Tuesday, February 1, 2011

How the National Enquirer Caught John Edwards

It is not the most edifying story of all time, but it is fascinating to read how the National Enquirer used psychological profiling and modern technology to catch John Edwards.

The profiler's assessment secretly became my bible for the Enquirer's renewed coverage. During the next few months we developed solid information on visits Edwards had with Hunter but I chose not to publish, knowing that we needed to catch him in the act.

It took months to gather advance intelligence about when and where he would meet Hunter. Technology afforded the Enquirer modern tools we never had before. Satellite photos gave us a detailed picture of where Rielle was and where they would meet. In my Boca Raton, Florida office we had constructed a board of the North Carolina neighborhood where she was stashed, and the location where we ultimately photographed her. Reporters on the ground sent updated photos and video. We could see every street, every house close up, with scores of photographs tacked to a bulletin board in a mini-recreation that helped us plan multiple options for how to deploy reporters and photographers.

The Enquirer caught him visiting Rielle Hunter at the Beverly Hilton, then played with his head.

I immediately posted the story of the late night encounter on the paper's website. It was important to immediately put the pressure on John, to let him know the Enquirer had been at the hotel the entire time he visited Hunter and their child, and that the early-morning run in with our reporter was the culmination of a planned operation.

There was silence from Edwards' camp. No denial, no statement. It fit the profiler's opinion; he was assessing what he could get away with.

We told the press that there were photographs and video from that night. Other journalists asked us to release the images but I refused. Edwards needed to imagine the worst-case scenario becoming public. The Enquirer would give him no clues about what it did and did not have.


He cracked. Not knowing what else the Enquirer possessed and faced with his world crumbling, Edwards, as the profiler predicted, came forward to partially confess. He knew no one could prove paternity so he admitted the affair but denied being the father of Hunter's baby, once again taking control of the situation.

Our sources told us Edwards thought he could survive the affair admission personally and politically. At the time, it was good enough for everyone at the Enquirer. The articles, the investigation, the nearly two years of work, had been vindicated and instead of an expensive yawn-inducing tale no one believed, we had a great political scoop.

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