The Silence of the Lambs

Someone has to say it.

Unless a fraud of the magnitude we’ve learned to expect from the New York Times or CBS News has been perpetrated on the public, John Edwards was caught visiting his mistress (lover, paramour, concubine, courtesan, kept woman, lady friend, squeeze, strange, etc.) in Beverly Hills hotel.

A mistress who may or may not have given birth to his child, but certainly a mistress who has received money from John Edwards to produce a documentary. A job for which there is nothing in her background that indicates she is qualified to do.

A mistress who has been the subject of oblique reporting for well over a year.

While creating a second family, presumably to populate one or the other of the Two Americas he sees, he seems to have forgotten that the current family he has might need him. At least as much as any family really needs an adulterer.

And to date no mainstream paper has seen fit to cover the story beyond reporting on the fact that the ::gasp National Enquirer has reported this and ::gasp right wing blogs, like PuffHo (not a typo) and Wonkette, are talking about it.

It isn’t like papers have generally shunned this type of reporting. In fact, the New York Times has in the not too recent past, devoted space to spreading un-investigated rumors on Republicans. For that matter, so hast TIME magazine. So why the sudden omerta when the subject is John Edwards? The question isn’t really why they aren’t running the Enquirer story but why, given what was known, didn’t someone else investigate and why is Edwards being allowed to skate on his non-denial denial:

Asked about the allegations in Houston Wednesday, Edwards said, “ “That’s tabloid trash. They’re full of lies. I’m here to talk about helping people.”

Why aren’t the same people who continue to flog Newt Gingrich up in arms over this? Why isn’t this just as much fodder for late night comics as Larry Craig’s adventures “on the down low”? Doesn’t this speak directly to John Edwards’s character and fitness for office, or even fitness for association with polite society?

Back during the primaries for the 1988 presidential contest, Gary Hart was knocked out of the race because the Miami Herald detailed reporters to follow him because of persistent rumors of infidelity and his adamant denial of those rumors. And they confirmed what everyone basically knew. Gary Hart had a zipper problem, though he did favor much better looking women than did some of his colleagues. (As an aside, there were seven Democrats running for the nomination and they were referred to, naturally enough, as the Seven Dwarfs. When Hart dropped out, Joe Biden remarked “It looks like we’ve lost Horny.”). This is what TIME had to say back then:

For years there was a sort of gentleman’s agreement among reporters who covered public figures that certain matters were off limits. A number of Presidents, from Warren Harding and Franklin D. Roosevelt through John F. Kennedy, were widely known to be conducting extramarital affairs, or suspected of it. Yet reporters for the most part avoided the subject in print. The belated disclosure of these affairs — especially the reports of Kennedy’s many sexual flings, including one with a woman linked to Mafia figures — helped bring about the new climate. “The rules have certainly changed,” says Washington Post Executive Editor Ben Bradlee, who covered Kennedy as a reporter and editor for Newsweek and became a good friend. “You couldn’t get away with that now.”

Clearly not that much has changed. You can still get away with it if you are a prominent Democrat and are being covered by reporters who are Democrats and sympathetic towards you.