From NBC's Domenico Montanaro
A day after his wife Elizabeth called in to MSNBC's "Hardball" to confront conservative commentator Ann Coulter, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards made his own appearance on the show.
He dismissed Coulter, calling her "mean-spirited," having no shame and being "crazy." He defended his wife's efforts to ask Coulter to drop her personal attacks, saying, "You have to stand up to them."
"I don't think [Coulter] has any shame; there's no doubt about that," Edwards said. "I think that's just the way she behaves. That's who she is. And I think that's a lot of what we see from these people who are just -- that are crazy."
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Last night, Ann Coulter responded to Elizabeth Edwards with a question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF FORMER SEN. EDWARDS: It debases political dialogue. It drives people away from the process. We can't have a debate about issues if you're using this kind of language.
(AUDIENCE MEMBER SHOUTING)
ANN COULTER: Yes, why isn't John Edwards making this call?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, I guess the question last night was why didn't you make the call, rather than Elizabeth, to Ann Coulter on the "Hardball" set?
J. EDWARDS: Well, the simple answer to that is Elizabeth, I guess, heard her and knew she was on, and called in. So I thought it was appropriate that I come on today.
MATTHEWS: OK. Did you talk with your wife, Elizabeth, beforehand about this, her decision to call in to the program?
J. EDWARDS: Elizabeth made this decision on her own to call in, I guess based on what she was hearing from Ann Coulter and I think something Ann Coulter had said a couple of days before.
MATTHEWS: Right. Well, what is your reaction to what you heard last night and heard today about what happened last night?
J. EDWARDS: I applaud Elizabeth. I think that when people like Ann Coulter -- and it's not just her, unfortunately, it's her and people just like her, Karl Rove and all those people. I mean, when they engage us in this kind of hatemongering, you have to stand up to them. You have to stand up to them. They start this fight, but we have to be willing to be strong and to fight back. Because if we don't, Chris, what happens is all the important things: men and women dying in Iraq, those who don't have health insurance, et cetera, their issues don't get heard. Instead, it's this -- it's this low-level dialogue with this name-calling, which is what we see.
MATTHEWS: Well, what do you make of the role of trash talk in politics generally, this willingness on the part of partisans to enrage the other side by going over the top? I mean is that a smart tactic? Does it work? Does it debase the politics?
J. EDWARDS: Oh, it clearly debases the politics. There's no doubt about that. It makes it very difficult to talk about issues that affect people's day-to-day lives. And it's why when this kind of hatemongering and this hate language is used -- and I just, I feel the need to point out, this woman didn't just use it against me. I mean, the things she said about Senator Obama; the things she said about Senator Clinton -- they all fall in the same category. And they're calculated to create an emotional response. They're calculated to make people hate. And if you don't speak out against it, then that means you're tolerating this kind of language, and it means you think it's OK. It's not OK.
MATTHEWS: What do you make of someone who's a person who writes a column, went to Michigan Law School, has a fine education, apparently, from what I can tell, who is quite a writer, a good writer, uses comments like, "I hope that the terrorists kill this guy," things like that.
What do you make of that stuff? Where does it come from?
J. EDWARDS: Well, it means a couple things. Number one, she's smart enough to know better. She knows exactly what she's doing. She's not alone. I mean, if you look at what she's doing and you look at what's happened in the past; for example, the Swift Boating of Senator Kerry, I mean, I think a lot of this is very coordinated, very calculated. They intend to create a result. And what they hope is that we won't say anything; we'll just let them continue this hateful dialogue, and we'll try and hope that the country will hear us talk about important things, issues that affect the lives of Americans every single day. But we have to fight back, Chris. We have to be strong. We have to speak up. That's what Elizabeth did yesterday. And I'm proud of her for it.
MATTHEWS: Elizabeth had one -- I think Elizabeth may have made one strategic error last night. That's assuming that she could get Ann Coulter to express shame.
J. EDWARDS: I don't think she has any shame. There's no doubt about that. And her response to any effort to raise the dialogue, to talk about things that people care about, is to attack in a mean, hateful, mean-spirited way. I think that's just the way she behaves. That's who she is. And I think that's a lot of what we see from these people who are just -- that are crazy. I mean...
J. EDWARDS: I mean, there's nothing remotely mainstream about them. And normal people are repelled by them.
MATTHEWS: Well, how do you explain that you see people with good educations walking around the streets of New York and Wall Street, people with big business jobs in equity firms -- hedge fund people -- all buying books by Ann Coulter? How do you explain the fact that even last night's fight involving your wife Elizabeth and Ann Coulter probably helped her sell some more books to these kind of guys?
J. EDWARDS: Because I think there is a segment of the population that responds to this sort of hateful craziness. It's always been true, Chris. It's been true my whole lifetime. When I was young, growing up in the South, people were very responsive to name-calling of African-Americans, prejudice and discrimination against African-Americans. And people would say the most outrageous, demeaning things about good human beings. And there would be a response.
And so there's always been hateful language, hate-mongering in this country. It's been true for as long as I've been alive and it's still true today. But that doesn't mean we have to tolerate it. We have to speak out about it. We have to stand up.
MATTHEWS: Can you dismiss this as hate speech and negativity and debasing of the political process and at the same time have your campaign use the comments made by Ann Coulter to raise money? It's clearly part of your Web site e-mail campaign solicitation effort now. Two e-mails have gone out now to raise money off of Ann Coulter's attacks on you and your family. Do you think you can do both, attack her and exploit her?
J. EDWARDS: Here's what I think. I think that we can say to America that we're not going to tolerate this kind of behavior, we're not going to tolerate this kind of hate language and we're going to stand up and we're going to fight. And if we ask Americans, other good Americans to join us in standing up and being strong, there's nothing wrong with that. And that's exactly what we're asking them to do. And I hope there'll be lots of people who will join us in standing up and doing the right thing.
MATTHEWS: Have you raised a great deal of money? There was a report today that you've had your best, most successful e-mail hitting back at Ann Coulter that you've (inaudible) so far?
J. EDWARDS: We are raising money. I don't know the numbers. I hope they go up. I hope we get more and more people who join us in this cause, because this is important.
MATTHEWS: Do you think people should buy Ann Coulter's books?
J. EDWARDS: No.
MATTHEWS: OK. We'll be right back. That's a good answer. John Edwards. We'll be right back with John Edwards, who's coming on tonight to follow up on that incident here last night involving Ann Coulter and her very strong words, many people believe over the line, against the Edwards family. We'll be right back with John Edwards.
MATTHEWS: We're back with Senator John Edwards talking about what happened last night involving Elizabeth Edwards and Ann Coulter. How's Elizabeth doing?
J. EDWARDS: She's actually doing real well, Chris, but thanks -- first of all, thank you for asking. She's...
MATTHEWS: Well, you know we love her, or I love her personally, because she's the greatest person in the world and she battles with you as to who's the best of the two of you. She is a piece of greatness, I think. But that's my opinion.
J. EDWARDS: Well, I'm a little biased. I share your view. But she's doing real well. She's on her treatment. It seems to be going well. We're staying on top of it and monitoring her. She's out on the campaign trail, working hard.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about how you explain this kind of -- it wouldn't be a tit for a tat -- this nastiness the other night, to your older daughter, your college-age or actually law school-age daughter, Kate. How do you explain these kinds of things that happen in politics?
J. EDWARDS: You know, I think the truth is, Chris, I don't need to explain it to Kate. I mean, because I think she's extraordinarily mature for her age. She understands that these sort of things go on in politics, that you have to -- if you care about what we're doing -- as to what we've always -- Elizabeth and I have always taught our children: If you care about what you're doing, if you want to make the lives of other people better, sometimes, if you're going to do it politically, which is what we've chosen to do...
J. EDWARDS: ... you're going to have to endure some attacks and be willing to stand up and fight back.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Have you heard from any of your colleagues? I mean, they're your colleagues, but they're also your rivals for the nomination. Has anybody stood up and said to you, "Don't let her get away with that," meaning Ann Coulter?
J. EDWARDS: No, but in fairness to them, I've been almost -- traveling almost nonstop since this happened yesterday. So I'm confident they will. I mean, as I said earlier in our discussion, the things that this woman has said about some of the others for the nomination are outrageous and have to be rejected.
MATTHEWS: Yes, what did you make of her attack on Hillary? She made fun of her build, her weight. She made fun of a couple of things. She made fun of Osama -- Osama, I'm sorry -- of Barack Obama's middle name, Hussein. What do you make of that, that sort of general invective you get from her now?
J. EDWARDS: Well, I think, first, as to Senator Clinton, this is demeaning and offensive to women at large. It's offensive to Senator Clinton, who's a terrific senator and a great leader in this country and a great role model for a lot of women. And for her to demean her that way is completely unacceptable. And Senator Obama -- I mean, here's an African-American man who's running for president of the United States who is in many ways a role model for a lot of young African-Americans in this country. And for her to make fun of -- first of all, it's something he has no control over, his name...
J. EDWARDS: And to make fun of and demean him in that way is just -- it's completely consistent with what we see from these crazies. And somebody has to speak out about it and stop it.
MATTHEWS: Yes. If we want everybody in the world whose name's Hussein to be our enemy, we are really stupid. Because there's millions of people with that name. Anyway, thank you. By the way, what's the reaction out on the road now? You've been campaigning, as you said. Are people rooting for you in this regard, are they mentioning it or what?
J. EDWARDS: Oh, yes. Yes. I've heard it a lot just since yesterday. People are very excited about the fact that we're standing up and speaking out about this hate-mongering. They want to see strength. They want to see us standing up and fighting back.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much. Senator John Edwards. Please come back. You're always welcome on "Hardball," as is the lovely Elizabeth. Thank you for joining us tonight.
J. EDWARDS: Thanks, Chris.