In One Week, ABC Devotes 12 Minutes to Edwards; Again Skips New Details

On Thursday's "Good Morning America," for the third time in less than a week, the morning show featured a sympathetic story on Elizabeth Edwards and how she is coping with the affair of husband John Edwards, this time touting a appearance on the May 7 "Oprah Winfrey Show." In total, GMA has devoted 12 minutes and 25 seconds to the subject, but still managed to skip a key development in the case. On Sunday, word leaked out that a federal probe is investigating whether or not then-presidential candidate Edwards improperly used campaign funds to pay off a staffer, Rielle Hunter, who he was having an affair with.

Yet, there was no mention of that in the May 6 story on GMA or on Thursday's program. (Another piece aired on May 1, prior to the allegations going public.) Instead, the May 7 interview with O magazine editor Gayle King mostly focused on gossipy details. Ms. King teased, "Can I tell you, the interview this afternoon, is not going to disappoint. It is not. I can't wait for people to see it and draw their own conclusions. It will not disappoint."

The longtime friend of Ms. Winfrey talked up Elizabeth Edwards. She enthused, "And say what you will about Elizabeth Edwards. She is not a mouseburger. I think she does not want to be portrayed as a long suffering wife." Of course, Mrs. Edwards did go out and campaign for her husband, even after knowing of the affair.

This point was belatedly discussed at the close of the interview. Citing a Maureen Dowd column on Edwards, Sawyer wondered, "And there were a lot of people who worked 24 hours a day, not knowing there was a bombshell underneath their campaign. How are we supposed to feel about that?" However, the focus of the three GMA interviews seemed much more geared towards the gossip, completely ignoring the developing federal probe surrounding Edwards.

A transcript of the May 7 segment, which aired at 8:16am, follows:

DIANE SAWYER: As we said, today is the day. And everybody is talking about Oprah Winfrey's interview with Elizabeth Edwards. It will be on her show today. And you can, of course, see more of it in O magazine, which is coming out next week. It's the June issue. And joining us now with an exclusive preview, O magazine editor at large, Gayle King. Good morning.

GAYLE KING: Can I tell you, the interview this afternoon, is not going to disappoint. It is not. I can't wait for people to see it and draw their own conclusions. It will not disappoint.

SAWYER: Already it's riveting. You were there for it?

KING: Yes. Yes.

SAWYER: And at one point, he walks in? Tell me about that moment.

KING: Yes. Yes. When Oprah first arrived, they both came out to greet her. You know, there was scuttlebutt, is he going to be there? Is he not going to be there? From people on the outside. Is he still living in the house? Yes, they are still together. And so, they both came out to greet Oprah when we pulled up to the house. So, yeah. He was definitely there.

SAWYER: And together they are as they always were? Or is it different? Because, she said at one point, you know, it's day by day, in effect.

KING: She did say it was day by day. And when Oprah asked, do you love him? She said, it's complicated. But it's very clear that Elizabeth Edwards loves her family. And loves the family life that she has. And wants to preserve that. That was very clear.

SAWYER: So many questions for you. Is this true what I read? That she asked one thing-

KING: Mmm. We have a clip of that, right?

SAWYER: Not of this moment. But where she asked the name of the woman he was involved with, Rielle Hunter, not be mentioned. Not be said to her.

KING: Yes. Yes. Yes. And Oprah asked her, why did you ask that? And she said- Because, you get all sorts of things going into the interview. And we weren't really sure. Did she really make that request? And she said, "Well, I believe when someone is trying to destroy my family and trying destroy my life, I don't want to bring that person into the light. And this book 'Resilience' is not about her. It is about my family."

SAWYER: I want to play a couple of clips. Because, as you know, this morning, there is a report out- and we'll see if we can confirm it. There's a report out that Rielle Hunter in fact, is now going to have a DNA test because this interview has made her so angry. And part of it, of course, is the whole question of paternity has been raised in a new way. First, Elizabeth Edwards. And then we'll play after that John Edwards denying it earlier.

OPRAH WINFREY: The other woman has a baby.

ELIZABETH EDWARDS: That's what I understand.

WINFREY: And there is great speculation that your husband, John Edwards, is the father of that baby.

ELIZABETH EDWARDS: Right. That's what I understand. I've seen a picture of the baby. I have no idea. It doesn't look like my children. But I have no idea.

WINFREY: You must have thought- You must have thought is it is it not?

JOHN EDWARDS: 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.

SAWYER: Which raises the question, why did she do this? Did she know that she was risking provoking this whole other realm?

KING: Well, you know, the name of the book is called "Resilience." And say what you will about Elizabeth Edwards. She is not a mouseburger. I think she does not want to be portrayed as a long suffering wife. I think she wanted people to know how she was feeling and what she was thinking. But the whole paternity question- you know, when I tell you Oprah asked every question you want to know. She went all the way there with anything you can imagine. And Elizabeth Edwards answered every single question that was asked of her. And I think she really wanted to- the baby question in particular because john Edwards has so vehemently denied it. And, you know, when the story first broke, we were all told that they're willing to take paternity tests. Remember, John Edwards said I'll take the paternity test. And Rielle Hunter said "No, I don't want the paternity test." I heard this on the way over here. So, if this is in fact true, I heard the same story on the way over here, that if this is in fact true, that is a very interesting development in the story.

SAWYER: And she did also talk about cancer and mortality and the hope that some day in Heaven, there is a family there, too.

KING: And she talked about the death of her son, Wade, too. And the effect that's had on her. And nothing, she says, can be harder than that.

SAWYER: Columnist Maureen Dowd of the New York Times was very tough, saying she is a participant in the decision to run. And there were a lot of people who worked 24 hours a day, not knowing there was a bombshell underneath their campaign. How are we supposed to feel about that?

KING: Yeah. That was- Oprah asked that question, too. And her answer to that was, well, he may have disappointed as a man. Paraphrasing here. But I still believe that he was a very good candidate. And a lot of people could go how could you believe that? And, you know, she makes very clear. She says, when I go out on the campaign stump, after I knew- and she did know. She said after I went out on the campaign stump, she says I changed my verbiage. So, it will be interesting to see how people view that.

SAWYER: And to go back and trace exactly what she was saying and how she changed it.

KING: Now, I believe that people will do that. You'll see clips dated and see exactly what she said. But she said I always believed in him as a candidate, always.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org