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Posted by on Aug 21, 2008 in At TMV | 5 comments

Fornigate: Why The News Media Is So Much More Hypocritical Than John Edwards

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The post-post-mortems are rolling in on Fornigate as we learn more than we ever cared to know about Rielle Hunter, including how to correctly pronounce the trollop’s name and the revelation that her lawyer advised her to let John Edwards take a paternity test because he would marry her after his wife Elizabeth succumbed to cancer. Yes, it all makes you want to take a really long shower.

01aaaenquirer_rielle.jpgMost pundits are picking at crumbs at this point, I myself have drained the well of usable photographs of the lovebirds and pray that next week and the Democratic National Convention arrive on schedule so we can put this whole sordid affair out on the compost pile.

As it is, there has been unsurprisingly little written about Hunter and John Edwards that is smart, let alone insightful, and that includes the bulk of my own nattering. (Exception here, I think.)

I blame my own semi-fixation on the Dog Days of Summer and morbid fascination with celebrity gone bad after covering the O.J. Simpson double-murder saga from the discovery of the bodies through the criminal trial to the civil denouement, well over 500 bylines in all, including an interview with the plastic surgeon who augmented Nicole’s bazooms to meet The Juice’s specifications.

What’s Mickey Kaus‘s excuse?

Anyhow, in general the mainstream media has gotten the story wrong pretty much from the jump:

* It ignored it far too long, exhibiting a false modesty and lack of curiosity that it also afforded presidential wannabe adulterers like Rudy Giuliani and John McCain.

* When it finally did tip-toe through the dung heap and gingerly climbed on board, it took John Boy’s confession at face value, as opposed to the tissue of half truths and outright lies that it was.

* Most importantly, it ran the same broad brush over Edward’s legacy as it did his adultery.

Will Bunch addresses the first sin and Ezra Klein the last. (We’ll leave the second for some other time.)

Bunch, a former colleague who understands very well the crisis in which the mainstream media finds itself today — a brutal one-two punch of increasing irrelevance and deep staffing and resource cutbacks — unconvincingly gives the MSM a big, fat pass:

“So, if you believe that the media ‘covered up’ for John Edwards, then you also believe that major American news organizations should take reporters away from the campaign trail or pull them off stories about where the candidates stand on the gasoline crisis or Afghanistan so they can spend months — and that’s how long it takes — to definitively prove whether McCain was having sex with Vicki Iseman, or to look again into the discredited charges made against Obama, or — even though Hillary Clinton has dropped out of the race (I think) — prove that Bill is still having sexual relations with those women.

“If you think the media is covering up for Edwards but should not aggressively be probing these stories, including the sex life of John McCain, then you are being a hypocrite.”

Klein, on the other hand, scores a bulls-eye in noting that the affair has been (belatedly) covered not as a sad transgression, which it is, but as proof that Edwards was a phony to begin with:

“Proof of what the press corps suspected all along: That Edwards’ politics were not genuine. That he is a self-aggrandizing phony. It is, apparently, of a piece with his expensive haircut and garishly sprawling mansion. His ‘phoniness’ and his ‘love’ of money. How infidelity fits into the (confusing) claim that there’s something hypocritical, rather than admirable, about a rich politician attempting to raise taxes on himself and his class in order to better fund social services for the poor isn’t quite clear, but never mind that. There’s another truth on display here, one that has little to do with Rielle Hunter: The political establishment really, really hates John Edwards.”

And that the MSM sucks up to John McCain:

“That is because there’s no ache to tarnish McCain’s sainthood. No desire to construct a narrative incorporating the Keating Five and personal infidelity and dizzying ideological shifts keyed to political ambitions into some sort of incoherent whole that wrecks McCain’s reputation. With Edwards, by contrast, there is. In 2004, running as a cautious and quiet centrist, he was a darling of the establishment. But his populist reinvention enraged them. Unlike McCain’s transformation from an unpredictable renegade who almost joined the Democrats in 2002 to a doctrinaire conservative who out-Reaganed the competition in 2008, Edwards’ drift to the left cast immediate doubt on his basic integrity. From there, it was almost a competition to decisively prove his essential phoniness: His $400 haircut was somehow far more damning than McCain’s $500 loafers.”

Separating the personal from the political isn’t easy, as Klein notes and coverage of Fornigate has abundantly shown. But this isn’t rocket science and it can be done. To default to the view that if Edwards lied about keeping his pants zipped he would lie about reducing tax breaks to the rich is too easy — and simplistic.

I’ve got a horse in this election and it is Barack Obama. Still, I have been reluctant to join the many other left-of-center bloggers who have made a cottage industry out of crying foul over the uneven coverage that The Messiah and The Grouchy Old Guy are getting because it seems like so much sour grapes. And on a day-in, day-out basis is just plain boring. (Are you listening, John Amato? I didn’t think so.)

Thank dog that the start of the real presidential campaign is less than two weeks away. I not only have not shared the panic that many of my brothers and sisters feel over a race that seems to be thisclose, but believe that the big story in the coming weeks is the panic that will overtake conservatives as Obama’s massive ground operation shifts into a high gear, the effects of the huge disparity in available cash really starts showing, and the probability that a man bereft of new ideas, let alone solutions to old problems, will get creamed in the debates.

Ohmygawd! Obama’s really going to win this thing.

Will the hypocrisy that the MSM has displayed over Fornigate be in play, especially when the McCain camp gets desperate?

I rielle . . . er, really think it will. Which is akin to taking votes away from Obama. As well as accelerating big media’s crumbling credibility.

Photograph by Alex Decarvalho

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Copyright 2008 The Moderate Voice
  • That comment from Klein really ticks me off.

    Infidelity is proof of a disgenuine politics? Why? If I have trouble with my marriage does that mean I care any less about the poor? What twisted reasoning is she using to reach that conclusion?

    Just because you don’t like things Edwards has done, doesn’t mean his political aspirations are any less genuine.

    And yes, Edwards is rich now, but that’s because he worked hard to get there. He became a lawyer, taking the showiest medical cases that would earn lots of cash. The most honorable thing to do? Debateable. Self-made? Most certainly. I mean good grief, he was the first in his family to graduate college, and now 30 years later he’s being decried as one the rich as if he’s always been that way?

    Give me a break.

  • superdestroyer

    I think you underestimate the effects media sites like Drudge has had. If news appears on Drudge or the National Enquirer first, that gives the MSM a good reason to not report it. Also, since the news divisions are now meant to push product it is easy to see how the media refuses to cover stories. Look at how ESPN (part of Time-Warner) seems to have one reporter at the Olympics and is only covering michael Phelps and men’s basketball.

  • DLS

    Klein is right. Edwards has been a phony to begin with. Americans should never have trusted him, and smarter Americans never did.

  • I don’t think you guy understand the full context of Klein’s post. Read the whole thing – it’s a good one – and you’ll see that his message was the opposite of what you think.

  • DLS

    Oh, I scoff at the notion that the Establishment hated Edwards, and of course the media has been campaigning on behalf of Obama, not McCain. The main point about Edwards is that he was and is phony. Plenty of us were never fooled by him.

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