AP reported that “pretty” Edwards patronized spa “that caters mostly to women”

According to an April 17 Associated Press article, “Looking pretty is costing John Edwards' presidential campaign a lot of pennies.” Citing campaign finance reports, the article reported that the Democratic presidential candidate's campaign committee “picked up the tab for two haircuts at $400 each by celebrity stylist Joseph Torrenueva,” and that “Edwards also availed himself of $250 in services from a trendy salon and spa in Dubuque, Iowa, and $225 in services from the Pink Sapphire in Manchester, New Hampshire, which is described on its Web site as 'a unique boutique for the mind, body and face' that caters mostly to women.”

The AP report followed Politico senior political writer Ben Smith's April 16 weblog entry, which first noted that Edwards “spent $400 on February 20, and another $400 on March 7, at a top Beverly Hills men's stylist, Torrenueva Hair Designs.” Smith's entry was linked to on April 16 by Internet gossip Matt Drudge under the headline: “REPORT: John Edwards' $400 haircut...” The Los Angeles Times reported on April 17, “Two $400 stylings may cost John Edwards' campaign in shear mockery.”

On April 17, blogger and media critic Greg Sargent wrote that AP's characterization of Edwards as “pretty” echoed Republican attacks:

But this is about the AP. It's a news organization, and it shouldn't be playing the “pretty boy” game in stories about Edwards, given the degree to which it's become a tried-and-true GOP and winger talking point, both against Edwards in particular and those wussy Dem males in general (remember the stories about Bill Clinton's and John Kerry's haircuts/stylists?). Labeling Edwards “pretty” in this context just isn't defensible for a news org like the AP. You already have a long history here, with assorted GOP operatives labeling Edwards the “Breck girl” ; Ann Coulter calling him a “faggot” ; and Rush Limbaugh asking whether Edwards might be our “first female President.”

Salon.com blogger Glenn Greenwald noted on April 18 that the story had spread to CNN and The New Republic. He observed, “We have been treated in the last 48 hours to an extremely vivid illustration of how conventional political Beltway wisdom is created.” Greenwald wrote that Smith's original blog entry on the subject was “plainly intended to fuel the principal right-wing anti-Edwards caricature -- his effeminate obsession with his hair.” Greenwald further noted:

But none of this is substantive criticism. It is just petty, cheap personality-based mockery of the strain that dominates (and degrades and destroys) our political discourse -- it is Al Gore inventing the Internet and claiming to be the inspiration for Love Story, and John Kerry wind-surfing and speaking French. It is all just mindless gossipy shorthand intended to fuel right-wing caricatures and platitudes that have nothing to do with substance and everything to do with demonizing the personality of these political figures in order to render them ugly and embarrassing -- hence, Edwards is a girlish fop and [Sen. Barack] Obama [D-IL] is an intellectual lightweight who relies on empty fancy-sounding buzzphrases in lieu of substance.