'Early Show', 'Today' Continue Edwards Reporting While ABC Drops Ball

Maggie Rodriguez, CBS While ABC’s Good Morning America suspended its coverage of the John Edwards scandal following reporting on Monday, the CBS Early Show continued to cover the affair for a third consecutive day on Wednesday. Even NBC’s Today, covering the Olympics in Beijing, managed stories on Edwards on both Monday and Wednesday. Considering it was during an interview on ABC’s Nigthline on Friday that Edwards confessed to cheating on his wife, it is interesting that GMA was outdone in covering the story.

On Wednesday, the Early Show looked at the money trail leading from Edwards to his mistress, Rielle Hunter, as co-host Maggie Rodriguez declared: "We will also talk about new bombshell revelations in the John Edwards affair, including claims that he did know his mistress was being paid and that he rekindled the affair after confessing to his wife." The segment began with a report by correspondent Bianca Solorzano: "According to the National Enquirer, the publication that first broke the story of John Edwards' extramarital affair, Edwards was aware of payments being made to his former mistress Rielle Hunter, something he denied on Friday...The allegations could not only have legal ramifications, it would shed considerable doubt on Edwards' other denial, that he fathered Miss Hunter's child."

Rodriguez later talked to defense attorney Mickey Sherman about the case and asked: "If the money trail leads to John Edwards, could he be charged with a crime?" Sherman admitted that if campaign finances were used a crime may have been committed, but stipulated: "But the question is how do you prove that? And she was somehow working for the campaign. So was the money she got so inappropriately higher than what she deserved? That's going to be the issue the feds are going to have to look at." Rodriguez showed some surprise at the idea of a federal investigation: "You think the feds will get involved in this?"

Sherman again seemed to downplay the importance of such an investigation: "Will they come to the conclusion that we don't really need to go there because do we need to send the message to other presidential candidates not to have girlfriends? Is it that pressing an issue?"

Rodriguez followed by wondering if there was enough evidence to prove any wrongdoing:

RODRIGUEZ: She's allegedly still being paid $15,000 a month. She's been living in this California mansion that no one knows how she can afford, and she's refusing to accept John Edwards' offer to take a paternity test. That may seem like someone who's being paid hush money, but it's circumstantial. What kind of hard proof would they need?

SHERMAN: They need to show that the money she received was so inappropriately larger than the amount and value of the services.

RODRIGUEZ: Would that be enough?

SHERMAN: That might be enough at least to get to the threshold of an investigation.

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:01AM TEASER:

RODRIGUEZ: We will also talk about new bombshell revelations in the John Edwards affair, including claims that he did know his mistress was being paid and that he rekindled the affair after confessing to his wife. We'll talk about those and also give you a first look at an exclusive interview with the sister of the other woman.

7:12AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: Now to John Edwards' extramarital affair, and questions again this morning about how truthful Edwards has been. Here's CBS News correspondent Bianca Solorzano.

BIANCA SOLORZANO: According to the National Enquirer, the publication that first broke the story of John Edwards' extramarital affair, Edwards was aware of payments being made to his former mistress Rielle Hunter, something he denied on Friday.

JOHN EDWARDS: I've never paid a dime of money to any of the people that are involved. I've never asked anybody to pay a dime of money. Never been told that any money's been paid.

SOLORZANO: If the story is true, the question remains, where did the money come from?

RICK EGUSQUIZA: So far we don't know that they're illegal. I mean, if they were contributions from the campaign, then obviously there's some, you know, some issues there with legality. But at this point, we're still trying to investigate that.

SOLORZANO: The allegations could not only have legal ramifications, it would shed considerable doubt on Edwards' other denial, that he fathered Miss Hunter's child. On Tuesday, Hunter's friend Pigeon O'Brien, told 'The Early Show' she believes Edwards has not fully come clean.

PIGEON O'BRIEN: Because Mr. Edwards told an untruth on national television, and I think it's unfortunate for voters and for his family, for Rielle and her baby. And I think somebody needs to advocate for her.

SOLORZANO: The Edwards affair is a complicated time line that twists and turns and covers more than two years of time. In some ways, the affair all started here at New York's Regency Hotel, as Hunter's friend tells it. Hunter and Edwards were in the hotel bar, and the attraction was instant.

O'BRIEN: Their eyes met across the room several times.

SOLORZANO: It was a meeting that reads like a romance novel, which wouldn't be the first time Miss Hunter was the basis for a book. In the late 1980s, Hunter and her hard-partying entourage were the inspiration for a set of characters in a 'Story Of My Life,' a novel by Jay McInerney, Hunter's former flame.

JAY MCINERNEY: She was 20 at the time, and I was kind of fascinated with her and her friends. Rielle herself claimed to be the model for the heroine of the book. And she wasn't entirely wrong about that.

SOLORZANO: With so many questions still unanswered with the Edwards-Hunter affair, at this point there's no telling where their story will end. Bianca Solorzano, CBS News, New York.

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Joining us now is CBS News legal analyst Mickey Sherman. Good morning, Mickey.

MICKEY SHERMAN: Morning.

RODRIGUEZ: If the money trail leads to John Edwards, could he be charged with a crime?

SHERMAN: Only if it's shown that the money was used for purposes not for which it was raised. In other words, you raise money to run for president or senator or congressman or whatever. If you take that money people have contributed to you based on the fact that they think their money's going to a presidential candidate, and you give it to a girlfriend or God knows what, your bookie, that's a crime. But the question is how do you prove that? And she was somehow working for the campaign. So was the money she got so inappropriately higher than what she deserved? That's going to be the issue the feds are going to have to look at.

RODRIGUEZ: You think the feds will get involved in this?

SHERMAN: Well, they're the only ones who really should. It would be a federal offense. And that's the question, will they? Will they come to the conclusion that we don't really need to go there because do we need to send the message to other presidential candidates not to have girlfriends? Is it that pressing an issue? Then again, we're talking about it, everyone's talking about it, and the federal government may feel the responsibility to at least have to look into it.

RODRIGUEZ: She's allegedly still being paid $15,000 a month. She's been living in this California mansion that no one knows how she can afford, and she's refusing to accept John Edwards' offer to take a paternity test. That may seem like someone who's being paid hush money, but it's circumstantial. What kind of hard proof would they need?

SHERMAN: They need to show that the money she received was so inappropriately larger than the amount and value of the services.

RODRIGUEZ: Would that be enough?

SHERMAN: That might be enough at least to get to the threshold of an investigation. But if, in fact, she's -- you're allowed -- not allowed, you're not encouraged, but, you know people do have affairs with people that they work with, whether or not they're married to them or not. So the mere fact that they have a work relationship is something. But if the money that's going to her is so inappropriate, as I say, or unreasonably high, then it suggests something else.

RODRIGUEZ: Alright, Mickey Sherman, thank you so much.

SHERMAN: Pleasure.

RODRIGUEZ: Appreciate it. Still ahead for us, an exclusive interview with the sister of Rielle Hunter, John Edwards' mistress.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC