What was the accusation?
In 2007, presidential hopeful John Edwards was on the campaign trail giving stump speeches in support of his political platform and praising his wife, Elizabeth Edwards, for her long battle with cancer. He would say things like “there is no one I admire more than my wife” and calling her “my hero.” But behind the scenes, things weren’t so smooth on the campaign trail. Edwards had been having an affair with unknown actress and movie producer, Rielle Hunter, who had had hired to make a film documenting his campaign travels so that he could continue his illicit affair with her while on the road. After it was revealed that his mistress was pregnant, speculation went rampant that Edwards was the father. He eventually admitted to the affair, but claimed he was not the father of the “love child.” His campaign aide, Andrew Young, alleged that Edwards tried to convince him to claim paternity of the child. Eventually, in 2011, Edwards was indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly using hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds to hide Hunter during the presidential race. He was acquitted on one count of violating campaign finance rules and the judge declared a mistrial on five other criminal counts after the jury came back deadlocked.
Key Apologia Strategies:
Mortification, Corrective Action, Bolstering, Defeasibility, Denial
Video of Edwards’ Interview on Nightline (Part 1)
Video of Edwards Interview on Nightline (Part 2)
Transcript of Edwards’ Interview on Nightline (Excerpts Only)
BOB WOODRUFF: Senator, before we start this I just want to make it clear to our audience that you asked me to come here, and asked me to come here to talk about the reports about your personal life. Let me ask you the question, did you have an affair with Ms. Hunter?
JOHN EDWARDS: In 2006, 2 years ago, I made a very serious mistake. A mistake that I am responsible for and no one else. In 2006, I told Elizabeth about the mistake, asked her for her forgiveness, asked God for his forgiveness. And we have kept this within our family since that time. All of my family knows about this and just to be absolutely clear, none of them are responsible for it. I am responsible for it. I alone am responsible for it. And it led to this most recent incident at the Beverly Hilton. I was at the Beverly Hilton. I was there for a very simple reason, because I was trying to keep this mistake that I had made from becoming public.
BOB WOODRUFF: Is this affair completely over?
JOHN EDWARDS: Oh yes, it’s been over for a long time.
WOODRUFF: How long did it last and when exactly did it end?
JOHN EDWARDS: Well, here’s the way I feel about this Bob. I think that my family is entitled to every detail. They’ve been told every detail. Elizabeth knows absolutely everything. I think beyond the basics, the fact that I made this mistake and I’m responsible for it and no one else. I think that’s where it stops in terms of the public because I think everything else is within my family and those privacy boundaries ought to be respected.
WOODRUFF: I know this is a very difficult question, but were you in love with [Rielle Hunter]?
EDWARDS: I’m in love with one woman. I’ve been in love with one woman for 31 years. She is the finest human being I have ever known. And the fact that she is with me after this having happened is a testament to the kind of woman and the kind of human being she is. There is a deep and abiding love that exists between Elizabeth and myself. It’s always been there, it in my judgment has never gone away.
WOODRUFF: Your wife, Elizabeth, is probably the most admired and beloved person in this country, she’s had enormous sympathy because she’s also gone through cancer, how could you have done this?
EDWARDS: Here’s what, can I explain to you what happened? First of all it happened during a period after she was in remission from cancer, that’s no excuse in any possible way for what happened. This is what happened. It’s what happened with me and I think happens unfortunately more often sometimes with other people. Ego. Self-focus, self-importance. Now, I was slapped down to the ground when my son Wade died in 1996, in April of 1996. But then after that I ran for the senate and I got elected to the Senate and here we go again, it’s the same old thing again. Adulation, respect, admiration. Then I went from being a senator, a young senator to being considered for vice president, running for president, being a vice presidential candidate and becoming a national public figure. All of which fed a self-focus, an egotism, a narcissism that leads you to believe that you can do whatever you want. You’re invincible. And there will be no consequences. And nothing, nothing could be further from the truth.
WOODRUFF: So your assumption was that you’d just never be caught?
EDWARDS: It was a huge judgment, mistake in judgment. But yeah, I didn’t think anyone would ever know about it. I didn’t. And the important thing is, how could I ever get to the place, to that place and allow myself to let that happen?
WOODRUFF: [I]f you thought that you would not get caught, how did [Elizabeth] find out about this affair?
EDWARDS: I told her.
WOODRUFF: This was before there was public reporting on this?
EDWARDS: Oh it was way before. This was in 2006. I decided, it was clear to me very quickly after this happened that I had to tell her that I loved her, she was central to my life, she had to know it and it was painful for her. Hard and painful for her, but she responded exactly like the kind of woman she is. And then she forgave me and we went to work on it. I’m not saying she thought it was okay, I’m not saying that, but she did forgive me. Listen, she understands what I understand which is that I am imperfect and anybody, anybody watching this broadcast or who hears about this who wants to beat me up for this, they should have at it. The truth is you can’t possibly beat me up more than I have already beaten myself up.
WOODRUFF: Why did you continue to deny it [publicly] and not tell the truth?
EDWARDS: Because I did not want the public to know what I had done. Fair and simple. And there’s also a lot of these you know supermarket tabloid allegations are just lies, they’re complete lies. But this, this mistake, is the truth.
*** WOODRUFF: When Elizabeth did find out about this, how has she coped? What was her reaction to that?
EDWARDS: She was mad, she was angry, I think furious would be a good way to describe it. She didn’t understand. We both went through a process of trying to figure out how it happened, why it happened. But she was amazing, she’s just an amazing person. Elizabeth and I have been married 31 years. The admiration she gets from the public is deserved and, but nobody can see — Bob, you’ve been married a long time, nobody can see inside everybody’s marriage. This is not something Elizabeth did, this something I did. And I continue to love and admire her because she has just stood with me.
WOODRUFF: I need to ask about probably the most controversial allegation. Which is that a report has been published that the baby of Ms. Hunter is your baby. True?
EDWARDS: Not true. Published in a supermarket tabloid. That is absolutely not true.
WOODRUFF: Have you taken a paternity test?
EDWARDS: I have not, I would welcome participating in a paternity test. Be happy to participate in one. I know that it’s not possible that this child could be mine because of the timing of events, so I know it’s not possible. Happy to take a paternity test, and would love to see it happen.
WOODRUFF: Are you going to do that soon?
EDWARDS: I’m only one side — I’m only one side of the test, but I’m happy to participate in one.
WOODRUFF: Has Miss Hunter said, she does not want to do this DNA test?
EDWARDS: I don’t know what she has said.
WOODRUFF: People say they are in contact with her, have told us that you have met her out in California several times. True?
EDWARDS: I met her this last time when I was in California for the very purpose that you and I just spoke about.
WOODRUFF: And that picture is absolutely you and you are holding that baby.
EDWARDS: The picture in the tabloid. I have no idea what that picture is.
WOODRUFF: But you’ve seen it right?
EDWARDS: I did see it and I cannot make any sense out of that. When I went to this meeting you’ve already asked me about, uh, I was not wearing a t-shirt, I was wearing a long-sleeved shirt with the sleeves rolled up. I don’t know who that picture — I don’t know if that picture is me, it could well be, it looks like me. I don’t know who that baby is, I have no idea what that picture is.
WOODRUFF: But are you saying you don’t remember holding that child of Miss Hunter?
EDWARDS: I’m saying you asked me about this photograph, I don’t know anything about that photograph, I don’t know who that baby is. I don’t know if the picture has been altered, manufactured, if it’s a picture of me taken some other time, holding another baby — I have no idea. I was not at this meeting holding a child for my photograph to be taken I can tell you that.
WOODRUFF: You did say you did meet her at a hotel in California.
EDWARDS: She was there, Mr. McGovern was present, and that’s where the meeting took place.
WOODRUFF: But you don’t remember a baby being there?
WOODRUFF: There are reports that you have tried to cover up. They call it alleged hush money. That there was money paid to try, to cover up this affair. Was there?
EDWARDS: Uh, this is what I can tell you. I’ve never paid a dime of money to any of the people that are involved. I’ve never asked anybody to pay a dime of money, never been told that any money’s been paid. Nothing has been done at my request. So if the allegation is that somehow I participated in the payment of money — that is a lie. An absolute lie, which is typical of these types of publications.
WOODRUFF: I do need to tell you though through ABC investigation there has been evidence, or we’ve been told that there, about $15,000 a month has been paid to Miss Hunter, so that she could actually live out in California. In fact that money was from Fred Baron, who was your national finance chair. Is that correct?
EDWARDS: I don’t know. I told you just a moment ago, I know absolutely nothing about this.
WOODRUFF: You never even heard about that before?
EDWARDS: I’ve heard about it from reporters like you just in the last few days. It’s the first I hear anything about it.
WOODRUFF: And Andrew Young has declared publicly that he is the father of the baby, of Miss Hunter.
EDWARDS: I’m aware of that.
WOODRUFF: Do you think that’s true?
EDWARDS: I don’t know.
WOODRUFF: So when you see this now and you see the reporting about it and you see the information about it, are you going to try to look into this? That this is somebody doing this to cover up what happened with your affair?
EDWARDS: If you’re talking about Fred Baron, I do know Fred Baron. I also know that Fred Baron knows both of these people who are involved and has worked with them for years. So he has the relationship with them independent of me. So what he chose to do or not do, I can’t explain, he’ll have to explain. I don’t know what he did or why he did it. And what his reasons for, were, for doing it. Is it possible that he wanted to help them because they were in a difficult time? Of course. Is it possible that he was worried that in fact something had happened with me, and he wanted to help? Of course that’s possible. I think all these things are possible.
WOODRUFF: Do you think it’s possible he was trying to protect you?
EDWARDS: Do I think it was possible he was trying to help me?
EDWARDS: Yeah, of course I think it’s possible.
WOODRUFF: Do you think your political career is completely over?
EDWARDS: I’m not sure I had a political career for the future anyway. I’m not sure that politics was what I wanted to spend my life doing.
WOODRUFF: Will your marriage survive?
EDWARDS: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I think our marriage will not only survive but be strong.
WOODRUFF: When you hired Ms. Hunter, that was back in 2006, the committee hired in July 2006, paid her $114,000 to make films for you. She did have a lot of experience. Uh was the affair going on when you hired her?
EDWARDS: No. No. And again, I always said this to you, I don’t think I’m going to go through the details of this, I already did it with Elizabeth– uh, she was hired to come in and produce films and that’s the reason she was hired.
WOODRUFF: But this had nothing to do with the fact that you were having an affair with her?
EDWARDS: Same answer. Same answer — no I did not.
WOODRUFF: So you hired her before it even started?
EDWARDS: That is correct.
WOODRUFF: In terms of the Beverly Hilton, did Elizabeth, your wife, know you were visiting the Beverly Hilton?
WOODRUFF: That was a secret?
EDWARDS: You mean did I tell her before I went?
EDWARDS: I did not.
WOODRUFF: Did she find out after the recourse?
EDWARDS: She found out the next morning; I called her and told her. ***
WOODRUFF: And in terms of this baby — does Elizabeth think this is possibly your baby?
EDWARDS: No, of course not.
WOODRUFF: Is it only possible to prove it though with a DNA test?
EDWARDS: I’m not a scientist — I don’t know what the various methods of proving it are but that’s certainly one way to prove it. I mean I know right now it’s not possible and she does too.
WOODRUFF: When you do do that test or if you do that test, would you tell us the result of it?
EDWARDS: Sure, of course.
WOODRUFF: Did you want to control [Ms. Hunter] to some degree? In the sense that you didn’t want her to reveal this relationship?
EDWARDS: I wanted her not to tell the public what had happened. Very simple. That’s the reason I went.
Friedman, E., Morison, K., & Griffin, J. (2011, June 3). Timeline: Edwards affair though the years. ABC News. Retrieved from: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/edwards-scandal-timeline-john-edwards-rielle-hunter-affair/story?id=9621755
Inside John Edwards’ admission to an extramarital affair (2008, August 11). Fox News. Retrieved from: http://www.foxnews.com/story/2008/08/11/inside-john-edwards-admission-to-extramarital-affair.html
John Edwards admits having an affair (2008, August 8). CBS News. Retrieved from: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/john-edwards-admits-having-an-affair/