Wednesday, July 30, 2008

N. C. Editor Decries Raleigh N&O’s Edwards Affair Blackout

Robert (Bob) Wilson is a retired North Carolina journalist. For many years he was editorial page editor of the Durham Herald Sun when it was one of the Tar Heel State’s most respected newspapers. He speaks out today about the Raleigh News & Observer’s news blackout of the affair involving former Sen. John Edwards and his filmmaker friend Rielle Hunter. Edwards calls the N&O “my hometown newspaper.” - - - JinC

When is a news story not a news story? When The National Enquirer smokes out former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards' double life.

It's been a week and a half since a squad of Enquirer reporters nailed Edwards in Los Angeles. The paper reported that Edwards visited his alleged paramour, Rielle Hunter, and their child at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, describing the public aspects of the tryst in stunning detail.

Chapel Hill resident Edwards, who made his stash as a trial lawyer, knows truth is the only defense against libel; tellingly, he has not threatened to sue the Enquirer.

Edwards has three children by his wife Elizabeth. Although weakened by incurable cancer, she has until recently gamely accompanied him on political trips, often introducing him to audiences.

As a prominent public figure with national political ambitions, elected or appointed, Edwards was, and remains, fair game for the Enquirer. In a July 22 story ( "Sen. John Edwards Caught With Mistress and Love Child" ) the scrappy king of the supermarket tabs let him have both barrels on its Web site and in its print edition.

So why haven't you read about Edwards' picaresque adventure at the Beverly Hilton in The News & Observer, his hometown newspaper, or in such news hounds as The Washington Post and The New York Times?

Because the Enquirer don't get no respect in the mainstream media, even though the tab has a record of accuracy that many a mainstream newspaper should envy.

The Enquirer often left the MSM coughing in its dust with the O.J. Simpson story a decade ago. Press critic Jack Shafer, who writes for the online journal Slate, is one of the few people with a national audience who defends the Enquirer, noting that it was preparing to reveal the Rev. Jesse Jackson's love child several years ago when Jackson got wind of what was coming down and went public to soften the impact. It worked.

Meanwhile, the liberal-leaning MSM gave Jackson a pass.

Interesting thing about Slate. The Washington Post Co. owns it. Apparently, Shafer can write about Edwards, Rielle Hunter and their love child until the cows come home -- but nary a word about Edwards' escapade has sullied the Post. Presumably, it is above such trifles.

The Washington Post, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times (the latter forbids its staff bloggers from even mentioning the Edwards affair, much less writing about it) can do as they wish with this story, which is to blithely ignore the whole thing. No one can force them to acknowledge it.

However, it's much harder for the N&O to justify non-coverage. The Old Reliable has been a worker bee in Edwards' hive from the start of his political career, but if the paper is as fair and honest as Executive Editor John Drescher proclaims in his weekly column, his staff would be all over this story.

If nothing else, the N&O should be able to recognize as nationally significant a tragic-comic news story when it sees one. A hotel security guard interviewed by Fox News, one of the few domestic news organizations to acknowledge the story, described Edwards as fleeing in panic when confronted by Enquirer reporters at 2:40 in the morning as he was about to leave through a basement door.

The guard said an ashen Edwards scurried into a men's room, where he held out for 15 minutes while the reporters yelled questions at him. Hotel security officers later gave the shaken Edwards safe passage out of the hotel.

This was news, real and unalloyed. Still, a newspaper that downplayed a gang-related brawl Saturday night that shut down Triangle Town Center, a major shopping venue in East Raleigh, isn't likely to sling ink at a big political story, whether in Raleigh or in Beverly Hills, that doesn't mesh with its institutional liberalism.

If the mainstream media don't bestow their self-defined legitimacy on a story, it isn't news. The New York Times boasts, "All the news that fit to print." Except of course, when a supermarket tab breaks the story about a national figure who just happens to belong to a protected class: leftist Democratic politicians.

Ah, Johnny Reid Edwards, the Two Americas hardly know ye! But the one that goes to “new media” sources for its news is starting to learn about you, one tryst at a time.


Anonymous said...


Did Bob Wilson write this?

I love him.

McClatchy Watch said...

Ditto to what anonymous asked.

Kevin Gregory
McClatchy Watch

JWM said...

To Anon @ 12:42 and Kevin,

Yes, Bob Wilson wrote it.

And isn't it great!

BTW - Kevin _ McW is a great blog.

Thank you both for commenting.


Anonymous said...

Is this Bob Wilson article published anywhere in the MSM?

Hope said...

Right on, Bob.

I happen to be a liberal democrat, but -- if this is true -- it is most certainly news, and should make the front page of every major newspaper. I can only hope that other news outlets are doing their own digging to independently verify the facts and that they're, um, well, alarmingly slow on this one.


Anonymous said...

