A few days ago Sen. John Ensign admitted to having an extra-marital affair with Cythia Hampton, a woman who was an employee of his campaign operation and the wife of a staffer in his senate office. In the wake of this disclosure, Ensign has apologized, resigned his senate leadership post (but not his senate seat) and floated excuses for his confession that ran the gamut from media attention to blackmail.
Today, the Las Vegas Sun has identified another twist that puts Fox News squarely in the Ensign camp as a co-conspirator to hush up the affair.
“In a letter dated five days before Sen. John Ensign’s public confession of an extramarital affair, Doug Hampton pleaded to a national Fox News anchorwoman for help in exposing the senator’s ‘heinous conduct and pursuit’ of Hampton’s wife.”
So Fox News knew of Ensign’s infidelity five days before Ensign came forward. They got the information from the husband of Ensign’s mistress. That’s a pretty good source, especially when he asserts that he had corroborating evidence. Yet Fox News failed to report the affair prior to Ensign’s press conference, and has still neglected to disclose their receipt of the letter from Mr. Hampton.
Hampton addressed the letter to Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. Both she and Fox News have yet to comment on the matter. However, the Sun obtained a copy of Hampton’s letter that began…
“More than any time in my life I understand why people take matters into their own hands. I am disheartened! I have sought wise counsel, tried to do the right thing and continue to run into road blocks (sic) in dealing with a very terrible circumstance and injustice that lives in my life. I am hoping you and Fox News can help.”
Hampton then summarized his relationship with Ensign and gave a brief description of the affair that roiled his family. He revealed that Ensign forthrightly pursued his wife, and would not desist even after confronted by other friends and colleagues, including Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn. The letter was sent to Kelly in an apparent, last resort plea for justice from someone he presumed would show fairness and empathy. He told Kelly that…
“I love this country and considered it a great privilege to work in the US (sic) Senate. I am bringing this to you and Fox News to address this professionally and correctly. I could have sought the most liberal, Republican hating media to expose this story, but there are people’s lives at stake and justice is about proper process as well as outcome. Senator Ensign has no business serving in the US (sic) Senate anymore!”
At this time there is no confirmation from Fox news that they received the letter. However, they did not deny having received it when given the opportunity. It seems improbable that a letter from a staff member of a U.S. senator, alleging that his boss and his wife were having an affair, would be ignored.
It is also curious how Ensign became aware that a major news organization was going to report the affair. Did he learn this from Kelly? That would not be surprising in the course of an investigation wherein a reporter sought comment from someone accused of impropriety. The problem is that, under ordinary circumstances, such a reporter would then publish the story, but neither Kelly, nor any other reporter at Fox did so. So if Ensign did learn of the letter to Fox News from Kelly, it was more of a tip off than a journalistic inquiry.
The Ensign scandal seems to get dirtier by the day. It is not merely a matter of his personal indiscretions, but Mrs. Hampton also received salary increases during the period the affair took place. And Ensign also gave the Hampton’s son, Brandon, a job at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which Ensign chaired.
This combination of sexual, fiscal, and political improprieties, exacerbated by the collusion of a major television news network, would be juicy fare for a sensationalistic, tabloid news enterprise. Ironically, it would be perfect for Fox News, but i wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for their report.
[Update] Fox News was contacted by The Huffington Post and they gave this statement:
“We never received any letter from Mr. Hampton,” Lowell told the Huffington Post. “He might have sent it, but we never received it. He did reach out to us about 24 hours before the news conference, and he sent an e-mail to a booker on my staff.”
“We followed up with him, but he seemed evasive and not credible, thus we didn’t pursue it,” he said.
Hampton was apparently so lacking in credibility that Ensign came out and confessed less than 24 hours after Fox decided not to pursue it. The Fox spokesman also denied tipping Ensign off. He said that “Somehow, somebody told the Senator something” but insisted it wasn’t anyone from their editorial staff. Uh huh…..
[Update 2] The Sun has some more details, including financial compensation Ensign doled out to the Hampton family.
[Update 3] Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post is reporting that…
After the news conference, Lowell passed Hampton’s contact information to his Washington bureau but did not send the letter or show it to senior Fox executives, who have expressed unhappiness at not being informed. “The letter was an allegation of an affair,” Lowell said. “I don’t know that it would have shined a light on anything new.”
Two problems: First, there were several new developments revealed in the letter, like the involvement of Sen. Coburn and the fact that the Hamptons were fired. Second, If the Fox executives were so unhappy about not being informed about the letter after Ensign’s press conference, then why have they still not produced a single story about it three days after the fact? To date there have been precisely ZERO stories on Fox News, FoxNews.com, or TheFox Nation.com, that address the existence of a letter they have had in their possession for at least five days.
It appears that the Fox producer for Megyn Kelly’s program is attempting to fall on his sword.
[Update 4] Apparently Fox News lied (again) about when they received the letter from Hampton. The Las Vegas Sun has a FedEx receipt that confirms that Fox received the letter on June 12, three days before they previously acknowledged receipt. So Fox had three extra days to investigate (which they didn’t do) and to tip off Ensign (which they probably did do).