NBC Touts Ethics Group Supporting John Edwards, Suggests He's Victim of Political Vendetta

On Wednesday's NBC "Today," correspondent Lisa Myers highlighted new support for John Edwards in his legal battle: "...it grabs your attention when a group dedicated to exposing political corruption takes his side against the Justice Department....Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington will file a motion arguing there should be no trial, calling for the case to be dismissed."

A sound bite was featured CREW president Melanie Sloan dismissing the corruption case against the disgraced former senator as "ridiculous" and questioned the motivation behind it: "...the Justice Department is taking such a novel and aggressive prosecution that you really have to wonder why they're doing this." Myers failed to label CREW as a liberal organization.

Later in the story, Myers touted how "Edwards' lawyers want the case thrown out, saying it's unprecedented and politically motivated." She then pointed out: "Republican U.S. Attorney George Holding oversaw the Edwards case, then quit his job to run for Congress weeks after Edwards was charged. Now Edwards claims his long-time adversary brought him down for political gain."

Back in June, Myers touted how: "The indictment has triggered unusual criticism of the Justice Department. From conservatives....And from campaign watchdogs." She proclaimed: "Usually when a disgraced politician gets indicted, there is widespread applause. But not this time. Even some who find Edwards' behavior despicable question the strength of this case."

Similar to her June report, on Wednesday, Myers portrayed Edwards as a sympathetic dad just trying to take care of his kids: "The trial in North Carolina is delayed until January....That means the trial won't interrupt the October wedding of Edwards' oldest daughter Kate to her college sweetheart. Edwards has now enrolled his youngest children in a private school, friends say, to protect their privacy."

Myers did question why CREW would voice support for Edwards: "Your group usually goes after political scoundrels. Why on earth would you be siding with a disgraced politician like John Edwards?" Sloan admitted: "It is hard to come to the defense of somebody as despicable as John Edwards really."

While CREW did defend the "despicable" Democrat, when the liberal organization found out some members of Congress were sleeping in their offices to save money, mostly Republicans, it denounced the practice as an ethical violation: "CREW asked the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) to investigate whether members of Congress who sleep in their offices are violating House rules. CREW also asked the OCE to determine whether these members are violating tax law by failing to report lodging as a taxable fringe benefit."


Here is a full transcript of Myers' September 21 report:

7:15AM ET

ANN CURRY: John Edwards is getting some surprising help with his criminal defense. An ethics group plans to take an unusual step urging a judge to drop a six-count felony indictment against the former presidential candidate. NBC's senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers is in Washington with the latest on this story. Hey, Lisa, good morning.

LISA MYERS: Good morning to you, Ann. John Edwards doesn't have a lot of friends these days, so it grabs your attention when a group dedicated to exposing political corruption takes his side against the Justice Department.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Friends in Strange Places; Unlikely Group Defends "Despicable" John Edwards]

John Edwards has attended every court hearing since his indictment, actively involved in defending charges he used illegal campaign contributions to cover up his affair and child with Rielle Hunter. The trial in North Carolina is delayed until January so Edwards' lawyers can go through 400,000 pages of documents from the government's investigation.

That means the trial won't interrupt the October wedding of Edwards' oldest daughter Kate to her college sweetheart. Edwards has now enrolled his youngest children in a private school, friends say, to protect their privacy.

But today in federal court, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington will file a motion arguing there should be no trial, calling for the case to be dismissed.

MELANIE SLOAN [CREW]: I think the case is ridiculous frankly.

MYERS: Melanie Sloan, sometimes referred to as the most feared woman on Capitol Hill, heads the organization. Your group usually goes after political scoundrels. Why on earth would you be siding with a disgraced politician like John Edwards?

SLOAN: It is hard to come to the defense of somebody as despicable as John Edwards really. And yet, in this case the Justice Department is taking such a novel and aggressive prosecution that you really have to wonder why they're doing this.

MYERS: The government says two wealthy donors provided almost a million dollars to hide a pregnant Rielle Hunter from voters and argues the money should have been reported as campaign contributions.

DANIEL BOYCE [FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR]: If you take away the seedy nature of the activity and boil it down to its essence, it's a typical fraud case.

MYERS: But Edwards' lawyers want the case thrown out, saying it's unprecedented and politically motivated.

GEORGE HOLDING: I'm George Holding and I'm running for Congress.

MYERS: Republican U.S. Attorney George Holding oversaw the Edwards case, then quit his job to run for Congress weeks after Edwards was charged. Now Edwards claims his long-time adversary brought him down for political gain. George Holding told us that he can't comment on an ongoing case, and Edwards continues to maintain that he did not break the law. Many veteran prosecutors believe this case will end with some kind of plea deal, Ann, because both sides have a strong incentive to avoid a trial.

CURRY: Alright, Lisa Myers, thank so much you for keeping an eye on all this.

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