The John Edwards News Blackout

From a blog:

Robert (Bob) Wilson is a retired North Carolina journalist. For many years he was editorial page editor of the Durham Herald Sun when it was one of the Tar Heel State’s most respected newspapers. He speaks out today about the Raleigh News & Observer’s news blackout of the affair involving former Sen. John Edwards and his filmmaker friend Rielle Hunter. Edwards calls the N&O “my hometown newspaper.” – – – JinC

When is a news story not a news story? When The National Enquirer smokes out former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards’ double life.

It’s been a week and a half since a squad of Enquirer reporters nailed Edwards in Los Angeles. The paper reported that Edwards visited his alleged paramour, Rielle Hunter, and their child at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, describing the public aspects of the tryst in stunning detail.

Chapel Hill resident Edwards, who made his stash as a trial lawyer, knows truth is the only defense against libel; tellingly, he has not threatened to sue the Enquirer.

Edwards has three children by his wife Elizabeth. Although weakened by incurable cancer, she has until recently gamely accompanied him on political trips, often introducing him to audiences.

As a prominent public figure with national political ambitions, elected or appointed, Edwards was, and remains, fair game for the Enquirer. In a July 22 story ( "Sen. John Edwards Caught With Mistress and Love Child" ) the scrappy king of the supermarket tabs let him have both barrels on its Web site and in its print edition.

So why haven’t you read about Edwards’ picaresque adventure at the Beverly Hilton in The News & Observer, his hometown newspaper, or in such news hounds as The Washington Post and The New York Times?

Because the Enquirer don’t get no respect in the mainstream media, even though the tab has a record of accuracy that many a mainstream newspaper should envy.

The Enquirer often left the MSM coughing in its dust with the O.J. Simpson story a decade ago. Press critic Jack Shafer, who writes for the online journal Slate, is one of the few people with a national audience who defends the Enquirer, noting that it was preparing to reveal the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s love child several years ago when Jackson got wind of what was coming down and went public to soften the impact. It worked.

Meanwhile, the liberal-leaning MSM gave Jackson a pass.

Interesting thing about Slate. The Washington Post Co. owns it. Apparently, Shafer can write about Edwards, Rielle Hunter and their love child until the cows come home — but nary a word about Edwards’ escapade has sullied the Post. Presumably, it is above such trifles.

The Washington Post, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times (the latter forbids its staff bloggers from even mentioning the Edwards affair, much less writing about it) can do as they wish with this story, which is to blithely ignore the whole thing. No one can force them to acknowledge it.

However, it’s much harder for the N&O to justify non-coverage. The Old Reliable has been a worker bee in Edwards’ hive from the start of his political career, but if the paper is as fair and honest as Executive Editor John Drescher proclaims in his weekly column, his staff would be all over this story.

If nothing else, the N&O should be able to recognize as nationally significant a tragic-comic news story when it sees one. A hotel security guard interviewed by Fox News, one of the few domestic news organizations to acknowledge the story, described Edwards as fleeing in panic when confronted by Enquirer reporters at 2:40 in the morning as he was about to leave through a basement door.

The guard said an ashen Edwards scurried into a men’s room, where he held out for 15 minutes while the reporters yelled questions at him. Hotel security officers later gave the shaken Edwards safe passage out of the hotel.

This was news, real and unalloyed. Still, a newspaper that downplayed a gang-related brawl Saturday night that shut down Triangle Town Center, a major shopping venue in East Raleigh, isn’t likely to sling ink at a big political story, whether in Raleigh or in Beverly Hills, that doesn’t mesh with its institutional liberalism.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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