WASHINGTON Outspoken U.S. conservative columnist Ann Coulter is drawing fire from Republicans and Democrats alike after publicly using a derogatory gay slur in reference to Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards.
"Ann Coulter not only once again went out of her way to use a nasty epithet, she pushed her offensiveness up a notch," Amy Ridenour, president of the National Center for Public Policy Research, said on Sunday.
Coulter made the comments on Friday during a speech at the influential American Conservative Union's Political Action Conference, calling Edwards a "faggot."
"We conservatives have enough trouble overcoming the false things that are said about us without paying for a platform upon which we shoot ourselves annually in the foot," Ridenour, whose group helped sponsor the conference, said in a statement on the center's Web site.
Coulter said the comment was a joke and on her Web site she carried the speech with the comment, "I'm so ashamed, I can't stop laughing." She then said Edwards' campaign chairman's main job was "fronting for Arab terrorists."
Edwards, a 2008 presidential contender and the party's 2004 vice presidential candidate, said Coulter's comments were "un-American and indefensible."
"The kind of hateful language she used has no place in political debate or our society at large," he wrote in comments posted to his Web site on Saturday.
"I believe it is our moral responsibility to speak out against that kind of bigotry and prejudice every time we encounter it," Edwards added.
The candidate also posted a video of Coulter's comments, asking supporters to raise $100,000 in so-called "Coulter Cash" for his campaign to "fight back against the politics of bigotry."
Coulter's Friday speech raised objections from Republican presidential hopefuls Sen. John McCain of Arizona, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani as well as Democrats.
In a statement on Sunday, Romney spokesman Kevin Madden said, "It was an offensive remark. Political discourse ought to be more substantive and thoughtful." McCain, the only contender who did not attend the event, and Giuliani called Coulter's words inappropriate, according to the New York Times.
"Ann Coulter's words of hate have no place in the public sphere much less our political discourse," Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts said in a statement released on Saturday.
Several conservatives were also quick to denounce Coulter's comments in a variety of online columns.
Coulter is no stranger to controversy.
At the same conference last year, she used the word "raghead" -- a slur against Muslims -- in referring to U.S. homeland security policies. In a column published in the National Review after the September 11 attacks she urged an invasion of Muslim countries and forced conversion to Christianity.