gathering of conservatives here.
The remarks by Ann Coulter, an author who regularly speaks at conservative events, were sharply denounced by the candidates, Senator John McCain of Arizona, Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York and Mitt Romney of Massachusetts. Their statements came after Democrats, gay rights groups and bloggers raised a storm of protest over the remarks.
Her remarks drew some cheers that could be heard on a videotape of the event.
The criticisms by the Republican candidates put them in a difficult position because the Conservative Political Action Conference has been an important gathering for conservative and Republican leaders for more than 25 years.
The speakers this year included Vice President Dick Cheney and most of the presidential candidates, whose presence suggested the political influence the group holds in the party’s nominating process. Mr. Cheney was not at the event on Friday.
Of the major Republican candidates, only Mr. McCain did not attend, but he denounced her remarks on Saturday morning. “The comments were wildly inappropriate,” said his spokesman, Brian Jones.
Mr. Giuliani said, “The comments were completely inappropriate and there should be no place for such name-calling in political debate.”
Kevin Madden, a spokesman for Mr. Romney, said: “It was an offensive remark. Governor Romney believes all people should be treated with dignity and respect.”
Can I say I told you so now?
Update: Even Sully understands what I've been on about:
I just got an email from the American Conservative Union. They won't say if they'll disinvite Coulter from CPAC next year. They won't actually condemn Coulter's speech. Money quote:
ACU and CPAC leave it to our audience to determine whether comments are appropriate or not. "Ann Coulter is known for comments that can be both provocative and outrageous. That was certainly the case in her 2007 CPAC appearance and previous ones as well. But as a point of clarification, let me make it clear that ACU and CPAC do not condone or endorse the use of hate speech," said David A. Keene, ACU Chairman.
Does that mean he believes her speech was "hate-speech"? Why can he not just say so and disinvite her in the future? The answer: because the base would explode. Coulter is central to a core element of the conservative movement today. And Keene can't risk taking her on.
That's exactly the pickle the small group of sentient Republicans find themselves in. Think of them as the political equivalents of Sigfried & Roy: they've been bloodied by the claws of one of their wild animals, but if they dump the uncontrollable feline, the audience disappears.