FNC Talks of Edwards Affair & the Media, NYT Double Standards

On Monday's The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly and FNC analyst Bernie Goldberg discussed the media's reluctance to report the National Enquirer's claims about John Edwards fathering a child with a mistress. O'Reilly expressed his own hesitance to delve into the matter, which he only vaguely referred to as "a difficult personal deal," contending that "I can't verify the story," and expressed concerns about the distress public exposure would cause the Edwards family. He further suggested that after more facts could be verified, that "I'll mention it, but I won't dwell on it."

Goldberg spoke of the double standard employed by the New York Times in its reluctance to cover the 2001 story of Jesse Jackson fathering a baby with an employee, while the Times more blazenly printed less solid allegations this year against John McCain. Goldberg: "The National Enquirer broke that story [about Jesse Jackson]. And when the New York Times finally decided to run it, they put it on page 21 under a one-column headline. Compare that to a story with two unnamed sources that think that maybe that I'm not sure, but I think that John McCain was having an affair with a lobbyist. That winds up on page one of the New York Times."

Below is a complete transcript of the discussion from the the Monday, August 4, The O'Reilly Factor on FNC:

BILL O'REILLY: "Impact" segment tonight, the John Edwards situation. As you may know, there are reports the former vice presidential candidate has had a difficult personal deal on his hands. These reports have appeared in the National Enquirer, a number of Web sites and newspapers like the New Jersey Star Ledger, the Arizona Republic, and a number of papers inside North Carolina where Edwards lives. The mainstream media, including the Factor, have avoided discussing the story. In our case, we simply don't know what happened. And it's impossible to verify the information we have seen. However, there are a number of people who say that if a Republican politician were involved, the mainstream media would run with the story all day long. Joining us now from North Carolina with his opinion, Fox News analyst Bernie Goldberg. So if you were in charge of a news agency, would you go with this?

BERNARD GOLDBERG: First, from a personal point of view, I'm with you. I feel uncomfortable about this. I don't like the humiliation. I don't like the pain that a story like this would cause. But journalistically, you have to come up with guidelines to decide when you would run a story like this. So I came up with a few.

Number one, and this is going to seem obvious, but it must be said: You have to know that the story is true. It doesn't matter that the other guy thinks it's true. You have to feel confident as an editor that it's true. Number two, if hypocrisy is involved, if the public figure is anti-gay, it turns out that he's gay, that's a legitimate news story. You have to run it. Bad judgment, if a person is being considered, let's say to be an attorney general in a new administration, and it turns out, if it turns out that he was involved in something where a woman gets pregnant and has a baby, that's bad judgment. That's bad judgment. The last one is let's be consistent. Let's not have one set of rules for liberal Democrats and another set of rules for conservative Republicans.

O'REILLY: That's never going to happen. I mean, we live in an age where the press is corrupt. And there's no doubt about it. But, look, a couple of things here. Edwards doesn't hold any office right now. He's a private citizen. I can't verify the story. I'm not doubting the story. I can't verify it. Once you report a story like that, you can't get the genie back in the bottle, as they say.


O'REILLY: Okay? So the allegation is there forever. And so based upon, and I did the same thing with Jesse Jackson a few weeks ago, based upon the greater good, because, I mean, I've seen it. I've seen damage done to people by the press that is incalculable. And it's not just about John Edwards. It's about his family, his children, and it's about everything else. So what I say is this. I'm not going to do it until I know it's true until something else happens. But I do know that if it were Mitt Romney instead of John Edwards, this would be on the front page of the New York Times. There's no doubt about it.

GOLDBERG: Right. Okay, I did a little research when I learned you wanted to talk about this. In January of 2001, a newspaper broke a story that Jesse Jackson had a baby with a woman he worked with out of wedlock. Jesse Jackson is an important figure. He's a minister. It's obviously a legitimate story. Did the New York Times break that story? No. Washington Post? No. Either of the Chicago newspapers where Jesse Jackson lives and works? No. The National Enquirer broke that story. And when the New York Times finally decided to run it, they put it on page 21 under a one-column headline.

Compare that to a story with two unnamed sources that think that maybe that I'm not sure, but I think that John McCain was having an affair with a lobbyist. That winds up on page one of the New York Times.

Now let me give you one more hypothetical. That really happened. I know the New York Times would say it wasn't a sex story, it was a lobbyist story. Right. Here's a hypothetical. What if Newt Gingrich or our friend Karl Rove, who was just on, were involved with a woman on the West Coast and had a baby with her out of wedlock. Do you think the New York Times would be as squeamish as it is with the John Edwards story? I don't think so.

O'REILLY: No, of course, they wouldn't. And all the network news on television would do the same thing. But here's the deal. The New York Times was punished dramatically for doing what it did to John McCain. Its circulation and ad revenue is way down. There's going to be a revolution among the stockholders over there. The paper's reputation is shot. All right? NBC news reputation, shot. All of the things that we have both said here are true. There is an obvious double standard. Every thinking American knows it. And they're walking away, Bernie, from these outlets. These outlets are being punished by the folks. It's not about the Internet. We're prospering here on Fox News. The Factor is prospering. Not about that. It's about everybody now knows the game. And the second thing isn't about, it's about fairness. And I don't have any use for John Edwards. Everybody knows that. He attacked me on a bogus thing, a homeless thing that we've proven to be a total charlatan. But I don't want to hurt him. I don't want to hurt his family. I don't want to hurt his children. And I'm not going to do it.

GOLDBERG: You see, that's where we sort of differ. I say if it turns out that the story is true, and if it's provably true, I really do feel terrible that it would hurt his family. I really do.

O'REILLY: I'll mention it, but I won't dwell on it.

GOLDBERG: But it's a legitimate. No, that's fair enough, exactly.

O'REILLY: Right.

GOLDBERG: That's a very good way to do it. You report it.

O'REILLY: But I won't dwell on it. And I certainly won't revel in it the way we have seen the other aforementioned media.

GOLDBERG: Absolutely a fair way to do it. I'm totally with you on that.

Brad Wilmouth
Brad Wilmouth is a contributing blogger to NewsBusters