Daniel Radosh beat Drudge by a couple of hours Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2007:

Remember those rumors a couple of months ago that John Edwards had had an affair with a campaign volunteer named Rielle Hunter?

When I posted about them at the time, I chided Mickey Kaus for saying that "the MSM seems to be strenuously trying to not report" the story. Even as I expressed doubts about the story itself, I replied, "I'll betcha anything this will be all over the MSM within a week."

What I meant to say was, "within two and a half months." I can now exclusively report that at least two news outlets are preparing to break new details on this story in the near future. I know because I've been contacted by someone at a reputable news agency trying to track down the source of the photo I used to accompany my post (I pulled it off Hunter's now vanished web site).

When asked why he wanted it, my correspondent wrote... Well, I don't think he quite understood the implications of e-mailing a blogger without first asking to go off the record, so I'll be somewhat circumspect and say only that his message ended, "If I were you I'd keep an eye out for this one."

Eww, now I feel all Drudgey.

BigHeadDC blogs:

Rielle Hunter, the woman the National Enquirer claims had an 18-month affair with Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, is reportedly pregnant and in hiding. Both Edwards and Hunter (who used to go by the name Lisa Druck) have denied they ever had an affair, but she was closely involved with his campaign in its early stages and then just sort of oddly disappeared. Reports have also indicated that she was paid above average fees for the work she performed.

Hunter allegedly told a confidante that she is six months pregnant and that Edwards is the father of her unborn child. She also relocated to live in Chapel Hill, NC about a month ago. Her new home is just a few streets away from the residence of Andrew Young, who had been a key official in Edwards' campaign — until he left the campaign about a month ago. Since then, Young has been in charge of looking after Hunter, according to Enquirer sources. Some are saying that Young, a married father with children, is claiming to be the father of the unborn child in an effort to protect Edwards.

There is widespread speculation that this is the sex scandal story involving a Democratic presidential candidate that was rumored to be being held by the LA Times.

The National Enquirer broke the story Oct. 10.

The National Enquirer reports in a story dated Dec. 19:

Presidential candidate John Edwards is caught up in a love child scandal, a blockbuster ENQUIRER investigation has discovered.

The ENQUIRER has learned exclusively that Rielle Hunter, a woman linked to Edwards in a cheating scandal earlier this year, is more than six months pregnant - and she's told a close confidante that Edwards is the father of her baby!

The ENQUIRER's political bombshell comes just weeks after Edwards emphatically denied having an affair with Rielle, who formerly worked on his campaign and told another close pal that she was romantically involved with the married ex-Senator.

The ENQUIRER has now confirmed not only that Rielle is expecting, but that she's gone into hiding with the help of a former aide to Edwards . The visibly pregnant blonde has relocated from the New York area to Chapel Hill, N.C. where she is living in an upscale gated community near political operative Andrew Young, who's been extremely close to Edwards for years and was a key official in his presidential campaign.

And in a bizarre twist, Young - a 41-year-old married man with young children -- now claims HE is the father of Rielle's baby! But others are skeptical, wondering if Young's paternity claim is a cover-up to protect Edwards.

Meanwhile, Edwards' cancer-stricken wife Elizabeth has joined him on the campaign trail.

In a statement issued to The ENQUIRER through her attorney, Rielle said: "The fact that I am expecting a child is my personal and private business. This has no relationship to nor does it involve John Edwards in any way. Andrew Young is the father of my unborn child."

But a source extremely close to the 43-year-old divorcee says Rielle has told a far different story privately: "Rielle told me she had a secret affair with Edwards. When she found out that she was pregnant, she said he was the father."

Rielle loves Edwards and will do anything to protect him, the source says.

In The ENQUIRER's Oct. 22 issue, we revealed that Edwards, 54, was involved in a mistress scandal and the shocking allegations - if proven true - could devastate the Democratic hopeful's campaign.

At the time, we withheld Rielle's name, but reported that an insider told The ENQUIRER that she claimed that she began the affair some 18 months earlier. She talked about her relationship in phone calls and e-mails.

After our story was published, several political bloggers correctly identified "the other woman" as Rielle, a self-described filmmaker whose company was hired by a pro-Edwards group called One American Committee and paid $114,000 to produce videos for Edwards' campaign. She worked with Edwards on those videos.

Reporters asked Edwards about The ENQUIRER report during a campaign stop in Columbia, S.C., on Oct. 11.

Edwards responded: "The story is false. It's completely untrue, ridiculous," adding, "Anyone who knows me knows that I have been in love with the same woman for 30 plus years."

Rielle issued her own statement through mydd.com, a pro-Democratic website, saying: "The innuendoes and lies that have appeared on the internet and in the National ENQUIRER concerning John Edwards are not true, completely unfounded and ridiculous.

"My video production company was hired by the Edwards camp on a six-month contract, which we completed Dec. 31, 2006. When working for the Edwards camp, my conduct as well as the conduct of my entire team was completely professional."

But what the rest of the press didn't know is that when Rielle made that claim, she was pregnant, hiding it and had told her confidante it was Edwards' baby.

That's also when it was decided Rielle would relocate to North Carolina, said the source.

The ENQUIRER has confirmed that Young placed Rielle in a rental home in the Governor's Club, the same gated community where he lives in a multimillion-dollar home with his wife Cheri and their young children. That home is owned by an Edwards' backer and is less than five miles from Edwards' national campaign headquarters in Chapel Hill, N.C.

A former "Director of Operations" for Edwards' campaign, Young's last official position with the campaign was "North Carolina Finance Director."

He left that job about a month ago - about the same time Rielle settled in Chapel Hill.

A source close to Young vehemently denies that he funneled campaign money to Rielle - who drives a BMW SUV registered in Young's name.

The ENQUIRER spotted Rielle -- visibly pregnant in a black sweater and loose-fitting slacks - leaving her OB/GYN's office in Cary, N.C., on Dec. 12.

And when asked for comment about her relationship with Edwards by an ENQUIRER reporter, Rielle responded: "I have no idea what you're talking about."

Asked why she was living in Young's gated community, she answered: "I have no idea what you are talking about."

When asked who fathered her baby, she answered: "I have no idea who you're talking about or what you're talking about."

She even denied that she was Rielle Hunter!

But things changed dramatically when The ENQUIRER contacted Edwards for a comment just days later.

Edwards' lawyer called The ENQUIRER and denied the well-coifed Democratic candidate is the father of Rielle's baby, adding that Rielle would deny it, as well.

A day later, in a shocking twist, the attorney for Mr. Young issued a statement that Young fathered Rielle's baby!

"Andrew Young is the father of Ms. Hunter's unborn child," declared his Washington, D.C.-based attorney.

"Sen. Edwards knew nothing about the relationship between these former co-workers, which began when they worked together in 2006.

"As a private citizen who no longer works for the campaign, Mr. Young asks that the media respect his privacy while he works to make amends with his family."

Neither Young nor Rielle offered any evidence of their prior romantic relationship and both turned down an ENQUIRER request to take polygraph tests on the claim that Young fathered her child.

Now some insiders wonder whether Young's paternity claim is simply a cover-up to protect his longtime pal Edwards.

"If you have an alternate explanation for a scandal, you don't take 24 hours to offer that explanation, let alone days or weeks," a political insider told The ENQUIRER.

Simply put, Edwards could have nipped the earlier cheating scandal in the bud by instructing his aides to explain that Rielle had been romantically involved with a married man on the campaign. But he didn't.

Instead, Rielle has been telling a confidante that Edwards is the father of her child.

"Rielle told me while Andrew Young is a friend, she's not romantically involved with him," says the source close to Rielle. "Rielle says he's been responsible for finding her a place to live and even getting her a car to drive.

"If he really were the father of her baby and had engaged in an extramarital affair with her, I doubt seriously that he'd bring his wife and kids over to her house for dinner - which Rielle told me he did a few weeks ago.

