REACHING PARIAH STATUS….By now, you’ve probably seen the clip of Matt Lauer interviewing Ann Coulter about her new book, which includes a scathing attack on widows who lost loved ones on 9/11. “These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by grief-arazzies,” Coulter wrote. “I have never seen people enjoying their husbands’ death so much.” Lauer pushed Coulter on the comments, but she stood by her book.

Coulter’s attack has generated quite a bit of attention, and last night, NBC Nightly News ended its program with a story about the controversy. Brian Williams told viewers:

“Tonight we’re going to go off the air with a report on civility in American life. The explosion in our media, our deafening national noise level, and our changing mores, have made this a much different era in America than the one our parents grew up in. And just when you think it seems like there are no limits on anything, someone comes a long and makes a comment that goes over the line, the line that is shared by just about everybody because some things, it turns out, are still sacred.”

I’m glad Williams was willing to say, on the air, that Coulter crossed some ambiguous standard of decency, but I’m not quite sure what took NBC so long. Coulter’s record of hatred isn’t new — but that hasn’t stopped the Today show from having this clown on nearly every other month since last fall. For that matter, how long until she’s invited back onto the network to spew her callous nonsense again?

In the broader context, I’ve always been curious what it takes for a conservative to reach genuine pariah status in the political world. Last fall, Bill O’Reilly suggested that it’d be fine with him if al Queda attacked a major American city. There were no apparent adverse consequences. In 2001, just 48 hours after 9/11, Jerry Falwell said liberal Americans were to blame for the attacks and said the nation “deserved” to be hit by terrorists. Five years later, he’s hanging out with John McCain as if he were a credible figure in Republican politics, which he unfortunately is. It’s easy to pull equally disturbing comments from Limbaugh, Robertson, Dobson, etc. Not one lost his status as a leading conservative voice.

Coulter is a best-selling pariah this week, but she’ll be back on the air soon enough. What would it take for a conservative to get permanently shunned by polite society? I have a hunch lashing out at 9/11 widows just isn’t enough these days.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.