Part of the daily banter here at the office often surrounds celebrities/politicians/gossip, etc. – something only natural in a newsroom dominated by females. And on Monday, the subject of John Edwards’ infidelity arose and two of my coworkers had a different stance on the issue than myself.
Note: By now, I assume we’re all fully abreast on the Edwards “situation,” and if you aren’t, what hole have you been hiding in? (Check out this Associated Press story, Edwards admits he had affair after heated denials.)
While I don’t condone his cheating – while his wife fought cancer, of all things … not a cold or perhaps the flu, hell, even bird flu, but CANCER – I really don’t see this topic as the public’s business, unlike my fellow Tribune employees. I felt the same way about the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal of the ’90s. What an individual, public figure or otherwise, does sexually behind closed doors is simply none of my concern.
Thus arises the question, “if he’s putting himself in the public eye, doesn’t his infidelity then become public information?” To an extent, this is a logical thought, and a person thrusting him/herself into the spotlight should realize the lack of privacy his/her life would then carry. However, at what point does the media’s desire for scandalous news like sexual activity become little more than titillating chatter?
As a reporter, I should have this inward desire to hunt for the truth and expose people like Edwards who claim faithfulness to their spouse despite evidence pointing elsewhere. But when it comes to a topic like sex, I don’t feel as though it’s my place to pry into a public official’s life for the truth. That is an issue that should be handled by a husband and wife – perhaps the immediate family, if necessary – and not one that should be picked at by society.
Yes, he lied, repeatedly, to the media about his 2006 affair with campaign staffer Rielle Hunter. And clearly he has lost the trust of many people as a result. But was it ever truly the public’s information to know? What right did they … we … have over knowing Edwards’ personal life, personal mistakes and personal drama? Once admitting his affair late last week, he claimed he told his wife of the affair. This was his statement:
“In 2006, I made a serious error in judgment and conducted myself in a way that was disloyal to my family and to my core beliefs. I recognized my mistake, and I told my wife that I had a liaison with another woman, and I asked for her forgiveness. Although I was honest in every painful detail with my family, I did not tell the public … I was and am ashamed of my conduct and choices. With my family, I took responsibility for my actions in 2006, and today I take full responsibility publicly.”
And why did he openly admit his error in judgment to the public? Because following The National Enquirer’s (what a reputable source of information, eh?) expose (okay, I can’t get a little accent mark to work!) about Edwards’ infidelity, various media outlets would not stop hounding the man until he came clean with the truth. It was only a matter of time before he cracked, and clearly he did. But, as he blatantly mentioned, he already took responsibility for his actions nearly 2 years ago with his family, the singular source he needs to answer to on this planet.
My coworkers believed Edwards – as not only a public official, but a man who wanted to become our next president – had a right to be honest with members of this country. He owed it to Americans, and specifically the North Carolinians he represented as a state senator for many years, to be upfront and truthful in all his endeavors. And that remains accurate in his political moves, in my opinion.
But, despite being a senator and a man with presidential dreams, Edwards is still a human being … a man, nonetheless … who is apt to err in some fashion. In letting down the person he loves most in this world by cheating, it does raise questions – rightfully so – of his leadership abilities and the likelihood of disappointing people across the nation. But what line did we cross in forcing him to tell us? This was his own battle to fight, one he had to reconcile with his wife and family alone. Who are we to badger and pester him until he spills the truth to the entire world?
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