John Edwards stood in an elevator as the doors opened into the lobby of the Beverly Hilton hotel at 2:40 a.m. on July 22, 2008. He was greeted by a reporter from the National Enquirer, who said, “We understand that you are here visiting your mistress and love child.” For seven months Edwards had deflected and dodged questions about a previous Enquirer report that revealed his affair with Rielle Hunter, one of his former campaign workers. The Enquirer persevered, setting up a sting to catch Edwards and Hunter together. When the elevator doors opened early that July morning, the reporter who spoke to Edwards had five other Enquirer reporters and photographers behind him. And then Edwards ran. He simply took off, sprinting through the hotel lobby searching for a way out. The man who campaigned on restoring America’s moral leadership then ran into the public men’s room. As Edwards crashed into the bathroom, the reporters tried to follow. But Edwards pushed the door shut, throwing his weight against it to keep out the reporters. My phone rang on the East Coast, shortly before 6 a.m. The situation was described by one of the team members. “You have John Edwards trapped in the men’s room and he’s pushing the door shut while we’re trying to push it open?” I asked, making sure I had not misconstrued the absurd details in the early morning haze. “Yes,” came the reply. “What should we do?”
There was only one answer.