Media blasted Edwards for speech fee but omitted Giuliani speeches, Edwards' explanation

››› ››› ROB DIETZ

Several media figures have attacked Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards for receiving a $55,000 fee for a January 2006 speech at the University of California-Davis -- as first reported in a May 21 entry to the San Francisco Chronicle's Politics Blog. In several cases, they have not also mentioned reports that Republican presidential contender Rudy Giuliani charged Oklahoma State University $100,000 for a speech he delivered in 2006 and an additional $47,000 for the use of a private jet, as Media Matters for America has noted. Moreover, several left out the response by the Edwards campaign, which asserted that UC-Davis offset the cost through sponsorship and ticket sales to the event.

As Media Matters noted, on the May 22 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley reported that the Edwards campaign claimed "it was a paid speech, but there were tickets for it -- somewhere between $17.50 for students; about $40 for adults. So it paid for itself." According to UC-Davis' Robert & Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, tickets for the speech ranged from $17.50 to $45. The entry on the Chronicle's Politics Blog noted that he spoke to "a crowd of 1,787," meaning that if everyone paid admission, ticket sales would have brought in somewhere between $31,272 and $80,415.

But reports on Fox News, MSNBC -- along with articles in the San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post, and on foxnews.com -- left out one or both -- Giuliani's higher reported speaking fees and the Edwards campaign's response:

  • In his May 23 "Media Notes" column on The Washington Post's website, media critic Howard Kurtz wrote, "Now we know how John Edwards pays for those $400 haircuts." Kurtz's claim was followed by an excerpt from the May 21 Chronicle blog post. Kurtz made no mention of Giuliani or of the tickets for the Edwards speech.
  • On the May 22 edition of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson, guest host Jon Scott, after noting that the Edwards campaign said that the speech "was funded by sponsors and ticket sales," asked the Chronicle's Carla Marinucci, who posted the original blog entry about the Edwards speech, if it isn't "just as wrong for Senator Edwards not to offer himself up to speak for free at a publicly funded university." Marinucci said that "more than polls," campaigns "have to worry about perception." She added that "students were charged upwards of $17 to hear him speak about poverty" and said "the question is, what's with that?" While noting that Edwards is "not the first guy to make big bucks speaking at major events," Marinucci made no mention of Giuliani or his reported $100,000 speaking fee at a publicly funded university.
  • On the May 22 edition of his nationally syndicated radio program, Rush Limbaugh discussed the story, called Edwards "a blatant hypocrite." Limbaugh added that the "Chronicle noted that parents might be excused for wondering, given that the University of California system is being hit with a 7-percent tuition increase that'll impact a lot of struggling students" and asked "why didn't Edwards offer to do his speech gratis for a public institution?" He "guarantee[d]" his audience that "outside the San Francisco Chronicle which reported it -- nobody else will do a story on John Edwards taking 55 grand from UC-Davis -- a public institution -- for a speech on poverty." Limbaugh never noted Giuliani's speaking fees. (Limbaugh also did not mention the Edwards campaign's response that UC-Davis offset Edwards' fee, though the Situation Room report noting that response did not air until after Limbaugh's broadcast.)
  • A May 22 foxnews.com article claimed that Edwards' speech "at the taxpayer-funded school in January 2006" taught the "students how to avoid poverty -- charge $55,000 for a speech." The article later noted that "Edwards spokesman Eric Schultz told FOX News that the speech at UC Davis, 'was funded by sponsors and ticket sales,' and the school has said ticket prices for the event ranged from $17.50 to $45." The article ended by noting that "[i]ncidentally, students at all of California's public universities will pay a 7 percent increase in tuition next year." The article made no mention of Giuliani.
  • On the May 22 edition of Fox News' Special Report, host Brit Hume brought up Edwards' speech in two separate segments. In the first, Hume noted that Edwards' campaign said that "the speech was part of a series at the school and was funded by sponsors and the sale of tickets, which went for as much as $45," but did not note the reported Giuliani speeches. In the second segment, Hume asked National Public Radio senior national correspondent and Fox News contributor Juan Williams "what we make of" Edwards' "considerable recent embarrassments." Neither Hume nor Williams in that segment noted the Edwards campaign's response or that Giuliani reportedly made $100,000 for his speech at Oklahoma State.
  • As part of the "winners and losers" segment on the May 22 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country, guest host and MSNBC general manager Dan Abrams made no mention of Giuliani or Edwards' response, and simply said: "First loser, Democratic candidate John Edwards, after we learned today he charged $55,000 to speak at a publicly funded California university last year. His topic? Poverty."

