When the Department of Justice announced on Wednesday that it would drop all charges against John Edwards, it effectively closed the legal book on the former presidential candidate. But make no mistake, the Edwards affair is a slam-dunk indictment of the mainstream media's biases, double standards, and incompetence.
When the mainstream media looks at Edwards, they will see a disgraced former Democratic North Carolina senator and two-time presidential candidate who was acquitted on one charge of violating campaign finance laws (the jury could not reach a verdict on the other charges). They may also see a despicable human being who cheated on his late cancer-stricken wife, fathering a love child with his campaign videographer-turned-mistress and planning their wedding while his wife was in the last stages of her life.
What the mainstream media should see in Edwards, though, is their own failure -- once again -- to properly vet liberal candidates, even when the damning evidence was literally right under their noses, which makes their failure as spectacular a failure as Edwards' downfall was.
Second, the Edwards case also offers the media lessons about dismissing good journalism that does not come from writers outside the "mainstream" -- whether bloggers or those who may not normally cover politics. Most recently, when the Boston Herald investigated the “Native American” heritage of Democrat Elizabeth Warren, it was dismissed by mainstream outlets as “tabloid” fodder and did not critically examine the veracity of her claims.
When Breitbart News followed up with stories debunking Warren’s claims and revealing all of her inconsistencies, mainstream media outlets could not bring themselves to even cite Breitbart News’ original reporting.
And when now-disgraced ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner told the mainstream media that his Twitter account was hacked when it sent a raunchy photo to a female Twitter user, most of the mainstream media believed him and accused Breitbart News of fabricating its breaking news stories. The late Andrew Breitbart and Breitbart News were vindicated when Weiner confessed that his Twitter account was not hacked (Weiner later apologized to Breitbart) -- and resigned from Congress. This would not have happened without Breitbart doing what mainstream media organizations are purportedly in the business of doing -- reporting and finding the truth.
But like with the Edwards case, Weiner and Warren are Democrats, and the revelations about them came from non-mainstream sources. As a result, their initial denials were taken as fact by a mainstream media that continues to believe -- as their institutions are going out of business -- that only Republicans are worth vetting and only information that comes from “mainstream media approved” (read: liberal) outlets is considered valid.
On October 22, 2007, the National Enquirer reported that Edwards had an affair while his wife, Elizabeth, who has since passed away, was battling cancer. The Enquirer withheld Rielle Hunter’s name in its initial report, but as the Enquirer later noted, immediately after its report, “several political bloggers correctly identified ‘the other woman’ as Rielle, a self-described filmmaker whose company was hired by a pro-Edwards group called One America Committee and paid $114,000 to produce videos for Edwards' campaign.”
Mainstream media reporters asked Edwards if the Enquirer's accusations were true and Edwards emphatically dismissed them. For the mainstream media, that answer was sufficient for the duration of the campaign, even after the Enquirer got another scoop a month later.
“The ENQUIRER has learned exclusively that Rielle Hunter, a woman linked to Edwards in a cheating scandal earlier this year, is more than six months pregnant — and she's told a close confidante that Edwards is the father of her baby!,” the tabloid wrote.
Also in that report was the curious fact that the Enquirer reporter had confronted Hunter in North Carolina and asked her about her pregnancy on December 12, 2007. And the day after, the attorney of Edwards confidant, Andrew Young, claimed that Young was the father of Hunter’s baby -- a claim now proven false by paternity tests.
But Edwards’ previous denial was enough for the scandal-loving mainstream media, and no news outlets followed up on the report that was published weeks before the 2008 presidential primaries were to begin in Iowa.
And in July of 2008, after Obama locked up the Democratic nomination, the Enquirer scooped all the mainstream media organizations by reporting that “‘hush money’ was being paid to Edwards’ mistress and Andrew Young, Edwards' married aide who helped cover up the affair.” The Enquirer then published photos of Edwards holding his love child in a Los Angeles hotel and, after confronting Edwards at one point, had the Senator running into and locking himself in a hotel bathroom. After these photos were published, Edwards, right as the 2008 summer Olympics were starting, gave an interview to ABC News in which he denied that the love child was his.
When the Enquirer was proven correct time and time again without any acknowledgement, non-traditional journalist Emily Miller, who has since herself won the prestigious Mollenhoff Award for investigative reporting on Washington D.C.‘s restrictive gun laws, wrote a column stating, “the time has come for the media elite to admit that” the Enquirer “has an excellent investigative reporting team, which broke the biggest political scandal of 2009, the John Edwards affair,” which is deserving of the Pulitzer Prize.
Miller’s lone column started a firestorm of support for the Enquirer, and the Pulitzer Prize Committee then tried to preemptively disqualify the Enquirer from consideration for not being a newspaper even though it had awarded a Pulitzer, in the past, to the New York Times Magazine. Eventually, the Pulitzer Prize Committee allowed the Enquirer to be eligible for consideration of journalism’s highest honor.
Of course, the Pulitzer Prize did not go to the Enquirer, even though mainstream organizations like The New York Times won in the past for their reporting on the Eliot Spitzer scandal, which paled in comparison to Edwards’ scandal, and organizations that fell down on the job reporting on Edwards received Pulitzers.
In Miller’s maiden column in what turned out to be a campaign for the National Enquirer to get the Pulitzer Prize, she asked “couple of nagging questions” that continue to be relevant today:
Would the reporters ‘on the bus’ have pressed the staff for what they really knew of the rumored affair if the reporting had come from a mainstream media outlet? Even more troubling: Would a leading Republican presidential candidate have similarly escaped the media's scrutiny?
The media's failure to vet Edwards would be a harbinger of 2008's general election, when the mainstream media failed to properly vet or be curious about nearly everything in Obama's past that would damage his brand and image. But in the 2012 election, the mainstream media vetted Republican primary candidates like Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich with a ferocity that should have been reserved for the likes of Edwards and Obama in 2008.
The National Enquirer did all of the legwork and gave reporters covering Edwards a road map they could have easily followed. But the smugness of journalists who see themselves as part of an exclusive club prevented them from even looking -- let along going down -- the road map the Enquirer gave them.
And even after Edwards, Weiner, and Warren have put egg on their faces, members of the mainstream press continue to coddle liberals and dismiss the factual reporting from outlets not considered a part of their oh-so-esteemed club. It's a surefire strategy to toss themselves into the dustbin of history.