John Edwards told ABC News that he did have an affair with documentary filmmaker Rielle Hunter, but did not father a child with her.

And he corroborates the National Enquirer’s version of events, in which the tabloid caught him exiting the Beverly Hilton last night.

But what will raise plenty of consternation among the political media is the way in which they all but ignored this story and took Edwards’ word last October at face value — leaving it pretty much to the Enquirer. When stories of the affair first surfaced, Edwards told reporters, "The story is false, it’s completely untrue, it’s ridiculous."

Edwards now says that wasn’t telling the truth at the time.

There are two ways of looking at this: It’s obviously a sense of relief for Democrats that Edwards is not the nominee, or that he is Obama’s VP pick; or that it is an unwanted distraction, especially on a day when Hillary Clinton is campaigning for Obama with a new line of attack against McCain.

But the net effect of the story, I suspect, is to make the political press corps even more circumspect about a candidate’s statements, and more probing when it comes to their personal lives.

Hunter produced webisodes for Edwards’ OneAmerica committee website, but they were mysteriously taken down last fall, a fact that was noted in some media circles at the time. Huffington Post’s Sam Stein went on a search then and was given the runaround by the campaign and found scant information about Hunter.

Edwards says that his wife was made aware of the affair in 2006, but he denied that there were any payments to Hunter as a kind of hush money. As ABC News reports, His political action committee later paid her $114,000 to produce campaign website documentaries despite her lack of experience.

Plus: Michael Calderone of the Politico listed the media types who stayed with the story, as well as the losers in all this. "The notion that the mainstream media can still play gatekeeper in the era of blogs. (And as commenters rightly mentioned, that includes Politico, too)."

It’s interesting that Hunter herself issued a statement last October, which some took as a non-denial, denial.

"The innuendoes and lies that have appeared on the internet and in the National Enquirer concerning John Edwards are not true, completely unfounded and ridiculous. My video production company was hired by the Edwards camp on a 6 month contract, which we completed December 31, 2006.When working for the Edwards camp, my conduct as well as the conduct of my entire team was completely professional.This concocted story is just dirty politics and I want no part of it."

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