"Rielle has said from the beginning that the baby is John's, but she appears willing to do whatever they want her to do to protect his candidacy.

"I think what's taking place is simply a cover-up by Edwards' campaign."

And no one has denied the source's information that Reille has been in phone contact with Edwards since finding out she is pregnant.

When ENQUIRER reporters contacted Young in person at his home on Dec. 12, he became furious -- and denied he was Andrew Young.

He also denied knowing "any Rielle Hunter," yelling at the top of his voice, "You don't even know who I am!" But when his wife called him "Andrew," he shot her a dirty look.

An enraged Young called police, demanding our reporters be arrested for trespassing.

Officers from the Chatham County (N.C.) Sheriff's Department responded, questioned everyone and made no arrests.

While controversy swirls around her, Rielle - a wannabe actress who by her own admission was a drug-using New York party girl in the ‘80s - stayed in touch with Edwards.

"Rielle told me that she remains in phone contact with John, but can't see him for obvious reasons," said the source close to her"

In a recent article, the Enquirer implied that Oprah and Obama were fooling around.

Bill Clinton's friend Ron Burkle is about to take over the Enquirer.

Here's Ann Coulter talking about the affair on Tucker Carlson's TV show Oct. 10.

Mickey Kaus has been pushing this story since Oct. 10.

Mickey writes Oct. 18:

What to expect when you're expecting: Drudge teases the National Enquirer ... Update: The Enquirer posts the gist..... One initial point: There's no reason to conclude this story was planted by one campaign or another. I'm familiar with how the initial Rielle Hunter/Edwards rumors, true or not, got to at least one news outlet--and no campaigns, Dem or GOP, were involved. It was a story going around--I'd been hearing it for months. Not all rumors are plants. And some are true. Even in the Enquirer. ...P.S.: Here's an earlier analysis of the potential effect of this scandal on Edwards--and Hillary. It doesn't seem all that complicated. Until recently, Edwards not very subtly put his wife's illness. and his loyalty to her, near the center of his campaign. As he said:

In so many ways, you're the guardians of what kind of human being, we're going to have as president. ... And you get to judge us.

Backfill: Here's Jerome Armstrong's initial Rielle Hunter denial.

...[A]nd, on 60 Minutes:

[E]very single candidate for president, Republican and Democratic have lives, personal lives, that indicate something about what kind of human being they are. And I think it is a fair evaluation for America to engage in to look at what kind of human beings each of us are, and what kind of president we'd make.

...[Y]ou can't be too paranoid when Ron Burkle might be involved. (If it hurt Edwards, the story would potentially devastate Burkle's candidate Hillary, who needs Edwards to beat or dilute Obama in Iowa. That's why it's crazy to suggest that Hillary's camp planted it.)

Here's a picture of the woman in question -- Rielle Hunter. Here's a picture of Rielle Hunter pregnant.

Brian Maloney blogs Dec. 18:

In what will likely clear talk radio's topical decks for the next day or so, last- minute (as in Iowa) revelations of a soon- to- be John Edwards "love child" has fingers pointing straight at Clinton's war room.

Regardless of the story's origin, however, the National Enquirer's megascoop on Edwards and his extracurricular activities is sure to shake up the presidential race in a major way. That's because a new poll has Edwards leading in Iowa, with that state's caucuses right around the corner.

From the piece, just published tonight and already splashed across the Drudge Report:
The woman linked to Presidential candidate John Edwards in a cheating scandal is more than six months pregnant and telling a close confidante that Edwards is the father of her unborn child, The NATIONAL ENQUIRER has learned exclusively.

The NATIONAL ENQUIRER's political bombshell comes just weeks after Edwards emphatically denied having an affair with Rielle Hunter, who formerly worked on his campaign.

But The ENQUIRER has now confirmed not only that Rielle is pregnant, but she is also living in Chapel Hill, N.C. in a gated community, just a few streets away from Andrew Young, who has been a key official in Edwards' campaign.
The story goes on to allege a political cover-up, adding a level of intrigue for pundits to savor.

