The John Edwards "love child" story

Yes, the original report comes from the National Enquirer, but new information lends additional credibility to its article.

Published July 25, 2008 6:57PM (EDT)

The sordid story of an alleged affair between former Sen. John Edwards and Rielle Hunter has popped up again, courtesy of a National Enquirer article saying that the paper's reporters caught Edwards going to meet with Hunter and the couple's purported "love child" at a Los Angeles hotel.

I know what you're thinking: Why even bother with anything printed by the Enquirer, a supermarket tabloid you probably think of as the kind of "newspaper" that focuses on rumors that Elvis Presley is alive -- and leading a band of rampaging space aliens? That's certainly the message Editor and Publisher's Greg Mitchell sent in an item he published at the Huffington Post on Friday. That's not really the Enquirer's niche, though. It gets confused with publications like the defunct Weekly World News, but in fact the Enquirer is surprisingly good at reporting on these kinds of stories, and it has a decent track record with them. It was the Enquirer that published the photo of Donna Rice sitting on Gary Hart's lap. It was the Enquirer that broke the story of Rush Limbaugh's addiction to painkillers. And new information about the Edwards story makes the Enquirer's reporting on it look more solid.

The Enquirer had first alleged that Edwards and Hunter were having an affair last year; it later reported that Hunter was pregnant with Edwards' child, though Andrew Young, a friend of Edwards', has said the baby is his. The latest chapter in the saga happened earlier this week, when reporters from the paper claimed that they spotted Edwards -- and confronted him -- at the Beverly Hilton on Monday night after being told beforehand that the former Democratic vice-presidential nominee would be there to meet with Hunter and the baby.

These stories have largely been ignored by the mainstream press, but new details that emerged Friday lend some credibility to the Enquirer's account, though they're not proof of it. has now published a story based on an interview with one of the security guards at the hotel, who gave an account of intervening "between a man he identified as former Sen. John Edwards and tabloid reporters who chased down the former presidential hopeful."

From the article:

The Beverly Hilton Hotel guard said he encountered a shaken and ashen-faced Edwards -- whom he did not immediately recognize -- in a hotel men's room early Tuesday morning in a literal tug-of-war with reporters on the other side of the door ...

"His face just went totally white," the guard said, when Edwards was told the reporters were shouting out questions about Edwards and Rielle Hunter ...

The guard later confirmed Edwards' identity after being shown a photograph.

The story also notes that "the Enquirer says it has videotape showing Hunter entering the room where she met Edwards, and shows Edwards leaving the same room. However, the Enquirer has thus far declined repeated requests by to release any photographs or videotape evidence of the incident."

There have been complaints from some quarters about the silence from the mainstream media that greeted the publication of the Enquirer story, as well as allegations of bias. Personally, I think it comes down to a few factors, none of them bias.

First, Edwards didn't get that much coverage in the first place, and he's not thought of as a really serious contender to be Barack Obama's running mate, so it's unlikely that major outlets will devote to this story the substantial assets required to do reporting on it. Without doing that, it's unlikely many outlets will report on the story based entirely on the Enquirer's allegations. Even if editors and reporters believe that the story is true and the reporting is solid, it would look odd for a paper like, say, the New York Times to print a story that came solely from the Enquirer. There's also the jealousy factor -- taking the Times as an example again, the paper of record really doesn't want to admit that it got scooped by a tabloid. And, last, there's the Elizabeth Edwards factor. Reporters are especially careful in a case like this, because of Elizabeth Edwards' illness.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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