Everyone act surprised: John Edwards, the handsome, millionaire, politician attorney wunderkind stepped outside of his marriage. Wow. Let's crucify him! He had an extra marital affair with some videographer, he might well be a baby daddy, the media is going ape-shit, his wife is terminally ill.
Edwards is being called everything from a cheater and liar to a terrible husband and a horrid leader.
He had an extracurricular affair. He made a mistake.
The thing is this isn't another sex scandal. We are ruining a woman's last few months on earth. I'm a bit of a camel when it comes to politicians and their sex scandals. I thought Elliot Spitzer had given us our fill on political sex scandals for a few years. Sorry, Ashley, time for that Project Runway special: Rielle Hunter is in now. You are but a dim memory!
Everyone keeps saying Edwards is heartless for cheating on his cancer-stricken wife, yet nobody considers how heartless it is to exploit the affair publicly. Elizabeth Edwards has agreed: "Our family has been through a lot. Some caused by nature, some caused by human weakness, and some most recently caused by the desire for sensationalism and profit without any regard for the human consequences. None of these has been easy. But we have stood with one another through them all."
I'm taking off my PR Person hat for a second. Aside from those aggressive, intreprid reporters at the Enquirer , nobody is happy about this. And while I am disappointed we have to be talking about this on HuffPo today, I understand the public's interest but it's being inflamed. It does not need be another sordid, unstoppable tabloid tale that takes our eye off something very important: November.
Perhaps there is positive in this: I'd like to see journalists can talk about the strain terminal illness puts on marriages. Every year thousands of couples struggle while dealing with a personal illness - there are even special cancer/divorce lawyers in the Yellow Pages... It's shocking to hear how many couples split, cheat, leave, or no longer know how to relate to each other once the cancer has left.
There's a worthwhile story.
Is it too much to ask that while we publicly dissect these people's private traumas that we elevate the conversation by talking about the underlying issues that effect so many: think how many couples would love to see how their struggles are shared by others? We are missing an actual opportunity to educate people, provide a service to the public.
The media still claims a special place in American society, freedoms enumerated specifically in the Constitution. That special place in society comes with responsibilities and should be earned. Their role is to function on behalf of the public good but if they are incapable of doing anything beyond regurgitating obvious facts of some well known scandal then they are not doing anything we can't do ourselves.
Some man (albeit, a very famous one) loved his wife, made a pretty awful mistake and she is now dying. There is nothing funny here. But the tragedy here is the dereliction of duty of the press.
In the end Edwards, like Spitzer before him, will fade into the Gary Hart night. What will we be left with but more tawdry feelings about a couple we admired. There's nothing good in it. So let's stop gossiping and get on with it.
Signing off...Richard Laermer, author of 2011: Trendspotting.
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