For talk radio hosts, potential reactions are not yet clear. Asked by your Radio Equalizer for a gut reaction to the story, syndicated talker Dr Laura Schlessinger quipped, "I would comment ONLY AFTER a paternity test...."

And ABC Radio talker Mark Levin told your Radio Equalizer late Tuesday, "if this turns out to be accurate, Edwards will become a favorite among Democrats."

Talk radio reactions could mirror some of the comments posted in the last few minutes at Lucianne's site:
This is no surprise, We all expected that as soon as Edwards made a move in the polls, Hillary's goons at the tabloids would drop a bomb on him.

Although we don't know if the story is true or not, it also would be no surprise to learn that an ambulance chasing scuzz like Edwards was two-timing his cancer stricken wife.

Let me guess, hillary is totally shocked by this and she had nothing to do with the story. Her people will be quoted as saying that they are surprised that that Edwards is bisexual and could father an illegitimate kid.

...Andrew Young? The man who said Bubba been with more black women than Obama is now watching over Bambi's love child?
In October, the same publication broke news of the Breck Girl's affair, but this bombshell will likely do far more damage. The big question: will it ruin Edwards in Iowa, or create a backlash against Hillary there?

UPDATE: The DUmmies aren't happy

Antidem posts on Lucianne: "Anyway, one of the videos this Rielle made is still posted at Business Week. Assuming it is she behind the camera (or next to whomever is filming) in the first minute you see them enter the plane where Edwards say HI and you hear a woman's voice (presumably Rielle) say "Hi Honey" (professionalism in action...later on when he is showing off his speech notes, I swear he gushes like a schoolboy (although that could be a sign that he is just in love with himself.)"

Here are the missing videos on YouTube.

Here's an excerpt from the Dec. 25, 2006 Newsweek article that started this:

The Webisodes are the brainchild of Rielle Hunter, a filmmaker who met Edwards at a New York bar where Edwards was having a business meeting. "I didn't think it was John Edwards," Hunter recalls, "because the public persona did not mesh at all with the person who was sitting in front of me." Hunter pitched Edwards on the documentaries as a medium for bringing the "real John Edwards" to the people. Edwards still has a ways to go. In the midst of a short theme sequence that begins each Webisode, the camera lingers over the former senator's behind as he tucks a starched white shirt into his pants [LF: 1:12 into this video]. Still, Hunter, now under contract with Edwards's organization, says she sees the untucked John Edwards coming more and more to the fore.

Wonkette reported Oct. 11:

Oh, that John Edwards sex scandal thing? It might have been planted and tended with care by the Huffington Post, sort of. Someone gave Sam Stein (former Newsweek intern-turned-HuffPo Political Journalist extraordinaire!) the story of some TOTALLY MYSTERIOUS VIDEOS that disappeared from John Edwards' website. First it was a mere mysterious mystery — why would the Edwards' campaign scrub all traces of these harmless, complimentary "meet the candidate" videos? Then it was a totally mysterious mystery involving a nutty, directionless hippie chick whom Edwards met in a bar.

Rielle Hunter, wannabe actress/producer (aspiring double threat!), was paid $114,461 by Edwards' One America Committee to produce a series of "webisodes" introducing people to the casual, "authentic" John Edwards. Why they picked this lady to make these videos is unclear — she really didn't have much experience doing anything beyond being, in the words of Jay McInerney, "an ostensibly jaded, cocaine-addled, sexually voracious 20-year old." That was a couple years ago, though. Now she's a 44-year-old former all of those things, and a weirdo new agey spiritualist flake, according to her website.

But why is the HuffPo so obsessed with her and these totally boring videos?

Because they mysteriously disappeared of course! Conveniently right around the time Edwards officially announced his candidacy! Why would he delete these harmless clips at that particular moment? Because he was having a tumultuous affair with the producer?

Or maybe because using the videos in the actual campaign would violate campaign finance law!

No, wait, the other one. The affair one. That one's much more exciting.

