Once upon a time, Edwards' staff thought white wine and sissy sodas were their biggest problems. In anticipation of Andrew Young's 20/20 interview tonight, Gawker asks an Edwards staffer to evaluate the latest rumors—and lob some new ones.
"I don't think there's really any sympathy for him," says our anonymous staffer, who worked on Edwards' 2004 and 2008 campaigns and says Edwards' old staff is universally "disgusted" with their former boss.
Back before they realized John was knocking up videographers while his wife lay dying, Edwards' staff worried that his beverage choices were too girly:
He had very weird soda preferences. For the longest time it was all Sprite Zero. And then at one point the word came down that he would no longer drink Sprite Zero. He would only drink Diet Orange Sunkist. And Diet Orange Sunkist can be very difficult to find on short notice. It had to be in cans. It could not be in bottles. We'd pick him up at the airport you'd have to have a cooler of that and white wine on ice.
His alcohol of choice was simultaneously elitist and tasteless...
He only drank white wine. Despite all that "man of the people" beer drinking, he preferred Sauvignon Blanc. It could be a three-dollar or a fifty-dollar bottle of wine and he would not have a clue. I don't really think he would've known the difference if you'd given him chardonnay. ... He's your classic—I hate to use this term—but he's so nouveau riche. He's totally a guy with no taste who suddenly came into a lot of money.
...and illegal: "If you were driving, plastic cups were a good idea because he'd want to have a drink while you were driving him around." An open container in a moving vehicle? "Yes." Did this make you nervous, anonymous staffer? "Yes. Especially when he'd ask you to drive faster."
The staffer says he's kept up with the leaks and recent excerpt from assistant-turned-memoirist (and early sex tape whistleblower) Andrew Young's forthcoming book, and they "seem pretty consistent" with his experience. But he admits that Young is "a little disconnected from reality." (A passage describing Young's fear of Grisham-style retribution drew particular disbelief.) Our staffer says Edwards' lies fooled most everyone:
We all bought the spin. Until the pregnancy stuff surfaced, it wasn't that crazy a story, just a report that he had an affair with a videographer. But when the other layers came out—the child, and the timing with Elizabeth's cancer—it became more monstrous.
He adds that the National Enquirer's trashy reputation "aided our desire not to believe." He realized the Enquirer was right in January of 2008, when a friend told him Andrew Young had a vasectomy and thus could not—as Young and Edwards claimed—be Rielle's baby daddy. The staffer is quick to note that not everyone on staff knew this. (Like, say, Edwards' spokespersons, whom he claims were unaware they were passing on lies.)
The staffer suspected Dallas donor Fred Baron of paying to support Rielle. (Baron confirmed this shortly before his death in 2008) He finds plausible Young's claim that Listerine heiress and Jackie Onassis bosom buddy Bunny Mellon's "Bunny money" also played a role:
Everybody knew about the Bunny money, though not that it was part of that [the sex scandal]. Everybody knew 'Bunny money' as this rich heiress who thought [Edwards] was the reincarnation of Robert Kennedy. You sort of pieced it together by working backwards: You hear the story about Rielle living in a house, and you know she doesn't have an income. You know that Fred [Baron] has a billion dollars, and you know Fred would do anything for John.
Asked about Edwards' recent camera-friendly trip to Haiti, the staffer comes as close to rolling his eyes as one can by telephone:
I think there is less than zero chance of him ever having a public career again. And I am absolutely positive that he will try. He's addicted to it. He needs attention. ... He was the kind of guy who'd been told all his life he was the golden child. I think that's what Rielle tapped into. She told him he was the golden child, and I think he liked to believe that.
The staffer isn't in touch with John anymore, but if he were to offer advice?
The guy needs professional help. There's a big-ass screw loose in that guy's head, and unless he gets professional help, it's going to stay loose. ... He lived in a bubble, and it's hard to gauge that stuff because most politicians do. When you're running for president, every single day you wake up and someone hands you a piece of paper with every single minute of your time budgeted. You're never alone. Some people can stay grounded and others can't. And clearly he couldn't.