How the Mainstream Media Fumbled the John Edwards Scandal

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," June 3, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS GUEST HOST: In the "Unresolved Problem" segment tonight, as we reported earlier, John Edwards was indicted today and faces criminal charges that may send him to prison.

You may remember it was the National Enquirer that broke the story of Edwards and his mistress back during the 2008 presidential campaign. At the time, many wondered why a story this big was uncovered by a tabloid instead of media organizations like the New York Times or the Washington Post, which invest millions to cover presidential campaigns. So has the mainstream media learned from their mistake?

Joining us now from Washington, veteran journalist and FOX News contributor Marvin Kalb. Mr. Kalb is the author of a new book, "Haunting Legacy: Vietnam and the American Presidency from Ford to Obama."

Marvin Kalb, thank you for coming in. Let's start with John Edwards. Do you think the media has learned its lesson from this indictment today?

MARVIN KALB, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: No, I don't think so at all. The media does what it does because it loves sex. It loves politics. It normally will cover that story if it can find it, but it doesn't like to pay for stories. And if I'm not mistaken, the tabloid that had the story had paid for it. But check me up on that. I think I'm right.

WILLIAMS: Well, I'm not sure whether they paid for it or not. But I know that Andrew Young, who was a top aide to Senator Edwards, of course, was spilling the beans. He had a lot of people on background. Then, of course, he wrote a book.

But Marvin Kalb, don't you think it was -- would have been appropriate for the big media to break this story and not have to rely on the National Enquirer?

KALB: I think it would have been appropriate, as you put it, sure, if they had the. But they didn't.

WILLIAMS: Well, why didn't they pursue it, Marvin? Why didn't they go after the story? In fact, it looked like they turned a blind eye to it.

KALB: I don't think they turned a blind eye. They simply didn't have it. You know yourself that there are many stories sometimes that stare you right in the face. And you can't see it. And that is obviously what happened with the big boys.

In this particular case, it is very difficult for a news organization today to ignore sex, to ignore politics. If they have the story, they'd have gone with it but, as you said, it's already resulted in books, in documentaries, in many things. We're talking about it. It's a big story. And there's an indictment today. It's an obvious story.

WILLIAMS: Well, you know what just struck me, though, Marvin, is this man could have been president of the United States.

KALB: That's true.

WILLIAMS: He was covering it up. He could have been there for subject to blackmail. Right? He was...

KALB: Absolutely.

WILLIAMS: ... on the ticket. He was the vice presidential candidate. This could have been a terrible mess for all the American people. And yet, the big media missed the story. I just don't get it.

KALB: Yes. They missed the story, and they have missed other big stories, as well, Juan. We know that.

But, look, it's one the Washington pastimes to rip into the media on just about anything. They blew this story. They'll blow others. They blew others in the past.

The issue right now is not the sex life of a discredited politician. He's finished. He's never going to go anywhere any more. He is simply trying to save himself from going to prison.

WILLIAMS: All right. Marvin, let me ask you about the book.

KALB: Please.

WILLIAMS: Because what's so interesting to me about this book, "Haunting Legacy," is you talk about how every American president has to deal with the specter of Vietnam, quagmire, the idea that somehow we get stuck. And of course, Vietnam is the one war that America has lost.

And here you come now to President Obama, a new generation, after Vietnam, and you say he's still bedeviled by Vietnam. Why?

KALB: Absolutely. And that is because the power of a lost war has infiltrated itself into the White House. They use different language now. You talk about an exit strategy, but you mean Vietnam as the lesson. Every single president was haunted by this lost war. They were affected by it. They were influenced by it. But they came to different conclusions.

For example, Ronald Reagan, an extraordinary politician. Ronald Reagan on his shift in October of 1983, 241 American Marines were murdered by Islamic fanatics in Beirut, Lebanon. And what did Reagan do? He knew exactly who they were. He knew where they were. He did absolutely nothing. And why? He said in his diary, because the American people had been "spooked" -- that's his verb, not mine.

WILLIAMS: So Marvin, going forward very quickly...

KALB: Spooked by Vietnam. and he didn't want it to happen once again.

WILLIAMS: And so what we have here is American presidents very slow to respond and use American power.

Marvin -- and also I just want to say thank you to Deborah, your daughter, who worked with you on the book.

KALB: Absolutely.

WILLIAMS: Well, congratulations to both of you.

KALB: Thank you very much, Juan.