NBC: Most See Prosecution of John Edwards As 'Waste of Taxpayer Money'
Adding to past reports defending disgraced former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards against charges of violating campaign finance laws, on Thursday's NBC Today, correspondent Lisa Myers proclaimed: "Now, for all the dislike of Edwards, the public does seem to have serious doubts about the merits of this case. Most surveyed say they believe this prosecution is a waste of taxpayer money."
Presumably, Myers was referring to a Public Policy Polling survey in North Carolina that she had cited earlier in the report about jury selection beginning in the trial of Edwards: "A new survey by Public Policy Polling shows most North Carolinians have an unfavorable opinion of Edwards and most already think he's guilty of the charges." Then why would they think prosecution of the case would be a "waste of taxpayer money"?
Myers touted concerns over Edwards receiving a fair trial: "Finding a fair, impartial jury won't be easy. Public opinion is brutal....Jury consultants say Democrats, African-Americans and men might tend to be more sympathetic toward Edwards than Republicans and women."
Throughout the segment, Myers implied that jurors would convict Edwards simply because they don't like him: "John Edwards is essentially gambling that a jury which knows he's guilty of cheating on his cancer-stricken wife can nevertheless find him not guilty of committing a crime....experts say jurors will be probed on their attitudes toward adultery."
Following the announcement of the Justice Department indictment of Edwards in May of 2011, Myers sympathetically told viewers: "Here on a baseball field in North Carolina the former presidential candidate was being a good dad, watching his son Jack play ball. No visible sign of the big trouble ahead."
In a June report, Myers touted support for Edwards from the liberal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington: "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."
In a September 2011 report, Myers promoted accusations that the prosecution of Edwards was purely political: "Edwards' lawyers want the case thrown out, saying it's unprecedented and politically motivated....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."
When former Republican House Majority Leader Tom Delay was convicted of campaign finance law violations in 2010, the networks, including NBC, were not interested in his claims of being the victim of a political prosecution.
Here is a full transcript of Myers' April 12 report:
ANN CURRY: We begin this half hour with jury selection getting underway today in the trial of former Senator John Edwards. He is charged with receiving illegal campaign contributions to cover up an affair during his presidential campaign. NBC's senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers is joining us from outside the federal courthouse in Greensboro, North Carolina, with more. Lisa, good morning.
LISA MYERS: Hey, Ann, good morning. This trial marks what appears to be the closing chapter in an astonishing fall from grace. John Edwards is essentially gambling that a jury which knows he's guilty of cheating on his cancer-stricken wife can nevertheless find him not guilty of committing a crime.
JOHN EDWARDS: ...to announce that I'm a candidate for the presidency of the United States.
MYERS: The former presidential candidate's defense basically is this: John Edwards may have been a bad husband, but he did not break the law.
EDWARDS: I didn't violate campaign laws, and I never for a second believed I was violating campaign laws.
MYERS: Today federal judge Katherine Eagles, prosecutors, and Edwards' defense team will begin selecting jurors at this Greensboro courthouse for a trial that could take six weeks. Finding a fair, impartial jury won't be easy. Public opinion is brutal.
SIMONNE MCCLINTON: I believe he conducted himself extremely dishonorably, and he is a disgrace to North Carolina.
MYERS: A new survey by Public Policy Polling shows most North Carolinians have an unfavorable opinion of Edwards and most already think he's guilty of the charges. This is was the most forgiving person NBC found at a coffee shop near the courthouse.
KATHRYN HATFIELD: I think he was a cheater and I think he – it was despicable, but all of us have done things we wish we hadn't done. Haven't we?
MYERS: Jury consultants say Democrats, African-Americans and men might tend to be more sympathetic toward Edwards than Republicans and women. Given the facts of the case, experts say jurors will be probed on their attitudes toward adultery.
JEFFREY FREDERICK [TRIAL CONSULTANT]: I would ask whether or not they view someone who commits adultery as being fundamentally untrustworthy.
MYERS: Among the likely witnesses, Rielle Hunter, the campaign videographer with whom Edwards conceived a now 4-year-old daughter, Quinn. Friends say Edwards and Hunter now spend considerable time together parenting Quinn, but are not living together. The criminal charges grew out of efforts to hide the affair. Prosecutors say almost $1 million provided by two wealthy donors to keep Hunter out of sight, amounted to illegal campaign contributions. Ever-present in this case, the memory of Elizabeth Edwards, who succumbed to breast cancer in December 2010.
CHARLI MORRIS [TRIAL CONSULTANT]: I know that the Edwards trial team will be concerned about the fact that people really just can't get over the fact that he cheated on his wife while she had cancer and as she was dying.
MYERS: Still, Edwards promises an aggressive fight against what his lawyers call "an unprecedented interpretation of campaign laws."
EDWARDS: What's important now is that I now get my day in court. You know, after all these years, I finally get my day in court.
MYERS: Now, for all the dislike of Edwards, the public does seem to have serious doubts about the merits of this case. Most surveyed say they believe this prosecution is a waste of taxpayer money. Ann.
CURRY: Alright. Lisa Myers this morning, thank you, Lisa.