And Stein doesn't actually say Edwards was having an affair with Ms. Hunter, but the National Enquirer conveniently ran a story just veiled enough for all sorts of bloggers to feel v v clever and proud of themselves when they "connected the dots" (John met this unnamed lady at a bar do you see??).

Hell, maybe John did fuck this lady! Or maybe she's a nut who convinced herself they were having an affair! Or maybe the campaign cooked up this whole hoax to end all the gay jokes! We don't know! None of this will be cleared up until all the tv networks start running anguished reports on how they're not reporting on the story that the uncivil internet people cooked up.

Well, She's Hotter Than Monica [Radosh]
Edwards Mystery: Innocuous Videos Suddenly Shrouded In Secrecy [HuffPo]
Scrubbed: Edwards Filmmaker's Deleted Website Raises Questions [HuffPo]

Wonkette reported Oct. 12:

John Edwards was stupid enough to deny reports from the National Enquirer that he had an affair with that nutty hippie. Reporters asked him about it yesterday and he said it was "completely untrue" and "ridiculous." So we're done with the part where "real" reporters refuse to mention the story at all until its sorta "reported" in a "disreputable" tabloid (or website!) and we can move on to the nonstop meta-media "what have we become" handwringing part where we all keep hearing about this "ridiculous" story over and over again until they give John Edwards his own Nobel prize!

The AP makes sure to point out, of course, that if John Edwards cheated on his wife it would make him the single worst human being in the history of the world:

Edwards said the story was simply "made up" and that he loves his wife, Elizabeth, who is being treated for an incurable form of cancer.

She's got cancer, people! What kind of monster would cheat on a woman with cancer!

John claimed to still find his wife "warm, loving, beautiful, sexy, and as good a person as I have ever known." His best defense against these allegations may be his repeated insistence that he and his wife have sex all the damn time. Remember the terrible broken rib story?

Of course, he'll need all the wink-wink quotations in men's magazines he can get to beat these unsubstantiated charges that are so far being denied by both individuals involved.

Edwards Denies Tabloid Report of Affair [AP]

Sam Stein writes on Huffington Post Oct. 10:

A set of short documentary film "webisodes" made for former Sen. John Edwards prior to his presidential candidacy continues to weave a curious web, this time involving the filmmaker.

The videos, which cost Edwards' One America Committee $114,461, were produced in 2006 by an aspiring actress/producer named Rielle Hunter, who proposed the idea to the senator in a bar in New York City. The objective was to give viewers - and presumably voters - an authentic look at the North Carolinian. But shortly after Edwards declared his White House aspirations, the footage all but disappeared from public view. After the Huffington Post wrote about the webisodes, the videos resurfaced, both on YouTube and Webcastr.com, although the anonymous individual who reposted them (user name: "MissingVideos") has not responded to emails.

Little was known about Hunter as well. Despite working in the movie business, she had virtually no Internet presence save for an article in Newsweek about her filming of Edwards and an uninformative IMDB entry for her work on the short film Billy Bob and Them (2000).

This anonymity, it turns out, wasn't always the case. The Huffington Post has uncovered a deleted website that formerly belonged to Hunter. Titled "Being Is Free," the site was last updated on April 22, 2007, roughly twenty days after Edwards' One America Committee made its final payment to Hunter's company, Midline Groove Productions.

There is virtually no mention of filmmaking or politics on the site. And there is little indication as to what Hunter did professionally - beyond an involvement in various spiritual quests - before she and her partner, Mimi Hockman, started Midline Groove Production in the spring of 2006. As Colin Weil, a consultant to the Edwards webisodes told the Huffington Post: "Neither of them had done tons and tons of stuff before hand... The whole [Edwards' taping] was pretty organic."

On the deleted pages, the 44-year-old Hunter (formerly known as Lisa Druck) discusses her former hard partying days, her search for enlightenment, and her issues with drugs and debt. There is a 2005 interview she did with one-time boyfriend Jay McInerney, in which the celebrated novelist reveals that Hunter was the basis for Alison Poole, the main character of his book, Story of My Life.

