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John Edwards, The National Enquirer, And The Mainstream Press


(UPDATE 8/8: A new post discusses all the below in light of John Edwards’ confession.)

The National Enquirer comes up with what appears to be some evidence for their previous allegations on John Edwards’ infidelities.

(Caveats apply. I haven’t done any reporting on this, but it certainly seems like they’ve found circumstantial evidence that at least passes muster with what I’ll call the Miami Herald standard for publication.)

Big blogs are quick to note, rightly, on how the big guns of the mainstream press have thus far steered completely clear of said story. But when it comes to tracking politicians’ peccadilloes mainstream media behavior has reliably been a bit schizophrenic. Even in this info-glutted era.

Here’s why this story didn’t get a whole lot of coverage in the bigger mainstream outlets, despite the agitation of certain prominent blogs:

1. Edwards never broke the Presidential plausibility threshold. He never looked like he might be nominated, especially once he lost the Iowa primary.

2. Edwards exited the race. Just before Gary Hart pulled out off the ’88 race based in part on, er, a story and photos that ran in the National Enquirer, the Washington Post was readying another story about Hart’s complicated love life. When he stopped his campaign, that story did not get published. As then-Post Executive Editor Ben Bradlee said in Richard Ben Cramer's majestic, barbell-like account of the 1988 campaign What it Takes: "I don't see any reason why we should [publish] . . . "The chase is over." (This, interestingly, somewhat contradicts what he told the Times in the previously linked story. And, to circle back to point #1, when Hart unsuccessfully re-entered the race he didn’t pass the plausibility threshold, netting just 4% of the vote in New Hampshire.)

3. Edwards isn’t considered a likely vice-presidential candidate by the press, despite appearing on some lists of potential candidates. He's not in any elected position, nor is he running for one.

4. Edwards has a sick wife, who many seem to instinctively like. (And much more than her husband, in fact.)

5. Most importantly, there was nothing resembling the smoking gun that's emerged in other scandals. With Hart, there were pictures and a stakeout of where he met with Donna Rice. While arguably neither was enough to draw specific conclusions, both were enough to raise eyebrows. Bill Clinton got exposed (repeatedly) as front-runner and President, but in all of the instances that got covered in the mainstream press—Kathleen Willey, Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky, and Gennifer Flowers—there was some kind of, ah, evidence, or tapes, or an involved party going on the record.

No such thing exists for Edwards. And one big major mainstream outlet’s already gotten raked over the coals for running allegations about John McCain based on secondhand sourcing.

It will be interesting to see if this breaks out of the blogs and into the mainstream press.

I’m betting it won’t. But then Mr. Genius here was betting that Edwards would win the Iowa primary, so, you know, grain-of-salt time.


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