Not so huge, after all!

Mickey throws stones, but Kaus made of glass

Update: The Edwards affair allegations? False and false. Both sides say so.

While denials, of course, don’t necessarily guarantee falsity, in the absence of any real evidence, the alleged affair seems to be one to forget.

Unless, of course, you’re Mickey Kaus. The pundit drags the non-story along today by complaining about e-mails he’s received from readers—which argue that if Matt Drudge, “Arbiter of Truth,” didn’t carry the story, Kaus shouldn’t have, either. Apparently still thirsting for the juicy irony the Edwards allegations failed to provide, Kaus gets defensive by accusing Drudge of the very “low evidentiary threshhold [sic]” for journalistic veracity that Kaus himself exhibited yesterday. And he goes further than judging Drudge: after setting the bar for truth ridiculously low, Kaus today sets the bar for falsity almost impossibly high.

To wit: late yesterday, Edwards issued a statement flatly denying an affair with (the no longer anonymous) Rielle Hunter. And blogger Jerome Armstrong published a statement from Hunter that gives an equally vehement denial. (Thanks to Mark Adams for passing that along.) In today’s Kausfiles, the pundit, postmodern deconstructionist that he is, probes both statements, squeezing them for all the juiciness they’re worth:

Edwards: “The story is false. It’s completely untrue, ridiculous.”

(Kaus: “As every press secretary knows, that could logically mean there’s nothing to the story; it could mean an affair didn’t start ‘18 months ago’; but rather 8 months ago.”)

Hunter: “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….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.”

(Kaus ignores the “not true, completely unfounded, and ridiculous” point of Hunter’s statement, choosing instead to emphasize the “when working for the Edwards camp” section of the denial—and to highlight these words as “Clintonian qualifiers.”)

Edwards: “I’ve been in love with the same woman for 30-plus years and as anybody who’s been around us knows, she’s an extraordinary human being, warm, loving, beautiful, sexy and as good a person as I have ever known. So the story’s just false.”

Okay, Kaus seems to take that. “The story is false,” Kaus writes, is “a too-broad denial”; but the more recent “the story’s just false,” apparently, satisfies a bit better. Got it? To convince Kaus, you need to punctuate your statement with “just.”

That’s just ridiculous.

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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.