John Edwards, Entrapped

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1. Tabloid prints trash story about presidential candidate, deep inside, not even teased off the cover

2. Elite media pretends to ignore trash story but secretly makes inquiries

3. Local TV news station asks candidate about trash story

4. Later, Elite media's editors tell field reporters it's ok to ask candidate about trash story because he's already been asked about it.

5. Elite media asks about trash story

6. Candidate answers

7. Elite media runs the story on the pretext that the denial has made the story legitimate.

8. Elite media looks for different angles to justify running the story.

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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