"It was narrated in the first person," McInerney writes in the intro to the interview, "from the point of view of an ostensibly jaded, cocaine-addled, sexually voracious 20-year old who was, shall we say, inspired by Lisa [aka Rielle]."

The two go on to discuss Hunter's life after the book's publication. Here's an excerpt:

Hunter: I thought I was going to LA to be an actress and to get away from New York because I was doing so many drugs. We always think we're going somewhere for some particular reason, and it turns out that that isn't the reason at all

McInerney: Is LA less druggy than New York?

Hunter: Oh yeah. Actually the reason it was less druggy was because someone referred me to a healer who did a clearing on my energy field. I was in a state of ecstasy for about a week and realized what I was looking for, in terms of medication, was inside of me; it was a higher bliss. With that clearing, all desire for drugs or alcohol vanished. I became sober overnight. And then I became a spiritual seeker, addicted to a higher consciousness, addicted to enlightenment.

Sam Stein broke the story Sept. 26:

In the summer of 2006, former North Carolina Senator John Edwards commissioned a series of web-based documentary shorts for his pre-announcement leadership PAC, the One America Committee. Within political circles, the videos were regarded as innovative, having successfully painted Edwards in a sympathetic, down-to-earth light.

Now, however, nearly all traces of the webisodes - as they became known - are gone. Links to them on the Internet no longer work. The Edwards campaign won't release the videos, and the production company behind the films is citing confidentiality agreements in refusing to talk.

This closed-off approach naturally aroused my interest. In the world of politics, rare is the candidate who passes on a chance for publicity. The campaign's explanation for stonewalling, moreover, struck me as dubious and at times evasive.

I had come to the Edwards' videos in a haphazard way: the byproduct of a story I was writing on new technology and politics. The webisodes were not, in any regard, a secret. Edwards' "behind the scenes" portrait had earned rave reviews in the blogosphere and even a small feature in Newsweek. But nothing had been written about the films since Edwards announced his presidential aspirations, and I wanted to know how the footage would play on the campaign trail.

What followed was a lesson in the profound irritations of political reporting.

From the New York Daily News:

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards Thursday vehemently denied a supermarket tabloid's story that he cheated on his wife.

"It's completely untrue, ridiculous," Edwards told reporters in Summerton, S.C., after being asked about a National Enquirer story that said he had an affair with a campaign staffer.

The Enquirer did not name the woman or the source of its information. But the Web site MyDD.com, a political "direct democracy" forum, posted a statement from Rielle Hunter, a woman who has made a series of short documentaries about the former North Carolina senator.

"The innuendoes and lies that have appeared on the Internet and in the National Enquirer concerning John Edwards are not true, completely unfounded and ridiculous," Hunter stated. "When working for the Edwards camp, my conduct as well as the conduct of my entire team was completely professional. This concocted story is just dirty politics, and I want no part of it."

..."I've been in love with the same woman for 30-plus years and, as anybody who's been around us knows, she's an extraordinary human being, warm, loving, beautiful, sexy and as good a person as I have ever known," Edwards said. "So the story's just false."

It's worth listing all the people who were wrong about this story. Let's start with Daniel Radosh who wrote Oct. 10:

Mickey Kaus thinks "the MSM seems to be strenuously trying to not report" this story, which is a bit of a stretch, given the flimsy evidence and the short time frame. I'll betcha anything this will be all over the MSM within a week...

Matthew Yglesias wrote Oct. 14: "Basically what we have here is that if we assume the anonymous hearsay is true and the on-the-record first-hand denial is false, then Edwards is either mishandling the story by denying it too vaguely ("the story is false") or else is mishandling it by denying it too directly ("made up") but what if the story's not true? No doubt by now we've had all the legitimate news organizations in the country looking into it and it seems that . . . nobody can come up with any evidence."

As Kaus noted then: "Jason Zengerle and Freedom Eden agree: John Edwards would never, ever, engage in that sort of despicable behavior!"

