… and the mainstream media’s painfully obvious reluctance to report about his alleged love child:
(1) The big problem is that the story can’t be confirmed. The only way to know for certain whether Rielle Hunter’s child was conceived by Edwards is through a blood test. (The birth certificate doesn’t name the father.) No newspaper has the power to compel Edwards to participate in such a test. The alternative is to badger him into admitting he’s the father, a tactic that hasn’t yet worked and likely never will — as long as there are side doors he can duck through when reporters approach. Beyond that, there’s not much other ground available to plow. If the principal parties aren’t talking, and there’s no way to independently collect the facts, what else are reporters expected to do? There’s an answer to that, actually.
(2) It’s clear that not much shoe leather has been invested in the story. If this was something a newspaper wanted to get, the problems I mention above wouldn’t be much of a speed bump. A newspaper could send reporters to Hunter’s house to knock on the door, interview her neighbors to see if she’d ever mentioned the father, question the medical staff who delivered the baby, ask every florist within miles of the hospital whether a bouquet from a certain “J. Edwards” had been delivered to the mother, etc. Ambitious newspapers, even in their weakened financial states, still have the ability to deploy a lot of people who are good at ferreting out information. And the lack of absolute proof rarely is a problem. If you don’t believe it, go back and read the New York Times’ sorry excuse of a story that suggested John McCain maybe, possibly had a fling with a lobbyist. But with that said, let’s remember …
(3) Every newspaper in America has a built-in excuse for avoiding this story — except one. That paper, of course, is the News & Observer. While other news organizations can decide that Edwards — now that he’s out of the presidential race — is back to being a local story, the N&O has no such exit. Raleigh was Edwards’ longtime hometown, and he still lives in the area. If any newspaper is required to at least take a stab at reporting this story, it’s the N&O. But it wasn’t until yesterday that the N&O finally stirred into action. I asked editor John Drescher about the N&O’s performance, and got this reply:
We’ve had reporters checking on these allegations for some time. It’s a difficult story to report, in part because we rarely publish stories based on anonymous sources. Most of the time, that has served us well. We’re reporting the story jointly with The [Charlotte] Observer.
I’ll take that answer at face value and assume that the N&O is making a good-faith effort. Still, Drescher’s answer is clearly something well short of “damn right we’re gonna get to the bottom of this.”
(4) Finally, liberal bias is real, but it’s not the problem here. Despite claims such as this one, the media’s performance in this instance isn’t a case of a compliant press coddling a liberal politician. There are obvious reasons for the media’s reluctance to dive into this story, not the least of them being that the sins of the flesh are universal and minor. This story really isn’t that big a deal. C’mon. Do you really think the media’s highest and best function is to be a braying mob of moralists?