LOS ANGELES, Feb. 21 (AP) -- Foul-mouthed rapper Eminem drew fresh praise and scorn ahead of the music industry's big night, the Grammy Awards ceremony Wednesday.

Opponents who accuse him of homophobia and misogyny planned to demonstrate outside the Staples Center during the show.

But the rapper also had his supporters. Madonna, Stevie Wonder and Elton John, who was scheduled to perform with Eminem during the show, voiced renewed support.

"What is the big deal about Eminem? Since when is offensive language a reason for being unpopular? I find the language of George W. much more offensive," Madonna wrote in a letter to the Los Angeles Times on Sunday. Wonder said in a letter he didn't necessarily agree with Eminem but described him as "a valid artist."

And John again defended his role in promoting Eminem. "As a gay artist, I'm asked by a lot of people, 'But what about the content of Eminem's music?' I think there is far more humor on the album than people think. It appeals to my English black sense of humor," John said in a letter to the Times.

The strongest campaign against the 28-year-old Detroit rapper was organized by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, which planned a "Rally Against Hate" outside the Staples Center.

Eminem's lyrics, group members said at a public forum Tuesday, create a climate of violence and intolerance. GLAAD said Eminem's Grammy-nominated album "The Marshall Mathers LP," which has sold 10 million copies, contained 18 uses of the word "faggot." The lyrics boast about knifing homosexuals and shooting women.

"Why Elton John is performing with him is baffling. Gays and lesbians are particularly upset at this," GLAAD spokesman Scott Seomin said. Gay activist Robin Tyler told the meeting that John's decision to appear on stage with Eminem was "an insult to every lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender person and every woman who has suffered violence."

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