John Edwards Sex Tape: How Will We Live Without It?

The John Edwards sex tape will be destroyed within the month. Michelle Cottle on how we will all possibly survive this devastating setback.

Sara D. Davis; Jim R. Bounds (inset Hunter); Gerry Broome (inset Edwards) / AP Photo


Thursday, in a Raleigh, N.C., courtroom, a legal settlement was signed that provides for any and all copies of the long-sequestered John Edwards-Rielle Hunter sex tape to be destroyed within the next 30 days.

Not since the dynamiting of the Bamiyan Buddhas has there been such a devastating blow to high culture and civilization in general.

How could this have happened? Just think of everything ex-Edwards aide Andrew Young went through the rescue this bit of political gutter flotsam for posterity: pawing through Hunter’s abandoned personal items, meticulously repairing the slashed tape, sitting through the actual cinematic coupling god only knows how many times, digging in for a two-year court battle when Hunter alleged that the video had, in fact, been stolen.

After all that—pfft—off the tape goes to the shredder, leaving the public forever plagued by myriad unanswerable questions: Just how visibly pregnant was Hunter in the video? Does a professional videographer create higher quality homemade porn than your average Paris Hiltonesque socialite? Did our erstwhile presidential hopeful spend the whole time making sexy faces at the camera? At any point during filming, did he reach for a hairbrush?

Then, of course, there are the artistic and financial repercussions. Young is henceforth prohibited from discussing the contents of the tape, which will complicate any future efforts to cash in on his role in this ugly little soap opera.

And while the settlement does not derail existing plans to produce a movie based on the scandal, without the video for reference, how will Young and producer Aaron Sorkin ever achieve the realism necessary to give their project grit and sizzle? Bye-bye David Fincher-directed Oscar bait. Hello, straight-to-DVD remainders bin.

Actually, thwarted prurient curiosity aside, this seems like the most sensible outcome for a legal saga in which none of the actors appears to possess a lick of sense—or decency. However the Youngs came by this tape, their decision to keep it, and fight for it, is strikingly creepy. And while there’s an argument to be made that the tape was technically Hunter’s property, her well-established credentials as a grotesque publicity hound and narcissistic drama queen suggest it is best that she not be allowed to have such a hot potato in her possession either. It would only be a matter of time before she got the bright idea of uploading it onto YouTube as a nice birthday surprise for Edwards or as part of a “Here’s how Mommy and Daddy fell in love” documentary montage for little Frances Quinn.

Even if one believes Hunter’s self-indulgent idiocy wouldn’t matter under normal circumstances, Edwards is still facing a bevy of charges in federal court. This is not to suggest that Hunter would intentionally do anything to damage her baby daddy’s defense, but there’s no telling what havoc she might accidentally wreak. We are, after all, talking about a gal who shucked her drawers for a GQ photo shoot, then pitched a hissy fit when the magazine ran the pics.

So even as I mourn the loss of such a meaningful slice of political history, I applaud the ultimate disposition of the case.

All that said, how much do you want to bet that at least one copy of the video survives—perhaps tucked deep in the files of the federal prosecutors with whom Young has been so cozy—and will surface one day in the not-so-distant future?

Too bad for Johnny Reid. But what a break for those of us wondering about that hairbrush.