Bob Wright was full of disgust (here) at Mickey's pushing this Edwards story.

Mickey wrote circa Dec. 15: "I attempt to defend the tri-modal model of scandal coverage against withering assault on bloggingheads here. Of course, I forgot the most important point--which is that when scuttlebutt is made public that serves an investigative function--sources are alerted and come forward, friends vouch, previously unkown emailers email, and you find out the truth faster than you would when professional journalists keep the good gossip to themselves. That includes finding out that a rumor is false."

Rielle's ex-boyfriend, the novelist Jay McInerney, said:

The way I remember it, I first met Rielle Hunter in a nightclub called Nells in early 1987, although the circumstances of our first meeting seem to be in dispute. In my defense I can only say that events of that decade are not always as clearly etched in memory as we might wish, and neither of us was living a very sober or reflective life back then. At that time Rielle's name was Lisa Druck, and when she wasn't out at nightclubs she was taking acting classes. We dated for only a few months, but in that period I spent a lot of time with Lisa and her friends, whose behavior intrigued and appalled me to such an extent that I ended up basing a novel on the experience. The novel was called Story of My Life, and it was narrated in the first person from the point of view of an ostensibly jaded, cocaine- addled, sexually voracious 20-year-old who was, shall we say, inspired by Lisa. I certainly thought of Alison Poole as a sympathetic and ultimately endearing character. One of her most striking traits was her obsession with truth-telling and her horror of being lied to, something that I certainly took directly from Lisa. When Lisa moved to Calfornia and got married I lost track of her, though I was reminded of her whenever someone would ask me, at book signings and lectures, what I imagined happened to Alison Poole after the book ended — whether I saw her as turning her life around or not. Through the grapevine I picked up occasional reports from the West Coast. I heard that Lisa had changed her name to Rielle, that she'd gotten divorced, and that she was increasingly engaged in various spiritual quests which she attempted to explain to me when I finally ran into her; all I could tell for certain was that she was a far happier person than I remembered. Recently she returned to Manhattan and one sunny afternoon in Washington Square Park, attempted to enlighten me on the subject of her own enlightenment.

Speaking of those who got this story spectacularly wrong, check out this New York Magazine Daily Intelligencer blog on Oct. 11. To begin with, these guys allege the story started on the net when it began in Newsweek a year ago:

One of the wonderful things about the Internet is that rumors and scandal take on a life of their own. No one even needs to report anything! Once a story is out there, it's fair game for everyone else to repeat it, often under the guise of media analysis. The story starts at the bottom of the food chain of credibility. Bloggers and tabloid outlets egg each other incrementally on, until eventually more serious outlets pick it up.

We may be about to leave the early stages of such a cycle with the growing scrutiny into the professional relationship between John Edwards and a woman named Rielle Hunter, a.k.a. Lisa Druck, who produced films for his One America prepresidential campaign. Ann Coulter is even involved! The following timeline details the anatomy of an innuendo, including a few steps into the perhaps inevitable future.

