As the media elite gathered in Washington to gawk, glad-hand and rub elbows with President Obama at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday, a dark cloud that was gathering under their feet had already started to dissipate.
That cloud came from The National Enquirer, which for about 24 hours - and with a boost on The Drudge Report - dangled an exclusive story about the president supposedly having an affair with a campaign aide, Vera Baker.
Not many years ago, this sort of report would be easy to dismiss -- a sensationalist tabloid, boosted by a lone Florida blogger. Ignore it, raise a glass to POTUS and party down at Vanity Fair.
But nowadays it's the kind of thing that requires every serious media outlet's attention. Matt Drudge led the way to Bill Clinton's impeachment. And the Enquirer left the entire media establishment to squirm, mute as it broke the story of John Edward's affair with Rielle Hunter, and produced photos and follow-ups.
All the while the mainstream media remained absurdly, inexplicably silent while the story unfolded nonetheless. Edwards was reduced to a punchline at the Correspondent's Dinner, with host Jay Leno observing: "John Edwards, a personal injury attorney who turned out to be a sleazeball - I was stunned by that revelation."
None ignore the Enquirer anymore. But this time it looks like the tabloid has squandered the credibility that it so hungered for, and that propelled it to apply for a Pulitzer Prize this year (which it did not win).
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