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Opinion In Touch editor: ‘No refutation’ of story on Ed Henry affair

(Jon Vachon for The Washington Post)

Yes, that’s an easy game of which-one-doesn’t-fit. The Fox News guy is Chief White House Correspondent Ed Henry, whose Twitter bio identifies him as “Dad, hubby, pocket squares.” For a bit more than a year, Henry has been following the Hillary Clinton campaign, and aggressively too. He’s a big deal in the world of the Erik Wemple Blog, which has written a blog post or 2,000 about cable news. Yet “In Touch” bills itself as a purveyor of “celebrity gossip and entertainment news.”

In this week’s edition, however, it extended its editorial resources to document an affair that Henry allegedly carried on with a Las Vegas woman. The story showed text messages between Henry and the woman; a photo of them making out; and extensive on-the-record remarks from the woman, Natalia Lima: “She says he introduced her to one of his producers, kissed her in the Wynn [casino] and on the street, and said he could invite her and a friend to Donald Trump’s resort in Miami (she never went),” reads the In Touch piece. Henry has been married since 2010 to an NPR employee.

Following that story, Fox News announced, “We recently became aware of Ed’s personal issues and he’s taking some time off to work things out.”

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Impact! But this isn’t exactly a celebrity scoop. Why does a CVS/Wahlgreen’s mag care about this guy? Is this magazine sending out a warning to Beltway types and a mass request for tips about them? We put that question via email to David Perel, the editorial director of In Touch. His response:

Because Ed is on Tv he is someone who is well known by our readers. And because it is election season that has made him even more high profile. While politics is not necessarily a core area of coverage for In Touch, breaking big stories that our readers are interested in and care about is what In Touch does. We had a similar reaction when we first broke the Duggar family molestation scandal and coverup, in terms of people being surprised that that was in our coverage zone. But that story was so important it led to an advertiser backlash that caused the network to pull the show from the air even though it was their number 1 revenue generator. Basically, In Touch breaks news stories from many different coverage areas. So while this does not signal a move to cover politics on a regular basis it does show that In Touch has evolved into the magazine that breaks the biggest stories across a number of realms.

The story has worked well for the magazine, continues Perel: “The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive toward In Touch and negative toward Ed Henry from what we have seen. Our readers appear to strongly disapprove of his actions of repeated infidelity as reported in our exclusive story.”

And as to whether In Touch has received any legal letters/retraction requests from Henry or Fox News: “No, of course not. I can tell u that everyone had an appropriate amount of time to respond and refute any element of the story before we published and no one disputed anything . Ed said to us that he did not know what we were talking about and hung up before hearing any details . We made sure he received every detail prepublication so he could respond. He chose not to respond. He then apparently told his network what was going on. I can’t tell u about any discussion we may or may not have had with them but I can tell u there has been no refutation of any bit of this story which as u know is backed up with extensive documentation.”

TV personalities are always traveling, always socializing, and often a half-impulse away from hooking up. Infidelity happens in this industry. If every incident were punished, some organizations would have staffing problems. Henry’s issues with Fox News, however, appear related not so much to his fidelity, but to the absence of a clue. Here’s a guy who allegedly told his alleged mistress that he could arrange for a trip to a Florida Trump resort. Right at the time that Trump is running an historically divisive campaign and routinely attacking his employer.

The “In Touch” spread also shows a photograph of Henry alongside Air Force One — which he’d sent along to his alleged mistress. In Touch had a good commentary bubble for that move:

Again, not a good look for a cable-news provider looking to promote its talent as likable folks.

Fox News is detailing correspondent Mike Emanuel to cover Hillary Clinton, and he’ll join the team of producers that supported and supplemented Henry. As we noted yesterday, anyone covering a Clinton-Trump general election campaign would likely have to dig into Trump’s resuscitation of Bill Clinton’s own history of infidelity — which would leave Fox News in a bind were Henry to return to his beat. We’ll hazard no guesses as to whether or when that will happen.