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Book details Edwards's struggle with affair reports

By Garance Franke-Ruta
It ignited a brouhaha that has all but engulfed the Senate majority leader, but "Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime" by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin also contains some other bombshells that are provoking quieter outrage.

Among them, the tale of former senator John Edwards, his wife, Elizabeth, and his mistress Rielle Hunter.

In an 8,000-word book excerpt in New York magazine, "Saint Elizabeth and the Ego Monster," the authors plumb the depths of Edwards's troubled marriage -- and the highlight the extraordinary risks Edwards chose to undertake, which ultimately ended his political career.

Some excerpts follow:

Elizabeth's illness seemed at first to mellow her in the early months of 2005 -- but not for long. One day, she was on a conference call with the staffers of One America, the political-action committee that was being turned into a vehicle for John's 2008 bid. There were 40 or 50 people on the line, mostly kids in their twenties being paid next to nothing (and in some cases literally nothing). Elizabeth had been cranky throughout the call, but at the end she asked if her and her husband's personal health-care coverage had been arranged. Not yet, she was told. There are complications; let's discuss it after the call. Elizabeth was having none of that. She flew into a rage.
If this isn't dealt with by tomorrow, everyone's health care at the PAC will be cut off until it's fixed, she barked. I don't care if nobody has health care until John and I do!
The health-care call attained wide infamy in the Edwards camp. The people around them marveled at Elizabeth's callousness -- this from a woman whose family had multiple houses and a net worth in the tens of millions. Yet no one called her out on her behavior, least of all her husband. His default reflex was to mollify her -- or avoid her. No one doubted that, as her condition improved, the increase in John's travel had a lot to do with steering clear of his wife. What they didn't know was that the road would soon hold other enticements, too.
....
There was little that was elliptical about the [National] Enquirer story that hit the streets on October 10[, 2007], however. "Presidential candidate John Edwards is caught in a shocking mistress scandal that could wreck his campaign," was the lead, and the article went on to cite a "bombshell email message" in which the other woman "confesses to a friend she's 'in love with John,'" but it's "difficult because he is married and has kids.'?"
The next morning, John and Elizabeth were scheduled to fly out of Raleigh to separate destinations -- he to South Carolina, she to Iowa. But when the traveling staff arrived at their home, they found Elizabeth out of sorts, disconsolate, still in her bathrobe. She had drafted a blog post she wanted published, defending her husband from the accusations against him. This kind of tawdriness was something the Clintons would be involved in, she wrote, but not the Edwardses.
The staff persuaded Elizabeth that posting the item would do more harm than good. But she was livid about what she saw as the campaign's feeble response to the story. After pulling herself together, she and John set off for the private aviation terminal at the airport -- but partway there, their car pulled over, and John hopped out and jumped into the staff car, saying in an exasperated tone, "I can't ride with her."
At the terminal, the couple fought in the passenger waiting area. They fought outside in the parking lot. Elizabeth was sobbing, out of control, incoherent. As their aides tried to avert their eyes, she tore off her blouse, exposing herself. "Look at me!" she wailed at John and then staggered, nearly falling to the ground.
John tried to bring down the temperature, remaining calm and impassive, but his apparent standoffishness only seemed to infuriate and disorient Elizabeth more. Finally, after talking to her doctor on the phone, Edwards sent his wife home and flew off to South Carolina

As previously reported by The Post, Hunter accompanied Edwards on the campaign trail after this episode.

On July 22[, 2008], the Enquirer ran a story about him paying a secret visit to Hunter and her baby. Two weeks later, it published a grainy "spy photo" of Edwards holding the little girl.
Edwards, panicked, assembled a handful of his former staffers ... to strategize, and settled on the idea of performing a mea culpa on [ABC's] "Nightline."
Don't do this interview unless you plan to tell the whole truth, press secretary Jennifer Palmieri urged him, because if you lie, you're going to make things infinitely worse. Edwards replied that he was going to confess to the affair, but deny paternity of the child. He didn't want to jeopardize his chances of being Obama's attorney general, he said.
"That, John?" Palmieri said in disbelief. "That was gone a long time ago." Palmieri had been on the phone with the Obama campaign, which was sending the clear, if gentle, signal that there was no longer a slot available for Edwards to speak at the convention. "You have to call Obama right now" and back out, Palmieri said.
"I don't want to give up on that yet," Edwards insisted.
As Palmieri predicted, the "Nightline" interview did nothing to rehabilitate Edwards -- and the months thereafter only brought him more misery. Isolated, scorned, turned into a national punch line, Edwards slipped into a dark place. His weight plummeted. His countenance turned sickly. Some of his former aides began to fear that he might kill himself. And though the extent of his ruin didn't reach that depth, the nightmarishness of his circumstances remain hard to overstate. A North Carolina grand jury is expected soon to reach a conclusion in its investigation of whether Edwards or his associates illegally used campaign cash to cover up his affair. Hunter is suing him for child support. And next month Andrew Young will publish a tell-all book that promises to give new definition to the term sordid.
As for Elizabeth Edwards, she is reportedly now urging John to accede to Hunter's demands and take responsibility for his paternity of Frances Quinn -- a dramatic and no doubt painful turnabout from her position eighteen months ago. Confronted then with the Enquirer photo of her husband cuddling Hunter's baby, she insisted to Palmieri that she still believed he was not the father. "I have to believe it," Elizabeth said. "Because if I don't, it means I'm married to a monster."

By Garance Franke-Ruta  |  January 11, 2010; 7:13 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency  
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Comments

These guys were also writing that Bill Clinton was having affairs during the campaign. Come on. That's about like writing "fish live in the water" or "birds fly in the air". The real news story would be if Hillary DIDNT keep an eye on him after Bill broke up with his Canadian cutie.

