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The Long Fuse on Ann Coulter's Bomb

Some liberal bloggers chided the press. "It took the media a while to actually see the story as news," wrote Americablog's John Aravosis, who is gay. "Why? First, because they think Coulter is a joke, and she is. But she's a joke who was recently on the cover of Time, who gets paid tens of thousands of dollars a speech, has written several best-sellers, and was the most anticipated speaker at the biggest and most important conservative conference of the year."

Coulter did not respond to a request for comment, but she said on Fox News last night that "the word I used has nothing to do with sexual preference. It is a schoolyard taunt." She dismissed a question from host Alan Colmes about conservative criticism of the remark, saying that "the same people become hysterical" at her jokes.

Asked if she would use a racial slur in a joke, Coulter said it was "semantic totalitarianism to compare everything to the N-word."

The author of such books as "Godless," "Treason" and "Slander," Coulter is known for pushing the boundaries of acceptable discourse. She was widely condemned last year when she called a politically active group of 9/11 widows "witches," saying: "I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much. . . . And by the way, how do we know their husbands weren't planning to divorce these harpies?"

In 2004, USA Today dropped Coulter as a convention columnist when she derided "the corn-fed, no make-up, natural fiber, no-bra needing, sandal-wearing, hirsute, somewhat fragrant hippie chick pie wagons they call 'women' at the Democratic National Convention."

National Review dropped Coulter's column in 2001 when she wrote after the Sept. 11 attacks: "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." She responded by calling the magazine's editors "girly-boys."

A former Senate aide and MSNBC contributor, Coulter emerged from obscurity in 1998 with a book urging the impeachment of Bill Clinton, whom she called "crazy" and "like a serial killer."

During this decade of denunciations by Coulter, journalists have never quite resolved the question: Is what she says news?

"She's this willfully incendiary character, and it shouldn't be surprising when she says things that set off alarms," says David Folkenflik, National Public Radio's media reporter. "At the same time, she said what she said at a major gathering of the party faithful."

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