Mark August 7, 2008 on your calendars. That was the day that the John Edwards scandal finally "pierced" the Los Angeles Times blogs following an earlier e-mail from Times editor Tony Pierce muzzling his staff (emphasis mine):
Because the only source has been the National Enquirer we have decided not to cover the rumors or salacious speculations. So I am asking you all not to blog about this topic until further notified.
The historic occasion for this Edwards scandal to "pierce" the LAT blogs was the looming Democratic convention in which Edwards role there could prove very embarrassing as noted in my previous blog. In fact, whether or not Edwards plays a prominent role at that convention is making it much more difficult for the mainstream media to continue ignoring the scandal. The only major newspaper covering this potentially embarrassing situation in depth has been the Charlotte Observer which the LAT Top of the Ticket blog uses as a source:
As Barack Obama heads off on vacation in Hawaii, his convention planners will be hard at work ironing out not only the logistics of Hillary Clinton's presence at the confab in Denver (will she or will she not insist on having her name placed in nomination?), but dealing with a potentially even trickier question: how large of a spotlight -- if any -- to give John Edwards.
In a story Thursday, the Charlotte Observer quotes several prominent Democrats -- by name -- who urge Edwards to more convincingly confront allegations by the National Enquirer, which he has denied, that he had an affair and that his alleged mistress bore a child by him.
If he does not meet this challenge, these Democrats say, he risks losing a high-profile slot as a convention speaker.
So why has the Los Angeles Times avoided the Edwards scandal? Top of the Ticket author, Don Frederick, explains:
For the most part, mainstream media outlets have not pursued the matter, in part because Edwards no longer is a presidential candidate nor does he hold a public office. The Times National Editor Scott Kraft explained the newspaper's stance in a note today, published on the Reader's Representative blog.
So the reason to avoid covering this scandal was because "Edwards no longer is a presidential candidate nor does he hold a public office?" And the fact that he was a vice-presidential nominee as well as the fact he has, until recently, been mentioned as a having a prominent role in a possible Obama administration doesn't count? Of course, if Frederick were completely honest, he would admit the real reason why the MSM has been shunning the Edwards scandal story: because John Edwards has a (D) not the dreaded (R) after his name.
The reason for suddenly allowing an Edwards story to "pierce" the sanctified environs of the LAT blogs is provided by the LAT Reader's Representative Journal in a hand-wringing rationale:
Times readers and others since late July have sent notes by the dozens to the readers' representative office, asking if The Times was looking into a story published by the National Enquirer containing allegations about John Edwards. National Editor Scott Kraft sent an e-mail Thursday night to the Times' communications department and the readers' representative office, two departments that have fielded the questions about how this story was being handled. [Update: This posting earlier said that The Times hadn't published anything about the Enquirer reports; in fact, the Opinion LA blog did post an item on July 23 that was a roundup of coverage by others.] Kraft's note:
"We have decided to post, on Top of the Ticket, an item and link to a Charlotte Observer report, quoting Democratic supporters of Edwards on the record as saying that they think he needs to address the National Enquirer report if he hopes to speak at the convention.
"While we have stayed away from that Enquirer report, because we couldn't confirm it, this strikes us as a legitimate story -- that on-the-record Dems, including a former Edwards campaign manager, are criticizing Edwards' decision to stay mum on the topic and saying it might affect his credibility enough that he wouldn't get a speaking slot at the convention. (Those speaking slots haven't been decided yet, the party says.)"
Somehow we think that the excruciating soul-searching internal debate at the LAT would not have been quite so difficult had Edwards been a Republican. However, we should give Don Frederick credit for alluding to the frustrations of the LAT bloggers being forced to avoid this scandal story by quoting from former newspaperman, Alan Mutter, in Reflections of a Newsosaur:
National Enquirer scoop or not, there appears to be way too much smoke here for the major mainstream media to continue ignoring the story about the out-of-wedlock child that John Edwards may have fathered.
With everyone from Drudge to Leno to Wonkette riffing on a tale that began trickling out at Christmas, the MSM look foolishly out of touch by continuing to remain silent about the allegation that Edwards fathered the girl recently born to a former campaign aide.
This is a messy and unseemly matter that I wish never had seen the light of day. Now that it is festering on the web, on talk radio and around the watercooler, mainstream journalists owe their readers and viewers their best professional efforts to sort fact from innuendo. ...
And with the Democratic convention clock ticking ever closer, it will be harder and harder for the MSM to avoid the John Edwards scandal. Perhaps this scandal might even "pierce" the LAT print edition itself someday.