Left: John Edwards, photo from C-Span's Campaign Network.
I first wrote about the John Edwards extramarital affair and possible love-child back in December, when the National Enquirer initially broke the story.
What's interesting is that I got two rather snotty emails at the time, haughtily informing me that this is a non-issue and I should be ashamed of myself for covering it.* And now, this non-issue is all over CNN and the other news networks. The story has gone respectable, now deemed ready for prime time. Why was it a trashy story back when the National Enquirer first covered it, but it isn't now? Didn't they pursue the story and thus MAKE it an issue?
When is a story about a candidate's personal life important and/or necessary? Who decides what news is news, and when?
I find these questions confusing, but what I don't find confusing is the behavior of Senator Edwards when discovered in flagrante by National Enquirer reporters. FOX NEWS was virtually beside itself with glee, reporting on the incident on July 25th:
A Beverly Hills hotel security guard told FOXNews.com he intervened this week between a man he identified as former Sen. John Edwards and tabloid reporters who chased down the former presidential hopeful after what they're calling a rendezvous with his mistress and love child.
The Beverly Hilton Hotel guard said he encountered a shaken and ashen-faced Edwards — whom he did not immediately recognize — in a hotel men's room early Tuesday morning in a literal tug-of-war with reporters on the other side of the door.
"What are they saying about me?" the guard said Edwards asked.
"His face just went totally white," the guard said, when Edwards was told the reporters were shouting out questions about Edwards and Rielle Hunter, a woman the National Enquirer says is the mother of his child.
The guard said he escorted Edwards, who was not a registered guest at the hotel, out of the building after 2 a.m. Edwards did not say anything while he was escorted out, said the guard, adding that at times the reporters on the scene were "rough on him," sticking a camera in his face and shouting questions.
The guard did not recognize Edwards at the time of the incident, but said he concluded it was the 2008 presidential hopeful after hearing reports about the incident and finding an Enquirer reporter's notebook at the scene.
The guard said during the chase the reporters had dropped the notebook, which he picked up. "This book has everything in it on him," he said, referring to Edwards. The guard later confirmed Edwards' identity after being shown a photograph.
A former campaign staffer, speaking on condition of anonymity, told FOXNews.com he wishes he were "more surprised" to hear reports Edwards was visiting [Rielle] Hunter. "I'm definitely upset by it. I wish I was more surprised, though."
Edwards has gone from dashing, would-be Vice President Ashley Wilkes, to... Barney Fife, eyes bugging out like a Tex Avery cartoon (BOIIIIIIINNNNNGGGGGGG!!!!!), sprinting down a hotel hallway in a panic and barricading himself in a public toilet. From one unforgettable southern archetype to another!
In case you haven't heard the whole story, it just gets worse:
Enquirer Editor-in-Chief David Perel told FOXNews.com his reporters caught Edwards visiting [Rielle] Hunter and her baby at the hotel earlier Monday evening. Perel said Hunter and Edwards have been occasionally getting together so Edwards can see the baby. Hunter came to Beverly Hills with a male friend, Bob McGovern, said Perel. Hunter and her companion reportedly booked two rooms under McGovern's name, and McGovern picked up Edwards to bring him back to the hotel.He's finally admitted the affair, but still denies being the father of Rielle Hunter's baby. We'll see how far he gets with that one.
Perel said Enquirer staff had been given information about the planned Edwards-Hunter meeting, and the tabloid sent reporters to the hotel in anticipation of Edwards' arrival. According to the Enquirer, Edwards was first spotted being dropped off at the hotel at 9:45 p.m. PT, about 25 minutes after reporters watched McGovern leave the building in his BMW.
Edwards went to Hunter's room and the two left the hotel together and returned 45 minutes later, Perel said. Edwards reportedly entered her room and stayed there until after 2:30 a.m. PT.
FOXNews.com could not independently confirm the Enquirer's allegations. Perel also declined to identify where the Enquirer received the information about Edwards' alleged visits.
Perel told FOXNews.com that after leaving Hunter's room, Edwards took an elevator to the basement, where he was confronted by two Enquirer reporters. He ran into the bathroom, where he remained until the security guard arrived.
The Enquirer says it has videotape showing Hunter entering the room where she met Edwards, and shows Edwards leaving the same room. However, the Enquirer has thus far declined repeated requests by FOXNews.com to release any photographs or videotape evidence of the incident.
Meanwhile, not sure what I think about the whole fiasco, as a moral/political issue. I'm not sure it should be one.
*I think when my correspondents self-righteously announced that this is a "non-issue"--they were making an ethical judgment of how things SHOULD be. Not how they really are.