For months (and more hotly in the last two weeks), the National Enquirer has been trickling out the goods they collected on John Edwards having an affair and possibly a love child with campaign aide Rielle Hunter, staking out Edwards in a California hotel – and how he hid in the bathroom to avoid them.
There's a quick campaign ad on the two parties in a nutshell. Republican George Bush took on Osama bin Laden and took out Saddam Hussein. Democrat John Edwards hides in a bathroom from the tabloids.
Throughout this time, the very same media that almost immediately spread unproven trash on John McCain's alleged "romantic" relationship with lobbyist Vicki Iseman because the source was the allegedly professional New York Times now remained as quiet as a cabin full of Carthusian monks. Only when everyone was familiar with the story thanks to the New Media and Edwards was forced to confess did the networks break their obedient silence.
Anyone watching the TV stories found a tone of sadness, of the outraged disappointment of Edwards supporters like campaign manager David Bonior. That’s acceptable. But the story came almost entirely from within the Edwards bubble. You couldn't find in these stories any time for Republicans, and it was rare to find anyone asking not about Edwards, but about the Democrats in general. How would this taint them?
When the question emerged briefly on television, it had a perish-the-thought tone to it. On "Sunday Today" two days after the Edwards confession, NBC anchor Lester Holt asked the apparently unthinkable: "Is Obama touched or tainted by this in any stretch of the imagination?" NBC political analyst Chuck Todd was fervent in his reply: "I don't think he is at all, Lester. You know, if anything, sure, that they lose a good surrogate. This was a guy who was very good on the stump."
Holt worried that the Republicans might stoop so low as to speak of Edwards: "Is there any stomach for John McCain perhaps using, taking some political advantage of this, or will he simply leave this alone as a third rail?" (Translation: we would like to make this an untouchable third rail.) Todd was emphatic once again: " Not at all. They're probably going to leave this alone. John McCain had to deal with a story that their campaign was very upset about, that The New York Times did. They're not going to touch this. You know, stuff like this usually ends up getting swept under the rug pretty quickly."
But the networks didn’t sweep this under the rug. They sat on top of the dirty rug for months while the Enquirer dug out the Edwards affair, and now that it’s out, they want it swept right back under the rug before the Democratic convention. It's unthinkable (to them) that this should taint the Democrats in any way. Even stranger, Todd thinks that McCain being slimed by the New York Times should shame him into shutting up, when it certainly didn't provoke any shame within Todd’s profession. They all ran that story without taking a coffee break to investigate the skimpy evidence for themselves.
This is not the network "news" approach when the scandal shoe is on the other foot. Ask yourself: what did Rev. Ted Haggard's use of drugs and male prostitutes in Colorado have to do with the national Republican Party? Or Mark Foley's dirty Internet messages to congressional pages? Yet every time they it’s happened to a Republican, the media worked strenuously to spread the tar and underline the damage to the GOP.
What did Larry Craig's shoe placement in an airport bathroom in 2007 have to do with the Republican Party as a whole? The media treated that story as a much larger scoop than John Edwards cheating on the wife dying of cancer. It was a story that led the news (certainly on Chuck Todd's NBC) for days and days. Here's Matt Lauer on day one: "Can the right wing withstand yet another scandal involving one of its own?"
The networks repeatedly displayed the Edwards marriage as a fairy-tale story of two lawyers celebrating their anniversaries over a chocolate Frosty at Wendy’s. Now we know it was bunk. For them to act like there was nothing shameful or hypocritical to expose here is another explicit display of their Democratic favoritism.