Too bad for John Edwards that he's a politician and not a famous athlete. If Edwards had been a sports star, perhaps he could have made like Tiger Woods and cut a deal to keep his marital indiscretions from going global, at least for a time. And Woods isn't the only one who's made such a deal.More than two years ago, a photographer for the National %%DynaPub-Enhancement class="enhancement contentType-HTML Content fragmentId-1 payloadId-61603 alignment-right size-small"%% Enquirer caught the superstar golfer in a liaison in a church parking lot with a woman who was not his wife.

But rather than publish the photos -- which were of such low quality as to be borderline unusable -- the Enquirer's parent company, American Media, leveraged them to secure an ultra-rare, in-depth interview and photo shoot with Woods, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. As a result, Woods's infidelities remained unreported until last month, when a bizarre car crash helped turn them into national news.

Who Teed Off First?

(The Journal's story follows a similar report two weeks ago by the New York Post, which is also owned by News Corp. The Journal doesn't credit its sister paper, however. Corporate modesty or sibling rivalry?)

It's not entirely clear which side first conceived of the quid pro quo: Woods and his team of lawyers, headed by pit-bull-to-the-stars Marty Singer, or American Media. The Journal says the Enquirer made the first move, letting Woods's representatives know it had the photos and was ready to publish them, prompting the offer of an exclusive interview.

A Conflict for Schwarzenegger

But if Woods's handlers thought to buy off the Enquirer with access, it's probably because they'd seen it done before. Arnold Schwarzenegger has long appeared to enjoy immunity from the Enquirer, thanks in part to a consulting deal he signed in 2003 with American Media.

The California governor canceled the contract in the face of allegations that it was a severe conflict of interest -- part of his duties includes regulating the nutritional-supplement industry, a key source of advertising for fitness magazines. But while the contract was in effect, the Enquirer paid two women more than $20,000 for an agreement not to go public with allegations that they'd had affairs with the married action star-cum-politician.

So just remember: The next time you're deploring the tabloids for invading some poor celebrity's privacy, the real scandal may be the one you're not reading about -- and the reason you're not reading about it.

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