WASHINGTON – The seedy and spectacular fall from grace of John Edwards, a Democratic presidential hopeful a year ago, continues this week as his dying wife reveals more details about the sordid sexual affair that annihilated his political career.
Elizabeth Edwards appears on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” on Thursday to discuss her new memoir, “Resilience,” in which she dishes the dirt about her husband’s affair with Rielle Hunter, now the mother of a baby girl whose paternity remains a question mark.
Edwards has denied fathering 15-month-old Frances Hunter. No father is listed on the child’s birth certificate.
But his wife tells Winfrey she doesn’t know whether her three surviving children – a teenaged son died in a car accident in 1996 – now have a half-sibling.
“I’ve seen a picture of the baby,” she tells Winfrey in a transcript of the show provided to media outlets Tuesday. “I have no idea. It doesn’t look like my children but I don’t have any idea.”
In the interview, conducted at the couple’s home in Chapel Hill, N.C., Winfrey asks Elizabeth Edwards – who’s battling terminal cancer and was ill when Edwards embarked upon the affair – if she’s still in love with her husband.
“That’s a complicated question,” she replies.
When Winfrey asks if it’s something she assesses on a day-to-day basis, she continues: “Neither one of us is out the door so I guess it’s day by day, but maybe it’s month by month.”
A year ago, Edwards, a former North Carolina senator, was a Democratic bright light. The longtime lawyer was in the race for the presidential nomination with his telegenic looks, southern pedigree and progressive politics.
Even when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton pulled ahead as frontrunners, Edwards – John Kerry’s running mate in 2004 – was considered a likely addition to the ticket if Obama won the nomination.
Failing that, he was a certain shoo-in for a prime cabinet position in a Democratic presidency.
But his name became mud among the Democratic elite when news broke last summer that he’d had an affair with Hunter, a videographer now living in California with her baby daughter.
Edwards was forced to go public with the affair in August after the National Enquirer reported he was the child’s father.
Elizabeth Edwards seems to direct most of her scorn at that age-old villainness, the other woman. In the book, during the interview and also in the conditions she laid out when agreeing to the chat with Winfrey, Edwards’s anger at Hunter is glaring.
She insisted, for example, that Hunter’s name not be mentioned during the Winfrey interview, just as it’s absent from her memoir.
And she suggests in “O” magazine, which is running a companion piece to the televised interview, that Hunter – a New Age spiritualist – lured Edwards with her offbeat ways.
“This person is very different from me, and really very different from him,” she says. “We’re basically old-fashioned people. So, this was a pretty big leap for him. Maybe it’s being so different is what was attractive.”
In “Resilience,” Elizabeth Edwards goes further, portraying Hunter as a predatory groupie who approached her husband in a hotel lobby three years ago to tell him: “You are so hot.”
Edwards, his wife seems to suggest, was powerless in the face of such seduction.
Edwards soon hired Hunter to shoot videos of him as he began his run for the presidency in early 2006.
He has said their affair began and ended that year, although Hunter was seen on the campaign trail until the final days of 2006. Her baby was born in February 2008.
The affair has landed Edwards at the centre of a federal investigation.
Federal authorities are looking into whether any campaign funds were used as hush money to keep his affair with Hunter out of public view. He said last year that his political action committee paid more than US$100,000 to Hunter.
Edwards could face up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine if the investigation yields an indictment, a guilty verdict and the maximum penalty.
In a carefully worded statement issued over the weekend, Edwards said none of the money Hunter received was wrongly paid.
“I am confident that no funds from my campaign were used improperly,” he said.
“However, I know that it is the role of government to ensure that this is true. We have made available to the United States both the people and the information necessary to help them get the issue resolved efficiently and in a timely matter.”