What little doubt remained that John Edwards is the father of Rielle Hunter’s baby evaporated Saturday when a lawyer for the former senator’s paramour issued a statement declaring that there would be no DNA test to determine paternity.
Little doubt remained because of a dog that has stubbornly refused to bark since the National Enquirer first reported in December that Edwards had impregnated the divorcee he hired as his campaign videographer.
That silent dog is libel law. Edwards is a famously successful trial lawyer. If the Enquirer‘s accusation had been false, the former Democratic presidential candidate would have sued, and a paternity test disproving the charge would have been Exhibit A in his case.
Hunter’s lawyer, in issuing his Saturday statement to the Washington Post, said that his client would not take a test because she “wishes to maintain her privacy” — a transparently flimsy excuse. Protestations about privacy are dubious, coming from a woman who spent more than a decade pursuing a Hollywood career, and the Enquirer‘s reporting, if false, would be equally libelous of her.
In his own statement Friday admitting the affair, and claiming that it had ended in 2006, Edwards declared himself “willing to take any test necessary” to disprove his paternity of Frances Quinn Hunter. Almost immediately, ABC News reported that Rielle Hunter’s younger sister challenged the Democrat to do so, saying, “Somebody must stand up and defend my sister.”
Hunter’s daughter was born Feb. 27; allowing a typical 40 weeks for full-term gestation, this means a conception date around May 23, 2007. To say that Edwards fathered her child is to say that Hunter was the sort of woman who would continue an affair with the married former North Carolina senator a full two months after his wife, Elizabeth Edwards, announced that her breast cancer had recurred.
In December, after the Enquirer reported Hunter’s pregnancy, she issued a statement denouncing the story as “innuendo and lies,” and Edwards campaign staffer Andrew Young issued a statement claiming to be the baby’s father. Young’s paternity claim wasn’t offered until after the Edwards campaign’s former director of operations was confronted by an Enquirer reporter outside the rental home in North Carolina where Hunter was living, prompting one “political insider” to tell the tabloid, “If you have an alternate explanation for a scandal, you don’t take 24 hours to offer that explanation, let alone days or weeks.”
Tabloid Facts vs. Edwards Lies
From the moment the Enquirer reported the Edwards affair — in an October article that didn’t identify Hunter or mention her pregnancy — the scandal has followed a consistent pattern: Edwards and his defenders lie and deny, while the Enquirer is always proven right on the facts.
Despite the Democrat’s denunciations, the “tabloid trash” clearly has the better record of truth-telling, and never once has Edwards — or any lawyer for Hunter or Young — gone to court to contest the Enquirer‘s reporting. Why? Because filing a civil action for libel would put the Edwards camp into the legal process known as “discovery,” where the Enquirer‘s lawyers could require Edwards, Hunter, and anyone else involved to provide whatever documents and other information were relevant to the facts of case. Sworn depositions would be taken under penalty of perjury.
Having spent several months engaging in an elaborate cover-up of his wrongdoing, Edwards is in no position to withstand the scrutiny of the discovery process, which would make the whole thing — every e-mail, every phone message, every canceled check — a matter of public record. Any attempt to hide or destroy evidence would be grounds for a charge of contempt or obstruction of justice. And DNA testing to determine the paternity of Rielle Hunter’s baby would be mandated by court order.