Katie Couric Asks John Edwards an Interesting Question
John Edwards Gives an Interesting Answer
John Edwards Gives an Interesting Answer
"I think that, as you point out, there have been American presidents that at least according to the ... stories we've all heard, that were not faithful, that were in fact good presidents. So I don't think it controls the issue."
--John Edwards this evening with Katie Couric on CBS Evening News
"Jonathan Prince offered to let me and my editor, Tom Edsall, watch the videos - apparently unaware that at one point his campaign claimed not to have access to them."
--Sam Stein,in The Huffington Post, on the videos produced by Rielle Hunter for John Edwards that mysteriously became "unavailable".
The John Edwards Love Child Sex Scandal is not going away.
The Edwards' campaign has issued no statements, apparently either not completely sure what to say or satisfied that observers will dismiss the National Enquirer's information that the supermarket tabloid started releasing yesterday as trashy gossip.
And indeed, things did die down today--for awhile.
By late afternoon, if one Googled "John Edwards" in "NEWS", the Enquirer's slot with accompanying stories had disappeared, to be replaced about topics like how "cool" the Edwards campaign was in Iowa.
The Enquirer's slot on the Edwards NewsSearch returned this evening.
Maybe it was because some others are beginning to take notice of the curious affair of John Edwards and Rielle Hunter.
By an odd circumstance, Katie Couric, tonight's CBS Evening News, asked the candidates their views on infidelity.
John Edwards was among them.
His answer, in its entirety, is contained later in this piece. The part of his answer reproduced at the top of this page may prove revealing, however.
Not a whiff of a statement from the Edwards campaign can be detected at this point.
Having read Sam Stein's Huffington Post piece on the mysterious Rielle Hunter videos, I re-read it again last night and again a little while ago.
The piece, written September 26, 2007, reports the trouble that the reporter had obtaining access to these suddenly inaccessible pieces of campaign work.
Re-reading in light of the sudden attention devoted the subject lately is, to say the least, interesting. It raises a few questions.
Over the next two months, various stories appeared on the Rielle Hunter-John Edwards connection and the secrecy that enveloped it. Especially the first National Enquirer story on the pair. But after awhile, the stories became less frequent.
Apparently, everyone moved onto other topics.
Except the National Enquirer.
Say what you will, the Enquirer is like a piranha when it smells blood. It devoted some more resources to the mystery. There were enough interesting questions for the gossip tabloid to tackle.
NE dispatched an operative to Chapel Hill, NC to "keep an eye" on Rielle Hunter, who'd moved within 5 miles of the Edwards campaign headquarters.
Back to interesting questions.
* Why did the campaign pay at least $100,000 for Hunter to do a few videos to introduce the 'real John Edwards' to America and then hide them?
* Why does an aspiring actress register information with the Screen Actors Guild and then make her information unavailable?
* Why did the campaign seemingly want the Rielle Hunter videos to fade away?
* Does the candidate still want America to see the 'real John Edwards'?
* Did Katie Couric see a glimpse of that person tonight on CBS Evening News?
* Why would Rielle Hunter deny she was Rielle Hunter?
* Was it because she still thought she was Lisa Druck?
* Did Rielle/Lisa get her BMW courtesy of the John Edwards campaign? A former campaign staffer who has the car registered in his name, denies it.
The Rielle Hunter videos
"I've come to the personal conclusion, that I actually want the country to see who I am."
--John Edwards in his missing, then re-surfaced video made by Rielle Hunter. Edwards' campaign paid Hunter over $100,000 for the "web drama" videos.
Some of the missing webisodes reappeared on YouTube. The first is below.
The production company responsible for the webisodes, Midline Groove Productions, had a minimalist website. Through it, however, I was able to email Mimi Hockman, Rielle Hunter's partner, to ask if I could screen the tapes. She directed me to a Business Week website where the last remaining webisode link still functioned. But beyond that, I was rebuffed. Once again, the reasons seemed strangely artificial.
"Our contract expired last year," Hockman emailed, "and the Edwards camp owns all of the webisodes and footage."
(Hmmm.... The campaign had said it couldn't access the footage.) Could we at least talk off the record about the filming process?
"Nope," she wrote. "Not a chance."
My reportorial curiosity thoroughly piqued, I decided to dig further.
Who is Rielle Hunter? The Newsweek item said Edwards met the aspiring actress and filmmaker in a New York City bar. A call to the Screen Actors Guild elicited the following exchange:
Screen Actors Guild: "This performer chooses not to list her contact information in the membership database."
HuffPost: "So if I wanted to contact her about her work with web video?"
SAG: "Well, I don't know what to tell you. It's up to the performer to choose whether they are listed or not."
Stein starts asking other questions.
