Supporters and critics of Edwin Edwards can probably agree on at least one thing:
The former Louisiana governor and convicted felon doesn’t need much encouragement to get in front of a microphone.
Since his release from federal prison after serving a lengthy sentence for corruption, the 86-year-old Edwards has engaged a busy speaking schedule, apparently willing to appear often for free to discuss his favorite topic, Edwin Edwards.
Given that obvious reality, why did LSU Student Union Theater officials give the governor $6,000 to sit for an interview with Larry King before a paying audience? And if the governor is the public-spirited man that he claims to be, why would he take a fee for speaking at Louisiana’s flagship university?
The 79-year-old King, booted from CNN because of sagging ratings, got an even better deal, raking in $66,400 for his services. We can think of many Louisiana journalists who would have done a much better job in interviewing Edwards — and asked the questions at no charge. For his five-figure fee, King offered his trademark shtick, lobbing lots of softball questions to the former governor and displaying his customary lack of depth.
To cover expenses, LSU Union officials charged nonstudents $60 a ticket for admission to the event. Apparently assuming that there was no need to shell out that kind of dough to hear an ex-governor who’s far from a recluse, many potential ticket-buyers stayed away. Because of poor sales, the Union Theater lost more than $45,000 on this boondoggle. Although LSU officials said that no public money was involved in the King-Edwards flop, the Union’s programs are supported by student fees. We can think of better uses for these fees than lining the pockets of King, who sells superficiality as a virtue, and Edwards, who needs no financial inducement to indulge his vanity.
LSU officials said the event was offered free to students because “the opportunity to hear from King and Edwards was one of learning and enhancement that students may not have otherwise had access to.”
But students who missed this learning opportunity can always indulge some educational television when Edwards’ new reality show debuts.
As for the “learning” that students were supposed to glean from this fiasco, we can think of one lesson:
When Edwin Edwards comes for a visit, watch your wallets.