John Edwards: Let the Games begin

I watched some of the opening festivities of the Olympics last night. Is LeBron James the captain of the American team? He’s the one who gets the most face time on NBC. And when did professional basketball become an Olympic sport anyway? Gee. I digress. And actually, the news about John Edwards and the great American sport that combines sex, lies and politics was much more fun to watch.

By now I’m sure most everyone knows the story. John Edwards admitted to having an affair with a woman who he met in 2006. Here’s from The Washington Post story, “Edwards Admits He Had An Affair.”

Former presidential candidate John Edwards admitted yesterday that he had an extramarital affair with a filmmaker working for his campaign and repeatedly lied about it, but he denied that he fathered her 5-month-old baby.

Edwards said that he is “ashamed” of his conduct and that “it is inadequate to say to the people who believed in me that I am sorry.” In the course of several campaigns, he said in a statement, “I started to believe that I was special and became increasingly egocentric and narcissistic. If you want to beat me up — feel free. You cannot beat me up more than I have already beaten up myself.”

It’s naive to think that powerful, wealthy and attractive men like John Edwards are not going to have opportunities for sexual relationships with women who they meet when away from home, in hotels, whatever. That doesn’t make it right. But it’s a fact. And I’m not sure that the majority of the American public really cares about marital infidelity. If they do, then there are a whole lot of hypocrites out there who set a higher standard for politicians and government officials they they do for others — including themselves. Let’s face it. Gennifer Flowers didn’t derail Bill Clinton’s journey to the White House.

But we don’t like being lied to. And that’s the rub now for both John — and Elizabeth — Edwards.

The National Enquirer first reported the story in October. (The Huffington Post says it first reported the story in September. Sorting that out would require some real reporting on my part. So let’s just continue.)

Edwards, of course, strongly denied at the time that he had an affair — and he did from his point of view the only honorable thing: he attacked the Enquirer.

According to The Washington Post article:

In October, Edwards, 55, dismissed an initial report in the National Enquirer that he had had an affair with Hunter, 44, as “lies” and “tabloid trash.” He said in the statement yesterday that he is willing to take a paternity test to establish that he is not the father of Hunter’s girl.

And in his statement yesterday admitting the affair, Edwards said:

When a supermarket tabloid told a version of the story, I used the fact that the story contained many falsities to deny it. But being 99% honest is no longer enough.

“A supermarket tabloid.” Oh, John give us a break. Liar. Liar. Pants on fire. Would it have been different if the report had first surfaced in The Washington Post? And for that matter, why didn’t it? Again from The Post article:

The Edwards admission comes amid growing criticism of major news organizations for not reporting the allegations, even as they were debated on Web sites from Slate to National Review, in the North Carolina press and on Fox News, and were joked about on late-night comedy shows.

“We feel our reporting and our investigation have been vindicated,” National Enquirer editor in chief David Perel said. “It took so long because Edwards was just so bold in lying about it.”

Lessons here?

First, as an elected official or someone campaigning for public office, if you are going to have a sexual relationship with someone other than your wife/husband, expect it to become public eventually. Then no point lying about it. That just makes it worse.

Second, I think the “old” media — The Post, The New York Times, etc. — showed a lot of restraint here, mostly because Edwards was so vehement in his denials. But I’m not so sure you can criticize The National Enquirer or any other media outlet for going with the story — when it is true.

Third, I’m not sure I agree with the charges of a liberal media bias in this case. Although the story of Larry Craig’s foot-tapping in an airport men’s room sure became national news in less time than it took this one. One reason? Maybe because of Elizabeth Edwards and her well-documented battle with cancer. Again, from The Post article:

Numerous journalists said privately that their appetite for the story was dulled by sympathy for Elizabeth Edwards. Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter said Elizabeth Edwards’s health is an obvious factor, adding: “To say the journalists should not consider that is reprehensible. Journalists can be human beings.”

And you have to feel sorry for Elizabeth Edwards and her family. Who would want to go through a situation like this? But — the fact is she lied as well. John told her about the affair — and she lied about it, allowing him to continue in the race for president. Read Lee Stranahan’s post on The Huffington Post, “Say It Ain’t So, Elizabeth — You Knew But Supported His Run For President?”

So we’ll see how this plays out if in fact Elizabeth Edwards is going to speak at the Democratic Convention.

In the meantime, it’s back to the Olympics. Maybe LeBron is in one of the swim relays.

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One response to “John Edwards: Let the Games begin

  1. Pingback: Mainstream media and beach volleyball « PR on the run

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