Most important of all: Was there, in fact, a legal reason that prohibited Edwards from showing the webisodes? One campaign finance expert told me that, "if used by the presidential campaign, the videos are considered an in-kind contribution, which is limited at $5,000 in value... Still," he added, "this is an abundance of caution." Others didn't tread as lightly. "Bullshit", "baloney", and "malarkey" were the words used by three eminent experts in the field to describe Edwards' stance.
Presented with this record, the Edwards campaign finally relented. But even then they proved surprisingly guarded.
Jonathan Prince offered to let me and my editor, Tom Edsall, watch the videos - apparently unaware that at one point his campaign claimed not to have access to them. But there was a proviso: we could only view the videos in Prince's presence.
Stein asks this penetrating question that has yet almost 3 months from his writing it, to be answered by the Edwards' campaign.
Not lost in the matter is the irony of Edwards' stance. After all, the videos were made with the apparent goal of bringing transparency to the political process.
Huffington Post: Edwards Mystery: Innocuous Videos Suddenly Shrouded in Secrecy
We'll revisit the videos in a later piece. For now, the questions remain.
Katie Couric's interview is somewhat enlightening. Why not a straightforward answer to a question that Edwards had to know was going to appear at some point after the first Enquirer story?
John Edwards, from all accounts, was a uber-successful trial attorney; he's used to tough questions and rigorous preparation for important performances.
The complete CBS Evening News exchange is below.
Couric: Harry Truman said, "A man not honorable in his marital relations is not usually honorable in any other." Some people don't feel comfortable supporting a candidate who has not remained faithful to his or her spouse. Can you understand their position?
Edwards: Of course. I mean, for a lot of Americans, including the family that I grew up with ... it's fundamental to how you judge people and human character: Whether you keep your word, whether you keep what is your ultimate word, which is that you love your spouse, and you'll stay with them.
Couric: Do you think ... what about people who use that as a way to evaluate a candidate? In other words, there have been a number of fine presidents according to some analysts ...
Couric: ... who have certainly not been sort of exhibited the greatest moral character ...
Couric: ... when it comes to infidelity ...
Couric: I guess is what I'm getting at.
Couric: So how important do you think it is in the grand scheme of things?
Edwards: I think the most important qualities in a president in today's world are trustworthiness, sincerity, honesty, strength of leadership. And certainly that goes to a part of that. It's not the whole thing. But it goes to a part of it.
Couric: So you think it's an appropriate way to judge a candidate?
Edwards: Yeah. But I don't think it's controlling. I mean, I think that, as you point out, there have been American presidents that at least according to the ... stories we've all heard, that were not faithful, that were in fact good presidents. So I don't think it controls the issue. But I think it's certain ... something reasonable for people to consider.
CBS Evening News: Candidates Offer views on infidelity
The Edwards' campaign was no doubt happy to receive a cover story in Newsweek this week. The piece is largely favorably predisposed to Edwards.
There is one paragraph, though.
Edwards, who had retired from the Senate to run for president and didn't have (or need) a full-time job, geared up for a second run at the White House. He started a poverty center and immersed himself in policy to combat criticism from the last election that he was a lightweight on the issues.
He also made some questionable choices for a champion of the underprivileged. He built a 25,000-square-foot house, the most expensive in North Carolina's affluent Orange County. He got caught paying a ridiculous sum for a haircut. More seriously, he took a part-time, $500,000 consulting job with Fortress Investment Group, a hedge fund of the type that has become a symbol of Wall Street excess.
Edwards invested nearly $16 million of his own money in the fund. This summer, it was revealed that Fortress invested in two major subprime lenders that had sought to foreclose on victims of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana—an unflattering detail for a candidate who launched his campaign with a speech in the Lower Ninth Ward.
--Newsweek: John Edwards: The Sleeper Candidate/Road Warrior
The Big Question
In our mind, anyway: what's the National Enquirer going to release next? The publication usually reserves some juicy bits for later release, after the initial story.
More details, in many cases.
We're waiting for that next blast.
The smart money is saying that the Edwards campaign might be doing some waiting itself.
[NOTE: Ron Gunzburger's Politics echoes our feelings about the National Enquirer still having big guns left to fire in this story. Also, they publish the expected denial--finally--from Edwards.]
EDWARDS: John Edwards' strongly denied the sex scandal allegation published Wednesday on the cover of the National Enquirer as "absolute nonsense." The story claims Edwards impregnated a campaign staffer, Rielle Hunter, who is now six-months pregnant. Hunter denied the story in a written statement, saying that "this has no relationship to nor does it involve John Edwards in any way. Andrew Young is the father of my unborn child."
Interestingly -- and I say this because you just know trial lawyer Edwards will sue the Enquirer when the race is over if this story is false -- the newspaper is sticking with their version that Edwards is the father of Hunter's unborn child. Stay tuned because Enquirer's past history indicates they usually save the most damning evidence in these situations to print in an upcoming edition once the the target is locked into a denial story.
--Thursday News Update: Edwards calls Scandal story "Nonsense"
Death by 1000 Papercuts Front Page.