How John Edwards is Unlike Donald Trump
The National Enquirer had the exclusive on Rielle Hunter and Stormy Daniels
An old political sex scandal that I know well is back in the news because of Donald Trump getting indicted for giving hush money to his alleged mistress. Trump’s case is being linked to John Edwards, the former Democratic presidential candidate who got off all federal charges related to having campaign donors give almost a million dollars to his campaign aide turned baby mama.
I wrote extensively about Edwards starting when a grand jury was convened in 2009 and through his getting indicated by the Justice Department because the mainstream media had protected him when he ran for president.
Edwards made his cancer-stricken, dying wife Elizabeth a centerpiece of his election appeal in his bid for president in 2008. Meanwhile, he was having a full-blown, all-out affair with Reille Hunter, who traveled on the campaign bus with him and the press corps.
National Enquirer Exclusives
The only reason that Edwards got caught was that The National Enquirer exposed him in exclusive stories during the campaign. The media elite refused to report on Hunter until long after Edwards was out of the running.
After Edwards was indicted in 2011, I called for the Enquirer to get the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. My stories led to a grassroots campaign that the Enquirer wrote about in these stories:
Trump and Edwards
Now the Enquirer is involved in the Trump case because it bought porn star Stormy Daniel’s story before the 2016 election and never ran it. Trump’s critics say the tabloid’s owner, David Pecker, was doing the billionaire a favor.
Trump’s affair with Stormy Daniels, which he denies, was a decade before he ran for president.
Trump supporters also reference Edwards because he got off of all charges after a six-week trial in 2012. The jury acquitted Edwards of one charge and deadlocked on the other five. The Justice Department later dropped all charges.
The six federal charges against Edwards were campaign finance related. The 34 state, felony charges brought against Trump by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg are business related.
Taboid or Journalism?
Of course, buying a story in order to bury it is not journalism.
In the Edwards case, the criticism of the Enquirer was that it used “checkbook journalism” (i.e. paid its sources.) The Enquirer’s editor, Barry Levine, told me in this The Washington Times op-ed that “no paid sources led to any bombshells in the Edwards stories.” Levine also explained the details of how they verify sources, including using a lie detector.
I wrote for Politics Daily, which was owned by AOL, in 2009 and 2010. The site was bought by Huffington Post which then took down the site. My only story that is still online is this one: National Enquirer Officially in Running for Pulitzer Prize.” So, the material below is from my notes and draft stories, which are thankfully still on Google Docs!
Rielle Hunter and Elizabeth Edwards
Edwards was a senator from North Carolina when he was picked by John Kerry to be his vice presidential candidate on the 2004 Democratic ticket.
In 2006, Edwards met Hunter— a self-described filmmaker whose real name was Lisa— at a bar in New York City. They started having an affair. In December, Edwards launched his presidential candidacy for the 2008 election. His campaign paid Hunter $100,000 to make videos of Edwards on the trail.
The candidate’s popular wife, Elizabeth Edwards, announced in March 2007 that her breast cancer has returned. They had two small children. Elizabeth held a widely-covered press conference in North Carolina and said her cancer could be treated, but it was incurable.
Sex and Lies
The Enquirer first reported that Edwards had an affair with an unnamed former campaign staffer in Oct. 2007. Edwards told reporters that the Enquirer story was “made-up.” He said:
It's completely untrue, ridiculous... I've been in love with the same woman for 30-plus years, and as anybody who's been around us knows, she's an extraordinary human being; warm, loving, beautiful, sexy and as good a person as I have ever known.
Two months later, the Enquirer published photos of Hunter that showed she was pregnant. This is the online version of “John Edwards love child scandal!” (They only published the best pictures in the print versions.)
The paper also published Hunter’s name for the first time, so she was easily finable for any other media outlet after that. Hunter denied Edwards was the father. She says another campaign aide— Andrew Young— was the father.
Hiding the Baby
Edwards ended the campaign in Jan. 2008 because he had fallen far behind Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The next month, Hunter gave birth to a daughter (named Frances Quinn Hunter) in Santa Barbara, CA. The name of the child's father was left off the birth certificate.
Edwards was not a subject of scandal after he stepped down, even though the Enquirer had published stories about his affair and baby. Both Obama and Clinton wooed him to get his endorsement. He tried to get a promise to be their vice president or attorney general.
In May, Edwards endorsed Obama in a large, televised campaign event (watch here). He campaigned for Obama and hoped to have a role in his administration.
Not My Baby
As the presidential race continued, the Enquirer caught Edwards making a secret, late-night visit to Hunter and their baby daughter at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in L.A, in July. When confronted, Edwards hid in a public restroom until security escorted him off the hotel grounds.
The paper published the story of Edwards at the hotel with his baby in the August issue here (again, the best photos were only in the print version.)
Edwards tried to save his political career. He offered ABC News an interview about the Enquirer’s story. He admitted that he had an extramarital affair. Edwards claimed he told his wife and his family about his relationship with Hunter in 2006. He said Elizabeth’s cancer was in remission when he began the affair.
However, he denied he was the father of Hunter's baby girl. He said he was “happy to take a paternity test.” He told ABC News about the Enqurier’s reporting:
I know that it's not possible that this child could be mine because of the timing of events, so I know it's not possible.
I don't know if that picture is me…. It could well be. It looks like me. I don't know who that baby is.
Edwards told ABC News he didn’t know about money given to Hunter and his former aide Young, who falsely claimed the baby was his to cover for his boss.
I had nothing to do with any money being paid and no knowledge of any money being paid. And if something was paid, it wasn't being paid on my behalf.
The money was coming from two of his most ardent, wealthy campaign supporters— Fred Baron and heiress Rachel “Bunny” Mellon.
The TV interview didn’t stop the feds from convening a grand jury a year later to investigate the money from Baron and Mellon. (Baron died soon after the ABC interview.)
Hunter testified before the grand jury in August 2009 about the $100,000 Edwards’s campaign paid her for videos and reportedly about the hush money.
Around the same time, the Enquirer reported that Edwards took a paternity test that confirmed Hunter’s daughter was his.
Edwards finally publicly admitted he was the father of Hunter’s baby in Jan. 2010 when the child was two years old.
It was wrong for me ever to deny she was my daughter, and, hopefully, one day, when she understands, she will forgive me.
At the same time, Elizabeth filed for legal separation from John. Less than a year later, she died from breast cancer at the age of 61.
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