* January 2007. John Edwards's One America campaign debuts a series of Web videos about him, made by relatively unknown documentarian Rielle Hunter. The pair met at a bar, where she sold the future candidate on the idea. Hunter subsequently followed Edwards around the country, filming. Newsweek reporter Jonathan Darman, upon watching the final cuts, notes that "in the midst of a short theme sequence that begins each Webisode, the camera lingers over the former senator's behind as he tucks a starched white shirt into his pants."
* August 27, 2007. The Post's "Page Six" runs the following blind item: "WHICH political candidate enjoys visiting New York because he has a girlfriend who lives downtown? The pol tells her he'll marry her when his current wife is out of the picture." This is later reprinted by commenters on the Huffington Post blog.
* September 26, 2007. Young Huffington Post reporter Sam Stein writes about his efforts to track down the Web videos, which have now been taken off the internet*. Stein writes an oddly detailed account of his chase of the videos and points out that both the Edwards campaign and Hunter's production company blame one another for their vanishing act. Stein even checks with the Screen Actor's Guild to get more information and tracks down production assistants on the project, none of whom will say much. Finally, Edwards's people offer to let him see the videos — while accompanied by a campaign minder. Stein says he accepted the offer, but does not report whether he actually saw them or not.*
* September 27, 2007. Daily Kos contributor Ben Bang links to Stein's post and viciously berates the reporter. "Are we supposed to infer something from this non-ending, douchebag?" Ben Bang asks, going on to call him a him a "no-article-finishing, character-assassinating hack fuck."
* October 10, 2007. The National Enquirer reports that Edwards is having an affair with a mystery woman who had traveled with the campaign and met the candidate at a bar. An Edwards rep calls the allegations "false, absolute nonsense."
* October 10, 2007. That same day, Stein posts a follow-up to his original Huffington Post piece. He questions why Rielle Hunter's production company was paid upwards of $100,000 for her work, and points out that she used to be a party girl who dated writer Jay McInerney in the eighties and inspired the main character in his book Story of My Life.*
* October 10, 2007. Ann Coulter, late in the day, mentions the Enquirer story on Tucker Carlson's MSNBC talk show. Daily Kos once again picks up on it and lists the reasons why Stein and the Huffington Post are irresponsible journalists for digging into it.
* October 11, 2007. Mickey Kaus on Slate writes a post headlined "Emerging Edwards Scandal?" in which he notes the previous coverage, mulls what would happen to Edwards's campaign if the story were true, especially since he's been "tacitly and effectively used Elizabeth and her struggle" with cancer (the struggle with cancer no doubt being a large part of why the "mainstream media seems to be strenuously trying to not report it"), and wonders who might benefit. Obama?
* October 11, 2007. Jezebel.com doesn't mince words, with a headline that screams, "Is John Edwards Cheating on His Cancer-Stricken Wife?" "Who the fuck sleeps with a married man whose wife has terminal cancer and THE ENTIRE WORLD FUCKING KNOWS ABOUT IT?"
* October 11, 2007. Washington, D.C., gossip blog Wonkette.com picks up on the Enquirer story, too. After Ann Coulter (who once called John Edwards a gay slur) mentions it, they query: "But, um, Ann? Why would Edwards have a lady-affair when he's a 'faggot'?"
* October 11, 2007. New York Magazine's Daily Intelligencer dutifully compiles all of the coverage of the rumor, without adding any information or making conclusions of any kind.

Oh, look, we've reached the present. So what's next?

* October 12-13, 2007. Tabloid news sources will probably begin to hint at the story. "Page Six" and other gossip columns routinely use the National Enquirer as a reliable source, and they will use the growing Internet buzz to legitimize their reprinting of the story, regardless of outraged demands from Edwards's campaign.
* October 13-14, 2007. A more respected news organization like Newsweek or the Times might feel secure enough to tackle the story, using it as an opportunity to examine the "ever-increasing Venn-diagram overlap between blogging and journalism."
* October 14-16, 2007. If it gets that far, John Edwards will have to go on television to address the issue. As when he and Elizabeth announced her most recent cancer news, both will smile too much for everyone's comfort. And if nothing else, his hair will still be flawless.

Update: The LA Times saw fit to mention the rumors last night on their website when Edwards again denied any affair. Meanwhile, Kausfiles picks up on a denial from Rielle Hunter herself, and questions why the Drudge Report has steered clear of this particular storyline.
Update 2: The Los Angeles Times link has mysteriously disappeared, but John Edwards tells the AP the Enquirer story is "completely untrue, ridiculous...I've been in love with the same women for 30-plus years and as anybody who's been around us knows, she's an extraordinary human being, warm, loving, beautiful, sexy and as good a person as I have ever known,'' he said. ''So the story's just false.'' Over at the Atlantic, Marc Ambinder writes disgustedly that the "elite media" has used the denial as an angle, to justify mention of the "trash" story. Unclear whether or not Ambinder counts himself as self-same elite media.