By Nancy K. Matthis | Sunday, August 10th, 2008 at 4:59 am
By now everyone knows that former presidential candidate John Edwards had an affair with a blowsy bleached campaign video producer while his wife battled cancer. What a loser! What a schmuck! But to Washington insiders, the sorry parade of politicians who can’t keep their pants zipped up is old news. From Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s official mistresses to JFK’s legendary two-at-a-time late night “secretarial support,” from Bill’s “first humidor” to Eliot’s fatal fling, we are used to their steamy exploits. The real story has been the media coverage, or lack thereof.
One Los Angeles Times writer sees this as a landmark in the relative roles of old and new media (that’s Internet speak for traditional newspapers and bloggers):
Old media dethroned
Tim Rutten | August 9, 2008
When John Edwards admitted Friday that he lied about his affair with filmmaker Rielle Hunter, a former employee of his campaign, he may have ended his public life but he certainly ratified an end to the era in which traditional media set the agenda for national political journalism.
From the start, the Edwards scandal has belonged entirely to the alternative and new media. The tabloid National Enquirer has done all the significant reporting on it — reporting that turns out to be largely correct — and bloggers and online commentators have refused to let the story sputter into oblivion….
So far, so sordid.
But what’s really significant here is the cone of silence the nation’s major newspapers — including The Times — and the cable and broadcast networks dropped over this story when it first appeared in the tabloid during the presidential primary campaign. Next, the Enquirer reported that the unmarried Hunter was pregnant. Still no mainstream media interest. Indeed, never in recent journalistic history have so many tough reporters so closely resembled sheep as those members of the campaign press corps who meekly accepted Edwards’ categorical dismissal of the Enquirer’s allegations….
[When Edwards admitted his deception], the illusion that traditional print and broadcast news organizations can establish the limits of acceptable political journalism joined the passenger pigeon on the roster of extinct Americana.
Note the reference to the media as “sheep” in this article! You heard it first here.
And while we’re on this subject, that queen of peerless prose — Maureen Dowd — does a wonderful job of deconstructing Edwards’ self-diagnosed narcissism. It’s your day off. Have some fun and read the whole thing. Here’s a bit:
John Edwards’s confession was a little bit breathtaking.
Not the sex stuff. That happens here all the time.
And certainly not covering up the sex stuff. That happens here all the time, too….
The stunning admission Edwards made … was that he’s a narcissist.
He admitted that wallowing in “self-focus” out on the trail and thinking you’re “special” can result in a solipsism that “leads you to believe you can do whatever you want, you’re invincible and there’ll be no consequences.”
Auto-psychoanalysis by the perp. That’s really rich….
Well, as Tim Rutten so astutely observed, the old media is dethroned. But the definitive point that started their long downhill slide occurred in the fall of 2004. The bloggers exposed the TANG memos touted by Dan Rather as computer-generated forgeries, affecting the outcome of the presidential election.
Another memorable haymaker was landed by the bloggers when the Canadian Liberal government tried to silence their press and cover up a kickback scandal in April 2005. That episode produced this wonderful editorial cartoon, which applies equally well to the present situation:
John Edwards, who made his marriage a central part of his overall message during the 2008 Democratic primaries — was dealt a political blow Friday after admitting to having an extramarital affair….
CNN contributor James Carville, a former aide to Bill Clinton — who acknowledged an extramarital affair with Monica Lewinsky in his second term — said Edwards’ career is in dire straits.
“Certainly, his political career is in shambles. It’s not going to come back.”….
The former North Carolina senator, who was often mentioned as a possible candidate for Obama’s vice presidential pick, does not believe that his admission will have a long-lasting impact on his career….
The Caucus — The Early Word: Examining the Edwards Delay:
As he admitted to an extramarital affair, John Edwards released a deeply self-reflective (or, as The Times’s Katharine Q. Seelye put it, “excruciatingly personal”) statement on Friday. But today, the media are taking to self-reflection in discussing why a story that had been floating around for ten months, broken by a tabloid, was all but ignored by mainstream news organizations.
The Times’s Richard Pérez-Peña and Bill Carter look into why many news organizations, including this one, did not devote major resources to pursuing the story…
Stop The ACLU Blog — Elizabeth Edwards speaks. Predictably, Elizabeth Edwards vows to stand by her man. And she does what all professional politicians do when caught in wrong-doing. She blames the media for reporting it (at long last):
Our family has been through a lot. Some caused by nature, some caused by human weakness, and some most recently caused by the desire for sensationalism and profit without any regard for the human consequences….
John made a terrible mistake in 2006. The fact that it is a mistake that many others have made before him did not make it any easier for me to hear when he told me what he had done. But he did tell me…. This was our private matter, and I frankly wanted it to be private because as painful as it was I did not want to have to play it out on a public stage as well.
Is this disingenuous or what? “I did not want to have to play it out on a public stage…” They both knew about this before he ran in the presidential primary. Oh, well, she is a lawyer too.
Nancy Matthis is the publisher and executive editor of the weblog format news magazine and multimedia outlet American Daughter Media Center.
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Tags: affair, Blogosphere, Edwards, fall, free, John Edwards, Media Bias, New media, political