Commentary: Edwards scandal was tailor-made for tabloids

During my 37 years of covering Tar Heel politics, I have known plenty of politicians with a roving eye. Big egos, nights away from home, and political groupies provide a lot of temptation.

But former Sen. John Edwards never had a reputation as a skirt chaser while he was in Raleigh. He was known as a workaholic lawyer who would hit the soccer fields with his kids in his spare time, not the bars cruising for women.

Even so, there were rumors. As early as 2003, I asked Edwards about a rumored affair from his days as a big-time trial lawyer. Edwards denied it. His campaign spokeswoman called my boss to complain that in all of the years of working in the Clinton White House she had never heard such off-base questions. One of his chief political advisers threw me out of his office the next day.

From that point on, the Edwards campaign treated me as a hostile reporter. To this day, I don't know whether Edwards had an affair with the woman in question.

Proving sexual affairs is a difficult business, even if one is willing to engage in peephole journalism.

Usually one party has to acknowledge the affair, or the liaison is documented in legal proceedings such as a divorce or child custody fight. South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford acknowledged his affair after returning from an unexplained absence in Argentina. New York Gov. Elliott Spitzer's relationship with a call girl was disclosed during a federal investigation into another matter. New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey's affair came out when he put his boyfriend on the state payroll.

Some readers have wondered why it was The National Enquirer, and not some other news organization, that broke the Edwards sex scandal.

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