From Kurtz's May 23 washingtonpost.com column:

Now we know how John Edwards pays for those $400 haircuts:

"Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, who as a Democratic presidential candidate recently proposed an educational policy that urged 'every financial barrier' be removed for American kids who want to go to college, has been going to college himself -- as a high paid speaker, his financial records show.

"The candidate charged a whopping $55,000 to speak at to a crowd of 1,787 the taxpayer-funded University of California at Davis on Jan. 9, 2006 last year, Joe Martin, the public relations officer for the campus' Mondavi Center confirmed Monday," says the San Francisco Chronicle.

From the May 22 edition of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson:

SCOTT: Hello again, I'm Jon Scott in for John Gibson, and it's time for "Big Politics." Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards consistently calls for action against poverty. But he's sure making big bucks talking about it. Senator Edwards charged $55,000 to speak at a publicly funded university in Northern California last year. While it happened before he officially announced his 2008 candidacy, his campaign spokesman now says, quote, "John Edwards' speech at UC-Davis was part of the Mondavis [sic] Center for Performing Arts Distinguished Speakers Series which was funded by sponsors and ticket sales." In the speech entitled, "Poverty: The Great Moral Issue Facing America," Edwards was quoted as saying, "For a country of our wealth and prosperity to have 37 million people wake up in the morning in poverty, is wrong." Well, as a self-proclaimed advocate for the poor, isn't it just as wrong for Senator Edwards not to offer himself up to speak for free at a publicly funded university? With us now, San Francisco Chronicle political writer Carla Marinucci. Carla, you broke this story.

MARINUCCI: John, I did. I tell you I think what this says is that presidential campaigns have to worry about more than polls. They have to worry about perception. John Edwards has been a very big advocate for poverty, but, boy, there has been a pileup of events in recent weeks. The $400 haircut, the hedge fund checks, and now these kinds of fees to universities. You have to wonder how it plays in states like Iowa and New Hampshire, where he's really trying to push his sort of humble roots as the son of a mill worker.

SCOTT: Right, and you know, he kind of portrays himself as the guy of the common people, the lawyer who battles for injustice and so forth. But when you're charging $55,000 to a university, this is a guy who doesn't need to work another day in his life.

MARINUCCI: Well, let's be fair to John Edwards too. He's not the first guy to make big bucks --

SCOTT: No.

MARINUCCI: -- speaking at major events. Bill Clinton made $100,000 speaking at the same university, I might add. But the problem for John Edwards is a storyline seems to be developing here of a guy who's not "do as I say but" -- it's a hypocritical storyline. And that's what he has to be worried about. Certainly he's been out there, he's been pushing the poverty theme for a long, long time, and he's very, very eloquent in doing that. But when you have this gathering storm of events, that's where the problem is for John Edwards. For a public university like UC-Davis, this is a taxpayer-funded university. He spoke at the Mondavi Center, but students were charged upwards of $17 to hear him speak about poverty. And the question is, what's with that?

SCOTT: So there is a little bit of a political tin ear going on here.

MARINUCCI: And I think that's where the Edwards campaign has really got to watch this whole theme. They can take a lesson from the kind of things that happened in the last presidential campaign when certain storylines developed on certain candidates, like Al Gore. The perception was that he exaggerated, that he didn't play a straight and narrow with a lot of the facts. That he invented the Internet, even though that's something he never really said. That storyline was a major problem for him. John Kerry, he was accused of being a flip-flopper. It was something he always had to deal with on the campaign trail. And this one hands ammunition to John Edwards' opponents, and he's got to look out for that.

SCOTT: Carla Marinucci, San Francisco Chronicle. Thank you.

From the May 22 broadcast of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: Now this is just coming out -- now, why is this being reported? I mean, the drive-bys didn't go out and sniff this out. This is in his financial reporting information. Why are they reporting it? Normally they sweep this stuff under the rug. He's one of their guys.

John Fund has a piece today, The Wall Street Journal, speculating that it's getting even too much -- getting to be even too much for the drive-bys to ignore and to look the other way. The guy is such a blatant hypocrite. He goes to this hedge fund where he ostensibly is going to learn about -- about poverty! He doesn't do any -- he's an offshore hedge fund -- he's got statements on the record opposing tax shelters that are brought about by having offshore hedge funds. He goes to work for one!

After he comes out of his little consultancy deal there, making whatever -- $400,000 and some odd, I think he made -- he said he learned about poverty. What did he learn about offshore hedge funds and tax shelters and so forth, and he claims to want to put down -- there was the story about, you know, he was out there bashing Wal-Mart all to hell, and one of his staffers was sent to Wal-Mart to get a PlayStation 2 or 3 or something for one of Edwards' kids.