Hooray. I seem to recall it was a supermarket tabloid that bared Sen. Gary Hart's affair on board the boat Monkey Business. Looks like this one is accurate, too. Just because it is a supermarket tabloid doesn't make the Enquirer exempt from libel laws, and Edwards claims to be one of North Carolina's leading lawyers. So there it is being served on a plate for the N&O to get, and they won't touch it. EEWWW, it appeared first in a supermarket tabloid. Why? He's a leading politician, mentioned from time to time as potential vice presidental material. He's newsworthy, and God knows, he's been long rumored to have had many female friends, and there seems to be a child involved here in need of support. I think the N&O needs to get off its fat a** and give readers news of North Carolina leaders, warts and all.

Anonymous said...

Somebody buy Bob a beer and tell him "Thanks."

joan foster said...

Outstanding post! Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Bob Wilson could write the definitive book on the North Carolina press role in the criminal frame by Nifong and others of the lacrosse players. The News & Observer's coverage in late March 2006 arguably was a major factor in drawing the rest of the press into the frame. The Blythe-Khanna story was influential, as was the incendiary column in the N&O. Publication by the N&O of the poster of the innocent lacrosse players also was shameful. Someone needs to examine in-depth the role of the N&O and the rest of the press in the now legendary case. Bob Wilson would be an excellent choice. He probably could get research help from some followers of the John in Carolina and Liestoppers blogs.

Anonymous said...

How do we know the N&O and other MSM aren't working on the Edwards story? Just because they haven't published something doesn't mean they won't. They have different -- and higher, I presume -- standards than the NE on sourcing and the like. Personally, I think bloggers ought to start getting to the bottom of this by calling the LA Police Department, calling Edwards, etc.

Rockroller said...

I wonder if Edwards used the old 'my wife has cancer and can't have sex' line to get that woman into bed?
That used to work for me; a lot of women who would never have touched me hopped into bed out of sympathy, and I never even had a wife, I made it all up.

Anonymous said...


If you did that, please keep it to yourself.

If you recall, both the Edwards used her cancer as a press conference. Millions of people have cancer right now and I wish all of them recovery and good health.

Elizabeth Edwards doesn't deserve a pass on everything because she happens to be one of those millions. Just look how much easier it is to fight the disease if you have her kind of money pocketed from suing doctors.

I found Elizabeth Edwards revolting the way she was allowed to say nasty things to Ann Coulter on Chris Matthews show and Matthews then cut off Coulter from a fair response.

The press has always given special treatment to Elizabeth Edwards because she acts like what Teresa Kerry called an "earth mother".

Even the special treatment couldn't help John Edwards because both of them are lousy and phony.

You don't think she knows he has mistresses on the side? Someone who was a vital part of his former campaigns?

This is like Bill and Hillary Clinton all over again.

It galls me that Edwards is allowed to have a "poverty program" set up at the UNC-CH law school just like it galls me for that blatant racist Julius Chambers to have a "civil rights' program set up there to create a "make work" job for him.

Read the Bowen-Chambers report. Julius Chambers is a bitter racist who helped in the frame of the lacrosse players.

I feel like calling that school and protesting both of these bums from benefiting like this when they are not what they pretend.

Anonymous said...

The fact that Edwards name has suddenly disappeared in the list of possible vp candidates speaks, I think, volumes, in what is quickly becoming the biggest story that is too hot to handle for the msm. Edwards seems to be hoping (above all hope) that the story will go away - that if he refuses to answer any reporters' questions that they will skip on to another topic (his beloved two Americas).
I do find it interesting that the N&O is reporting that Edwards is abolishing the scholarship that he set up for an eastern Carolina high school. Perhaps he needs those funds for the educaion of his love child?

Anonymous said...

Looks like the N&O has finally touched this story as of 7/31. Well, sort of anyway.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Wilson barks up the wrong tree. Why isn't he asking his own paper, the Herald-Sun, to chase this story?

At least the N&O investigated Jim Black and Meg Scott Phipps. What has the Herald-Sun done for us lately?

Anonymous said...

I was on the phone with the N&O much of yesterday afternoon.

Rob Christensen said that they are not avoiding the Edwards story. He said that since this involves sex they have to have all the "i's" dotted and the "t's" crossed.

I had a long conversation with Orage Quarles and he said that they have been on this story for TWO YEARS!

He strongly assured me that they aren't avoiding the story. He said that they can't follow the lead of The National Enquirer.

And he mentioned that even they haven't come forth with photos and unimpeachable evidence.

He emphasized that the N&O won't hesitate to print a story when they get proof of these allegations.

I told him not to pull a "Duke lacrosse" on me.


Anonymous said...

What a bunch of crap this whole story is--I think Bigfoot was in the next room, why don't you track him down and interview him?

Aarne said...

Bob --
You are still tilting at windmills, I see. Contact me if you want. My last name