Let’s talk about the John Edwards “affair” rumor

Longtime readers know how I feel about John Edwards aka His Royal Phoniness.  Even at that, though, I haven’t blogged anything about the latest affair rumors surrounding him for a few reasons, the top three being:

  1. I want to know as little about John Edwards’ sex life as humanly possible;
  2. So far, it’s been a completely unsubstantiated rumor (no photos, video, reliable confirmations from credible sources);
  3. Because I hope like hell it’s not true.  His wife is dying from cancer, and does not deserve to go through this.

But the rumor persists – in fact, it’s been floating around since last September, when liberal blogger Sam Stein first posted questions  over at the HuffPo blog about the secrecy surrounding the short video documentaries Hunter helped produce for Edwards.  The questionable Enquirer tabloid rag first wrote about it in their usual “anonymous sources” fashion a month later, and flat out accused Edwards of having an affair with Hunter.  Edwards denied it at the time.   Yet the rumor has surfaced again because the Enquirer supposedly has “new details” of a “recent encounter.”  Here’s the latest:

Vice Presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards was caught visiting his mistress and secret love child at 2:40 this morning in a Los Angeles hotel by the NATIONAL ENQUIRER.

The married ex-senator from North Carolina – whose wife Elizabeth continues to battle cancer — met with his mistress, blonde divorcée Rielle Hunter, at the Beverly Hilton on Monday night, July 21 – and the NATIONAL ENQUIRER was there! He didn’t leave until early the next morning.

Rielle had driven to Los Angeles from Santa Barbara with a male friend for the rendezvous with Edwards. The former senator attended a press event Monday afternoon with L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on the topic of how to combat homelessness.

But a months-long NATIONAL ENQUIRER investigation had yielded information that Rielle and Edwards, 54, had arranged to secretly meet afterward and for the ex-senator to spend some time with both his mistress and the love child who he refuses to publicly acknowledge as his own.

Here was Edwards’ response when asked about the rumor earlier today:


Reporter: How do you feel the situation in los angeles on Monday would affect any future in politics in this administration-a potential Obama administration?


Edwards: I don’t know…none.  I don’t.


Reporter: None?


Edwards: None.


Reporter: The national enquirer story?


Edwards: I don’t talk about these tabloids.  They’re tabloid trash and just full of lies.  I am here to talk about helping people.

As I noted in the opening of my post, there’s no reason at this point to believe the story is true, because no reliable evidence has been revealed about the alleged “affair.”  However, there’s a side issue here worth exploring, which Slate’s editor at large Jack Shafer wrote about today:

But if Edwards had an affair and lied about it, shouldn’t he suffer scrutiny akin to that of [disgraced Senator Larry] Craig? At least three-dozen daily newspapers in the United States published the Craig news the day after the Roll Call scoop, according to Nexis, but this morning not a single U.S. daily mentioned the Enquirer piece.

Now, as I’ve already said, the two stories aren’t completely analogous. A cop charged Craig with a misdemeanor, and he pleaded guilty. There’s no denying the police blotter is always news, and there’s no denying that Craig deserved the hypocrisy scrutiny. Edwards, as far as we know, is guilty of nothing beyond running away from tabloid reporters in a Beverly Hills hotel stairway in the wee a.m. after visiting a female friend in her room. Also, all of the Enquirer‘s published “evidence” of an Edwards affair comes from unnamed sources. And I should mention that an Edwards political operative, Andrew Young, claims that he is the father of Hunter’s child. (Young is married with children of his own.)

Yet, if the press craves consistency, it owes its readers some sort of assessment of Edwards. Is he, like Craig, a public hypocrite? Edwards is still very much a public figure. As Drudge notes today on his site, as recently as June the Associated Press reported that he was a vice presidential short-lister.

If Edwards had no affair and fathered no love child, it should be easy to erase the hypocrisy charge, and the press owes him that, pronto. If we give Edwards the benefit of the doubt, which he deserves, visiting the woman who recently gave birth to the out-of-wedlock child of a married campaign aide is completely OK. But meeting her at a Beverly Hills hotel in the early hours of the morning and running from tabloid reporters when approached and hiding in a hotel bathroom for 15 minutes, as the Enquirer reports Edwards did, is not completely OK. Not if he wants to avoid the hypocrite label.

So why hasn’t the press commented on the story yet? Is it because it broke too late yesterday afternoon, and news organizations want to investigate it for themselves before writing about it? Or are they observing a double standard that says homo-hypocrisy is indefensible but that hetero-hypocrisy deserves an automatic bye?

What do you think? Should the mainstream media give this story the attention it hasn’t given it, or should it stay confined to the pages of the Enquirer until/if actual evidence surfaces proving the story to be accurate?  Do you think they’d hold off if this rumor was about a Republican?  The NYT tried the sleazy innuendo angle a few months ago with McCain, and it didn’t work, because there was no “there” there to the story, but at least in there were prominent people willing to go on record to share their thoughts, and it was a fact that McCain and Vicki Iseman did know each other for a long period of time.  In this case, though, there’s no one on record willing to talk about Edwards relationship with Hunter, and there is no actual evidence of wrongdoing.

Your thoughts?

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