In a contest of reprehensibility, it’s hard to call who takes the blue ribbon among John Edwards, Rielle Hunter and the editors of the National Enquirer. In the latest installment, the Enquirer is reporting that Edwards has proposed to Hunter a mere month after Elizabeth’s death. A lot of outlets have repeated the story, which “family sources” have denied to the Daily Beast. The supermarket weekly has details of a big blended family dinner and sources saying Hunter has told his kids to call her “Mommy.”
If the story is not true, then the Enquirer has caused a lot of unnecessary pain to two minor children, which is inexcusable. If the story is not true but Hunter made the tabloid believe it, then she’s delusional and needs professional help. And if the story is true, then John Edwards is so much more noxious a person than everyone already believed him to be. Also, an idiot. (More on TIME.com: What Happens to Elizabeth Edwards’ Kids Now That She’s Gone?)
To give it its due, the National Enquirer has been the frontrunner on this story all along. On the other hand,—well, come on, really? What father in his right mind would do this to his children, bring in another woman so close to their mother’s death? What public figure in his right mind would do something so nauseating to the public? Plus, the Enquirer had reported that Edwards and Hunter were getting married right after Edwards acknowledged his paternity of their child. Wrong.
What this report seems to suggest is that Hunter, or someone very close to her, has been the Enquirer’s source all along. How else would the magazine’s reporters have known exactly where and when to ambush Hunter after Edwards came to visit? (Conversely, it seemed pretty clear that Elizabeth’s choice of tabloid was the more upmarket but still mass People, Time’s sister publication, which did the most comprehensive coverage of her side of the story.)
If I had to take a guess—and this really is just a guess—I’d say Hunter is unhappy with the terms of her parenting and financial support agreement with Edwards. These revelations brings more bad publicity to the former vice-presidential candidate, which is her only form of leverage. (More on TIME.com: Half of Women Over 40 Get Annual Mammograms, Study Says)
Jan. 6 was an extra low PR day for Edwards, as the reading public also found out that a federal grand jury is considering indictments against him for misuse of campaign funds. Oh, and Elizabeth left nothing to him in her will. Not that Edwards needs any of Elizabeth’s stuff; he’s independently wealthy. Plus, lots of people specify children rather than a spouse in a will, for legal and financial reasons. But it adds to the blech factor.
Either way, it’s almost getting to the point where one could almost, sort of, feel sorry for Edwards. Or at least see some point in the future when they might. After all, Prince Charles cheated on his wife, who then went a bit wobbly, became an icon before dying in tragic circumstances, leaving two young children. On the face of it, Edwards seems to have done exactly the same thing.
But while Chuck went on to eventually get the public used to the idea of his old/new love and then marry her, Edwards is now watching his image bob down the sewer, from whence it will difficult to retrieve and impossible to get the stench out of. End result: Charles can still have a public life, while Edwards would be lucky to get a slot on The Celebrity Apprentice.
Of course, Charles also has the luxury of not having to be elected. Although, actually, he’s still not king.
More on TIME.com: