WASHINGTON -- Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards said yesterday that he was offended by the provocative messages two of his campaign bloggers wrote criticizing the Catholic Church, but he's not going to fire them.
Edwards issued a statement and answered questions about the fate of Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan, two days after the head of the conservative Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights demanded they be fired for messages they wrote before working on the campaign.
"I talked personally to the two women who were involved. They gave me their word they, under no circumstances, intended to denigrate any church or anybody's religion, and offered their apologies for anything that indicated otherwise. I took them at their word," Edwards told reporters during a campaign stop in Charleston, S.C.
An angry William Donohue, president of the Catholic League, which counts 350,000 members, criticized Edwards for not firing the two bloggers. Donohue also promised a nationwide public relations campaign in newspapers, magazines, and Catholic publications to tell voters what the candidate had reacted.
"When Mel Gibson got drunk and made anti-Semitic remarks, he paid a price for doing so. When Michael Richards got angry and made racist remarks, he paid a price for doing so. . . . But John Edwards thinks the same rules don't apply to him, which is why he has chosen to embrace foul-mouthed, anti-Catholic bigots on his payroll," Donohue said.
Edwards has never met the two bloggers, and his first conversation with them was when he called to discuss the uproar. He told reporters in South Carolina: "It will not happen again. That you can be sure of."
On Tuesday, Donohue called for Edwards to fire the bloggers, citing posts that the women made in the past several months in which they criticized the church's opposition to homosexuality, abortion, and contraception, sometimes using profanity.
"The tone and the sentiment of some of Amanda Marcotte's and Melissa McEwan's posts personally offended me," Edwards said in the statement. "Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that kind of intolerant language will not be permitted from anyone on my campaign, whether it's intended as satire, humor, or anything else."
The two were hired last week as part of Edwards's outreach to liberal voters and online activists.
Spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri said the campaign was aware that Marcotte and McEwan had written provocative postings on their personal sites. But the campaign had not read them all and had not seen the postings criticizing the church until Donohue put out a statement , Palmieri said.