Las Vegas Sun

April 16, 2014

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THE SENATOR’S SCANDAL :

Fox News had Hampton’s letter earlier than it said

Click to enlarge photo

Sen. John Ensign with his wife, Darlene, and Cynthia and Doug Hampton.

The FedEx trail

June 11

  • 4:57 p.m.: The priority envelope is picked up by FedEx in Las Vegas.
  • 7:16 p.m.: The envelope leaves the Las Vegas FedEx facility.

June 12

  • 12:28 a.m.: Arrival in Memphis, Tenn.
  • 6:01 a.m.: Arrival in Newark, N.J.
  • 7:44 a.m.: Arrival in New York City.
  • 9:21 a.m.: Delivered to Fox News’ corporate offices in New York City.

Source: FedEx Internet tracking system

Ensign in Washington

Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., is seen talking with reporters on his way to a vote on Monday, June 22, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Launch slideshow »

Fox News received Doug Hampton’s letter about Sen. John Ensign’s adulterous affair three days earlier than the network reported, according to information obtained exclusively by the Las Vegas Sun.

Fox said it didn’t receive the letter until June 15, when it arrived as an attachment to an e-mail. But FedEx tracking of a “priority envelope,” which a reliable source said contained the hard copy, shows it was delivered on the morning of June 12.

That would mean the national news organization had additional time to investigate and report Ensign’s affair before the senator’s own admission of the relationship with Hampton’s wife, who worked for the senator’s leadership political action committees.

The earlier delivery date also leaves a larger window of time for someone who either worked at the conservative network or was close to it to tip off Ensign.

On Tuesday, Tom Lowell, senior producer of “America’s Newsroom,” declined to comment on the FedEx delivery. Hampton had addressed his June 11 letter to the co-anchor of “America’s Newsroom,” Megyn Kelly.

“For our part, everything I can answer has sort of been asked and answered at this point,” Lowell said. “I’ve put out everything I knew.”

FedEx representatives confirmed that the document, sent from Las Vegas on June 11, was delivered to the Fox corporate headquarters address in New York City.

Las Vegas attorney Daniel Albregts, who represents Doug and Cynthia, declined to comment.

In response to the Sun’s story about the letter Friday, Lowell told the online Huffington Post that his network receives a lot of correspondence that takes time to sort through.

Hampton had noted in his letter that he would follow up with an e-mail as well as phone messages.

Lowell said a Fox staffer contacted Hampton, a former top aide in Ensign’s Capitol Hill office, on June 15 after receiving the e-mail but found Hampton evasive and not credible, so the network decided against pursuing a story.

The next day Ensign held a news conference in Las Vegas to confess to the eight-month affair, which ended in August.

Ensign’s office acknowledged that the news conference was called after Ensign received word that Doug Hampton had gone to Fox News. But the senator’s staff has not said who tipped Ensign off, and Lowell has insisted no one on his “editorial team” alerted Ensign.

This week Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz, responding to questions on Poynter Online, said a source told him that former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a Fox News contributor, “happened to separately receive the Hampton letter. But I don’t know if he told his former colleague Ensign about it or not.”

In the letter, however, Hampton told Fox, “This is the only letter of its kind and no other news stations have been contacted with this information.”

Santorum, who served in the Senate from 1995 to 2007, was unavailable for comment Tuesday. He is now a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative Washington think tank.

Like Ensign, Santorum is a conservative Republican with strong religious ties. The two men are said to be close.

Kurtz shared a Washington Post byline on a story last week that quoted Lowell as saying he did not show or send the letter to senior Fox executives and that he erred by declining to go after the story.

Jeff German is the Sun’s senior investigative reporter.

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