Byron York

Two weeks before the 2008 Iowa caucuses, the National Enquirer published a detailed story reporting that Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards had had an affair, and that the woman involved -- campaign videographer Rielle Hunter -- was pregnant, and that Edwards had arranged for an aide to falsely claim to be the father, and that Hunter and the aide and the aide's family were being taken care of financially by a wealthy Edwards supporter.

It was, to say the least, explosive.

At the time, Edwards was a serious contender in the Democratic presidential race, so when the story was published, his aides prepared for what some believed would be an onslaught of media scrutiny.

But it didn't happen. Although Edwards could not have known it at the time, it turned out that many journalists just didn't want to report the news and didn't try very hard to uncover the facts.

The tale is told in the new book "The Politician" by former Edwards aide and confidant Andrew Young, the man who, at Edwards' insistence, claimed that he, and not the candidate, was the father of Hunter's child.

By mid-December 2007, Edwards knew the Enquirer story was coming. With Iowa fast approaching, he came up with an I'm-not-the-father cover-up scheme, believing that having Young claim paternity would deflect blame away from the candidate himself. "It's going to be a one-day story, Andrew," Edwards told Young, according to Young's account. "No offense, but the press doesn't give a s--t about you."

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So the statement was drafted. In addition to claiming paternity, Young wrote that Edwards "knew nothing" about the relationship.

It was a preposterous lie, but Edwards went ahead, offering the one-paragraph explanation to any reporters who asked. The candidate and his top advisers, Young wrote, "expected the (media) onslaught" to begin as soon as the Enquirer posted its story online. Young sent his family out of town to spare them the firestorm.

But then ... nothing. "To our relief, no serious newspaper or TV network picked up the story because they couldn't find a source to confirm it," Young wrote. The damage was confined to a few Web sites. "We began to think that perhaps our strategy had worked," Young said.


Byron York

Byron York, chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner