Networks Skip Democrat Label While Covering John Edwards Indictment, Touted Disgraced 'Conservative'

The network morning shows on Wednesday all avoided party labels for Democrat John Edwards in the wake of the announcement that the former presidential candidate will be indicted by the Justice Department. In February, however, the same programs could not wait to highlight a disgraced conservative and tout his party ID.

ABC's Good Morning America, NBC's Today and CBS's Early Show simply referred to Edwards as "the former presidential candidate." On Today, reporter Lisa Myers sympathetically explained that "last weekend you'd never know" Edwards was in trouble.

She recounted, "Here on a baseball field in North Carolina the former presidential candidate was being a good dad, watching his son Jack play ball. No visible sign of the big trouble ahead." (Edwards also divorced his wife while she was was dying of cancer after repeatedly cheating on her.)

On the February 10 edition of Today, Kelly O'Donnell made sure to point out that then-Congressman Chris Lee, who resigned after shirtless photos of him surfaced, was "an up an coming conservative." A few seconds later, she reiterated, "This is the image, shirtless and flexing, that tanked the political career of Chris Lee, a conservative, Republican Congressman from Western New York."

On Good Morning America, Stephanopoulos, who on Wednesday, referred to Edwards as a "former presidential candidate, explained, "He's a Republican congressman from near Buffalo. This is still a seat likely to be held by the Republicans."

All the morning shows and the February 9 newscasts mentioned that Lee was a Republican.

Now, obviously, there's a big difference between a congressman and a presidential candidate. But, during 2008, GMA devoted 38 minutes to a town hall with Edwards. The hosts were more than happy to tout him and his Democratic beliefs in good times. But not, it would seem, on embarrassing occasions.

A transcript of Good Morning America's segment, which aired at 7:12am EDT on May 25, follows:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to turn now the breaking news overnight on the case against John Edwards. ABC News has learned that the Justice Department is prepared to indict the former presidential candidate. Bob Woodruff has been on this story from the start and he joins us now. Good morning, bob.

BOB WOODRUFF: Good morning, George. As you know, the Justice Department has been investigating this for two years now. Questioning more than a dozen witnesses. It was unclear whether they had a strong enough case to push for indictment. Now they believe that they do. The relationship with video journalist Rielle Hunter began in 2007 in the midst of John Edwards' campaign for president. In August 2008, he finally did admit this affair did you be denied paternity of Hunter's child, Francis Quinn hunter, now 3 years old.

JOHN EDWARDS: I know it's not possible that this child could be mine because of the timing of events. So, I know it's not possible. Happy to take a paternity test and would love to see it happen.

WOODRUFF: Last year, Edwards did admit the child was his. The government's case claims that campaign donations were used to cover up the affair while he ran for president. The star witness will be Andrew Young, former aide to Edwards who initially claimed Hunter's child was his. Young claims that Edwards masterminded that plot to keep the affair a secret. This affair finally ended his marriage. Elizabeth Edwards filed for legal separation and died of cancer this past December.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay, Bob. So, now John Edwards and his legal team, we don't know the exact timing of this indictment. But, they're going to face a choice. Do they fight it in court or reach some kind of a plea bargain?

WOODRUFF: Yeah. They go after a plea bargain. They get out of the chance he might go to trial and therefor maybe actually go to jail. But if he does, then he could be found to be, this could be a felony, and if that happens he could not be a lawyer, really, ever again.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, that's the really choice. If he goes for the plea bargain he's not going to be able to practice law again but he won't go to jail. So, that's where has to figure whether or not to take his chances in court?

WOODRUFF: Yeah. But, we know he won't get a misdemeanor, a felony if he does go with this. But, you're right. We don't know how much time it would be if does go to jail but could be significant. If he wants to get out of that go for it, otherwise, just roll the dice.

- Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.