On Thursday, former presidential candidate John Edwards was acquitted of one
count in his campaign fraud trial. The jury deadlocked on the other five counts, and the judge declared a mistrial.
As of this writing, it is not clear whether or not the prosecution will attempt to try those five counts again.
If Edwards is not retried on the five unsettled counts (or if he is and is acquitted on all of them), he can begin to restore his reputation. But it won’t be easy, as Edwards is in O.J. Simpson territory in terms of public disdain.
How John Edwards can begin to rehabilitate his image
I’m a contributor to Politico’s The Arena
, which published my thoughts
about Edwards’ image rehabilitation on Thursday afternoon. Here’s what I wrote:
“Mr. Edwards will likely claim that although he’s guilty of committing unfortunate personal sins, he hasn’t done anything wrong in his professional duties. That’s the same line of defense used by similarly scandalized politicians such as Bill Clinton and Eliot Spitzer. I’m skeptical that the same approach will work in Edwards’ case—not only did he cheat on his wife, but he cheated on his dying wife while running for president, fathering a child with another woman, and lying about it on national television.
“There’s one approach that might yield the greatest long-term results. Edwards claimed he was passionate about reducing poverty. If he was sincere, he can begin by giving large sums of money to charity organizations and working behind-the-scenes with those non-profits.
“But here’s the key: He can’t tell anybody about his work or his donations, and he should ask those charities not to talk about his role for several years. Many years from now, when the sordid Edwards saga has faded in the public mind, some third party surrogates working for those non-profits might speak to local papers about the work Edwards has been quietly doing and the money he’s been quietly donating. That might help force the public to re-think its views about Edwards—or at least offer an alternative theory about who the man really is.
“Edwards is 58-years-old. If he lives another 30 years, he might be able to live the final 20 of them without still being viewed as a pariah.”
What do you think? Does he have any chance of rehabilitating his image, or will he live out his days as a disdained figure?
Brad Phillips is the author of the Mr. Media Training Blog and president of Phillips Media Relations, which specializes in media and presentation training.