And Fund's theory is that they're beginning to wonder if the guy's not just a total and utter phony. The Chronicle noted that parents might be excused for wondering, given that the University of California system is being hit with a 7 percent tuition increase that'll impact a lot of struggling students, why didn't Edwards offer to do his speech gratis for a public institution? The senator's office wouldn't comment, but journalists covering Mr. Edwards have lately started connecting certain dots. Sooner or later the public's going to have to make a decision about whether Edwards, with his $400 haircuts, his 29,000-square-foot house, his lucrative hedge fund employment, walks the populist walk that he talks.

[...]

LIMBAUGH: I mean, the fact that this stuff is being reported -- and you can say some of it's coming from Clinton Inc., and you can say that some of it -- you know, Hillary's out there, got her pals in the drive-bys and they want to take out as many of Hillary's opponents as quickly as possible. And by the way, remember that press conference when John Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, announced the return of her cancer? And the drive-bys started speculating about how great this was politically, what a wonderfully executed political press conference, and how it was going to buy -- they're all saying this -- how it was going to buy a little cover for Senator Edwards. He's going to be a little bulletproof now, because how do you go out and attack a guy politically whose wife just announced that her cancer's come -- well, it's happening! I guess there was a little grace period there, but now it's happening. And it's the drive-bys that are doing this.

The guy is phony. I mean, he's -- there's no two ways about it. It's just stunning to me that the drive-bys have turned on him. I guess it shouldn't be. I mean, they don't want him. The drive-bys' candidate of choice right now, believe it or not, is Al Gore. I mean, they're literally going bonkers -- well, what do you think [MSNBC host Chris] Matthews is doing that bit that we played for you last night about Hillary and Bill, and how often they, you know, stay under the same roof at night? And Time magazine has been going on and on and on about Al Gore and all that. And Obama has been built up. It strikes me that there's not a whole lot of love and affection for Mrs. Clinton.

[...]

LIMBAUGH: I guarantee you -- [hits desk] outside the San Francisco Chronicle which reported it -- nobody else will do a story on John Edwards taking 55 grand from UC Davis -- a public institution -- for a speech on poverty.

From a May 22 FoxNews.com article:

John Edwards has an example to teach University of California at Davis students how to avoid poverty -- charge $55,000 for a speech.

That's how much the 2008 Democratic presidential candidate negotiated for his fee to speak to 1,787 people at the taxpayer-funded school in January 2006, according to financial disclosures.

According to Joe Martin, the public relations officer for UC Davis' Mondavi Center, the fee for a speech entitled, "Poverty, the Great Moral issue Facing America," was worth it to school officials.

Martin told The San Francisco Chronicle that the center paid Edwards because at the time "he wasn't a (presidential) candidate and from our point of view, he was a speaker of interest that people in the community were clearly interested in ... we feel it's our mission to present those speakers."

The speaking fee, which amounts to about $31 per audience member, was the highest Edwards earned in nine appearances last year at colleges and universities. In all, he earned $285,000 for the nine speeches.

Edwards spokesman Eric Schultz told FOX News that the speech at UC Davis, "was funded by sponsors and ticket sales," and the school has said ticket prices for the event ranged from $17.50 to $45.

Incidentally, students at all of California's public universities will pay a 7 percent increase in tuition next year.

From May 22 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

HUME: And now the most fascinating two minutes in television, the latest from the "Political Grapevine."

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, who made his fortune as a trial lawyer before getting into politics, was paid $55,000 to speak to students at the University of California at Davis last year. His topic, "Poverty, the Great Moral Issue Facing America," and that's in quotes.

His campaign tells Fox News the speech was part of a series at the school and was funded by sponsors and the sale of tickets, which went for as much as $45.

Edwards' financial records show he pocketed $285,000 for his speeches to nine colleges and universities last year, in addition to the nearly half million dollars he made in consulting fees from a hedge fund where he worked, he said, to learn more about the financial market's effect on poverty.

[...]

HUME: Let's take a very brief look at how the Democrats stack up in Iowa and a man who's undergone some considerable recent embarrassments, John Edwards, about his hair and his hedge fund money and speaking -- collecting 55 grand for talking about poverty and so on. He's ahead now in Iowa, which is, you know, the first place. That's no small matter, it's a narrow margin, but nonetheless, he's ahead. What do we make of that?

WILLIAMS: It's the unions. That's the key to his support nationally. It's the key to his fortunes, and what he's done there -- I think it's like more than a third of voters in Iowa will be coming from union families, and he has made a tremendous amount of inroads in the union vote out there and spent a lot of time out there.

From the May 22 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country:

ABRAMS: Just moments ago, the final American Idol competition wrapped up, and we are ready to tell you the ultimate winner and loser in a minute.

But first, the day's other winners and losers. First loser, Democratic candidate John Edwards, after we learned today he charged $55,000 to speak at a publicly funded California university last year. His topic? Poverty.

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