August 09, 2008
The slo-mo outing of John Edwards
Posted by: Chris
The story of John Edwards' adulterous affair finally broke through the mainstream media barrier yesterday, after being almost completely ignored by every outlet except by the National Enquirer, which broke the story almost a year ago, and conservative media like Fox News and the National Review.
To hear the complaints from the right, the MSM refused coverage because Edwards is a Democrat, a ludicrous assertion when you consider the saturation coverage Bill Clinton received not just as president but as a candidate for the office. In fact, the only media actually motivated by Edwards' politics were the likes of Fox and National Review, who no doubt would have ignored the story if a Republican presidential candidate was the focus.
More directly on point, the MSM has almost completely ignored the juicy details concerning the way GOP nominee John McCain dumped his first wife, who underwent a debilitating car accident during his four years of captivity, when the lovely (and mega-wealthy) Cindy Henley came into the picture.
Slate was one of the few outlets not from the right to touch the Edwards story before yesterday, speculating that the reason for the kid glove treatment wasn't Edwards' partisan affiliation but his sexual orientation. Comparing Edwards' late-night shenanigans outside the Beverly Hilton a few weeks ago to Larry Craig's notorious foot-tapping in the Minneapolis airport stall, the differing treatment could mean only one thing:
So why hasn't the press commented on the [Edwards at the Hilton] story yet? Is it because … 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? That's my sense.
I'm inclined to disagree, especially with the idea that the Enquirer was doing the job the MSM should have by staking out the Beverly Hilton at 3 a.m. For one thing, the MSM refused to cover the Larry Craig story when it was at the same, speculative stage. Even though Mike Rogers and other outing activists had publicly accused Craig of being a closeted hypocrite, all but Craig's hometown paper refused to touch the story.
It was the right call on both Craig and Edwards because tracking down rumors of hypocrisy concerning public figures should not reduce reporters to late-night stakeouts of hotel lobbies or restroom stalls. Even hypocritical public figures are entitled to some zone of privacy to live their lives. The official can certainly be asked about the rumors, but once denied there's no story absent public evidence to back it up.
In Craig's case, it was his arrest and guilty plea; in Edwards' it was his own admission. Keep in mind that Edwards spilled his guts not because of tabloid coverage, as he claimed, but because the MSM was closing in on the story, including payments apparently made by to Rielle Hunter and Andrew Young, the putative father of her "love child," by the Edwards campaign finance chair.
So as satisfying as it might be to use the example of Edwards to bemoan the MSM's reluctance to do its job, it's actually an example (like Craig) of the system working pretty much the way it should.
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