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August 13, 2008

The Edwards Affair: The Law of the Tabloids

Edwards2 The National Enquirer has still more details of the John Edwards affair this week: Rielle was whisked away in a jet. The couple had met three times at the Beverly Hilton this year. "John Edwards is still lying," says an Enquirer source.

As the pieces of this sordid tale continue to fall together, it is worth taking another look at why the mainstream media has been unable to match the reporting precision of the National Enquirer. The reason boils down to this: tabloids pay. And they pay big.

Here’s what I’ve learned over the years about tabloid journalism: it is usually the principals involved who provide the crucial details, for money. That’s why the information is so often on the nose.

How does the News of the World manage to be there just when Michael Jackson or Elizabeth Taylor leaves their plastic surgery appointment? It’s not by chance. Usually the doctor tips them off. Sometimes they even have the celebrity’s agreement.

My guess is that there is a simple reason why the mainstream media is unable to confirm the Edwards-Hunter affair during these past weeks. Because very few people knew what had been going on. Edwards’ staff didn’t know. Elizabeth Edwards didn’t know. The group may have been as small as three: Edwards, Hunter and her pal Bob McGovern.

One of those, in my view (and not Edwards), sold the information.

To be clear: John Edwards acted like a fool. He shamed himself. He damaged his family. He showed appalling judgement. But watching him on ABC in his public display of self-pity and desperation, it seemed like something private came unraveled. It felt very much like a blackmail scheme gone awry – and everybody lost.

Imagine if Hunter was blackmailing Edwards for money -- or, for more money, since she was already being paid a monthly stipend. And if she were pressuring him by leaking information to the National Enquirer. And if she tipped off the Enquirer to the July meeting, including such details as the number of rooms rented, and who was in them.

My guess is that Edwards declined to meet her demands these last months, including at this last meeting. He told ABC the meeting ended without “resolution.” I’d guess that Hunter sold the photo from an earlier meeting at the Beverly Hilton to the National Enquirer. That would explain that fuzzy picture of Edwards holding a baby, which was not taken in July, when Edwards wore a button-down shirt. The editor of the Enquirer editor said on CNN last week that we “can presume” he paid for that photo. Who took it? Someone in the hotel room with Edwards, obviously.

Whose baby is it? I don’t know. Maybe Edwards is lying about paternity. The Enquirer insists the baby is his, with no evidence other than "sources." So maybe he isn’t. Either way, someone was able to produce enough evidence – the fuzzy photo - to allow the Enquirer to make its case. Who stood to gain from that?

Last week I spoke to a reporter for the Raleigh News & Observer who said he spent five days in Los Angeles trying to confirm any aspect of the Beverly Hilton story. He came up with nothing. Zero. Zilch.

Not because he wasn’t trying. Because without a checkbook, the Raleigh News & Observer was not going to be let into the world of Rielle Hunter.



The N&O sent the wrong reporter, because you can always get information without paying for it. I would never spend five days on a story without coming up with something. If you want to chase this story, how about getting DNA samples from Edwards and baby, and asking a laboratory if they match. You can get Edwards DNA from soda bottle he's been drinking from, or his hair after a haircut. The baby's throwaway diaper provides her DNA.
Then there is who is Andrew Young, what is he doing now, what his neighbors say, etc.
There is Rielle's sister, who has been briefly talkative to the MSM.
Those are just three things off the top of my head that wouldn't involve paying sources, and would provide stories that advance what we know so far. I think the real story here is that the MSM has written this off as tabloid sleeze, and isn't really interesting in chasing it any further.


Also, read Walter Shapiro's piece in Salon, and you will see that how the MSM covering Edwards were so coopted by his cynical charm offensive that they didn't believe the NE story when it first came out in October. At least Shapiro is honest enough now to admit his failings, but reporters really have to ask themselves why they and their wives are being invited to these intimate dinners with lawmakers. Would there be invitations if they weren't part of the MSM. Of course not. It's an old lesson. I remember a grizzled old Philadelphia Equirer editor once told a reporter caught up in a scandal cozying up to a politician: if you are going to cover the circus, you can't fuck with the elephants.

Michael Fitzgerald


Your suggestion about stealing DNA samples from Edwards and the baby would land you in jail. It's against the law to do it. Jail is not a great place to report on the Edwards scandal.

If the sources are being paid for information, they're probably also being paid to keep their mouths shut, or mostly shut, to those who aren't paying. Your bluster is better than your ideas.


What law? Not stealing if you pick the diaper from a garbage bin, or hair after it is cut and discarded.


Hunter's Choice - Is there Rielle Love?
by yuenck
08/14/2008, 7:27 PM #
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Allow me to raise a new angle: with all the stories swirling around, Rielle Hunter is now worth millions in books deals and tabloid interviews, even for playing herself in a movie; how long can she hold out? Would she remain in hiding waiting for Elizabeth Edwards to die so she could marry John, or would she make a break for it now?
I posted this in Slate Fray just now


NYT has a front-page involving the Fred Baron angle, showing that there are angles to get at Edwards, and that it's not over yet.


Edward: You write, "I think the real story here is that the MSM has written this off as tabloid sleeze, and isn't really interesting in chasing it any further." Later you point out that NYT has a front-page piece advancing the story. Nice when people debunk their own arguments. Saves everybody else the trouble.

Simon Scowl

"Later you point out that NYT has a front-page piece advancing the story."

...almost a month later.

CAPlastic Surgeon

It's amazing how long mainstream media takes to report on stories like this. Blogs and small websites have the real news long before anyone else does. And most of the time the major news networks don't credit the little guys when they take their stories and make them front page news.

Blepharoplasty Surgeon

i am still amaze how people get interested with other people life. their infidelities and who are those people who visited cosmetic surgery clinic.

cosmetic surgery philippines

That was a story long time ago, still existing. I don't get the point of other people why they keep bragging about others life.


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