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The John Edwards Affair: Accountability for New & Old Media?

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The Washington Note published several pieces about the details and significance of a potential sexual affair in the middle of the John Edwards presidential primary campaign three times -- twice on October 11, 2007 (here and here) and once on October 12, 2007.

I wrote about this after reading Sam Stein's work at Huffington Post. He broke this story -- and the National Enquirer built on the 'revelations'.

There are few times when I have received more hate mail and was the target of really awful, excoriating attacks than at that time -- and now Edwards admits to the affair he had been denying. The same may be true for Sam Stein.

I frankly don't care about affairs in general -- but I do care about the presumption that the American public can be counted on to be part of the outrage machine when a politician lies about something like this -- particularly given the circumstances of Elizabeth Edwards' health.

My hat is tipped to Sam Stein who was the first blogger to really work this story. He told me then that his sources were solid, and I believed him. He deserves a salute today -- even though the story itself is gross and hardly worth the attention we are compelled to give it.

There will be ramifications of this incident on the blogging community and also on mainstream media. Some blogs frequently see themselves as willing vehicles of politicians, unwilling to focus a critical eye on the pol or party they are supporting. Others see themselves as a hybrid of advocacy and analysis. Others see themselves as competitors with mainstream media -- covering political news with greater objectivity and creativity than the largely homogenized, too controlled big time media players offer.

Blogging is a real mix of types -- but there are many great bloggers out there who were convinced until the last moment that Edwards was truthful and that this was a conspiracy hatched by Clinton or Obama to undo him as a presidential candidate -- and then as a vice-presidential choice. Edwards owes these folks an apology for misleading them and the nation -- many who were his strongest defenders. And then everyone in this game needs to thank the Sam Steins of the world who are willing to report what they learn and work a story as it should be worked.

I applauded previously Sam Stein's thoughtful journalism and behind the scenes investigative work then -- and given what we now know today -- I applaud him again.

I wish John Edwards had done what Alexander Hamilton had done in a similar situation -- as I wrote last October -- but not to be. Sad.

-- Steve Clemons