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Canada has been described lately by a conservative U.S. television host as "a stalker" and a "retarded cousin."

Another pundit recently asked if Canadians weren't getting "a little too big for their britches."

There's been a spate of Canada-bashing by right-wing media commentators in the United States ever since Prime Minister Paul Martin's complaints about lumber penalties and U.S. policy on climate change. His remarks prompted an unusual rebuke last week from the American ambassador.

The attacks on Canada have had web bloggers typing overtime and a non-profit group that's monitoring the trend, Media Matters for America, says it's disturbing.

Yet Paul Waldman, a senior fellow for the group, said Monday the criticism is confined to the usual faction that erupts whenever there's criticism of President George W. Bush's administration and it probably won't last past Canada's Jan. 23 election.

"There are always going to be occasions when it pops up. But Canada is never going to occupy an extraordinary amount of American thought," said Mr. Waldman.

"It's more like: 'Who can we beat on today?' It's never going to reach the heights of animosity toward France in the run-up to the Iraq war."

Last week, MSNBC host Tucker Carlson, a well-known conservative pundit, let loose with a string of anti-Canada rants.

"Anybody with any ambition at all, or intelligence, has left Canada and is now living in New York," he said.

"Canada is a sweet country. It is like your retarded cousin you see at Thanksgiving and sort of pat him on the head. You know, he's nice but you don't take him seriously. That's Canada."

Mr. Carlson also said it's pointless to tell Canada to stop criticizing the United States.

"It only eggs them on. Canada is essentially a stalker, stalking the United States, right? Canada has little pictures of us in its bedroom, right?"

"It's unrequited love between Canada and the United States. We, meanwhile, don't even know Canada's name. We pay no attention at all," he said.

The day before, Fox News host Neil Cavuto highlighted Mr. Martin's remark at a news conference that the United States is a "reticent nation" lacking a "global conscience" on climate change.

"So have the Canadians gotten a little too big for their britches?" Mr. Cavuto asked.

"Could our neighbours to the north soon be our enemies?"

Douglas MacKinnon, a press secretary to former Republican senator Bob Dole, also recently accused Canada of harbouring terrorists.

"Can Canada really be considered our friend any more?" he asked in a recent commentary in the right-wing Washington Times newspaper.

"What other question can be asked when the Canadian government not only willingly allows Islamic terrorists into their country but does nothing to stop them from entering our nation?"

U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins warned Mr. Martin last week to tone down anti-American jabs or risk hurting bilateral relations. But Mr. Martin was unrepentant, saying he would "not be dictated to" by the United States and his hard line appears to be resonating with some voters.

While the offensive from American pundits isn't widespread, it still has the potential to affect cross-border ties, said Mr. Waldman.

"On Capitol Hill, the TVs are turned to Fox News. This kind of media environment is what the White House pays attention to," he said.

"That hostility is probably shared by a lot of people in the administration."