Posted by: ripvanwinkleincollege | January 12, 2010 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Elizabeth Edwards is a harradin who deserves everything that is dumped on her. There were other activities when he was in the Senate that have gone unreported, and she knew about them. But she was satisified with her Georgetown home and ignored the gossip.

Posted by: edwardallen54 | January 12, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Elizabeth Edwards is a harradin who deserves everything that is dumped on her. There were other activities when he was in the Senate that have gone unreported, and she knew about them. But she was satisified with her Georgetown home and ignored the gossip.

Posted by: edwardallen54 | January 12, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Terribly, terribly sad stuff, all the sadder because the only purpose served by publishing it is to sate the greed of the authors and publishers by satisfying the prurience of their readers, myself, sadly, among them.

Posted by: douglaslbarber | January 12, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse


Mr. and Mrs. Edwards are banished from American politics.

In that regard, the system worked.

Posted by: DagnyT | January 12, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

I'm sorry I read this. In what sense is this newsworthy? Edward's affair had virtually no impact on the 2008 election. His campaign was finished after Iowa, and at that point hardly anybody believed in the Inquiror story. I find the whole article distasteful, but I suppose more relevantly, why does it belong in a book about the 2008 campaign? It's like including a chapter on the troubled personal life of that girl who cut the backwards B on her face.

Posted by: philogratis | January 12, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Apologies to the board for the multiple repetitive posts. It is the fault of the posting software.

Posted by: captn_ahab | January 12, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Oh, I see. It's Elizabeth Edward's fault that John had an extramarital affair. Why at look what a callow, shrewish, unfeeling wife he had. She must have made John so terribly unhappy that he had no choice, but to seek solace in another woman's bed.
I mean what else could old John do, if his wife was making him unhappy? I mean if you are unhappy in your marriage, why you have to do something to make yourself happy. Isn't that the way it works today. I mean he made no contribution to his situation. It was all the fault of his wife. Isn't that why we have no fault divorce?

Posted by: captn_ahab | January 12, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Oh, I see. It's Elizabeth Edward's fault that John had an extramarital affair. Why at look what a callow, shrewish, unfeeling wife he had. She must have made John so terribly unhappy that he had no choice, but to seek solace in another woman's bed.
I mean what else could old John do, if his wife was making him unhappy? I mean if you are unhappy in your marriage, why you have to do something to make yourself happy. Isn't that the way it works today. I mean he made no contribution to his situation. It was all the fault of his wife. Isn't that why we have no fault divorce?

Posted by: captn_ahab | January 12, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

This article's effort to blame Elizabeth Edwards for her husband's unconscionable adultery while she was struggling with a fatal illness is shameful. If she did indeed open her blouse to reveal a mastectomy when she was justifiably distraught, that is an understandable dramatic action to get through to her narcissistic, self-indulgent husband that she is a human being deserving of his attention. I admire her for finally demanding John do the right thing and parent his out-of-wedlock child. Elizabeth is a decent, responsible human being whom I do not know personally but admire greatly.

Posted by: arussell91 | January 12, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Oh well, I guess John Edward's affair must be his wife's Elizabeth's fault. I mean look at what a shrewish, callow, and overwrought woman she is. No wonder, John had no choice but to avoid her, and find solace in another woman's bed. Pooor, John, we can only imagine how unhappy his wife made him. And we all know if you're unhappy in a marriage, you have to do something to make yourself happy again...

Posted by: captn_ahab | January 12, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Oh well, I guess John Edward's affair must be his wife's Elizabeth's fault. I mean look at what a shrewish, callow, and overwrought woman she is. No wonder, John had no choice but to avoid her, and find solace in another woman's bed. Pooor, John, we can only imagine how unhappy his wife made him. And we all know if you're unhappy in a marriage, you have to do something to make yourself happy again...

Posted by: captn_ahab | January 12, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

It is interesting to read the comments here and on NY Magazine's site and then wonder, "How different was the Edwards' behavior from how anyone else might have acted?"

With all the sanctimonious condemnation of liberal-this and conservative-that, it seems to me that most people behave badly when trying to avoid the consequences of their misdeeds or trying to salvage a relationship damaged by such misdeeds.

Every one of these tragic situations is different, but whether it is the Sanfords or the Harts, Edwards, or the couple next door -- no one navigates adultery and the consequences without exhibiting a lot of pained behavior.

Posted by: upstate111 | January 12, 2010 9:45 AM | Report abuse

This just shows how out of touch politicians and their families can be. We are seeing affairs by politicians of both parties. It isn't news except when a campaign tries to paint their candidate as a man who walks on water. Clearly Edwards is not infallable his wife felt the strain of the campaign and her husband's affair. Still no news here.
It is amazing that the press chooses to continue on and on about the Edwards affair when so many others have fallen prey to the same temptations. Maybe because Edwards is more attractive where politicians such as many of the Republicans such as Gengrich and some of the others well...one wonders what were these women thinking? Ewe!
Still there are more important issues to discuss than the latest cute politician's pecadellos.

Posted by: OhMy | January 12, 2010 6:59 AM | Report abuse

I love the left covering their ears loudly singing "la la la - this is tabloid trash" because it's one of their own caught lying, cheating and lying about cheating. You have the same reaction when Bill Clinton, Joe Biden and Harry Reid make the nastiest of racists remarks. But if Sarah Palin mentions God and you wet your pants and cry like little girls.

Grow up losers!

Posted by: gorams1 | January 11, 2010 9:37 PM | Report abuse

HA HA - this book gets PALIN skewered on "60 Minutes" for more than 10 of the 13 minute segment - for mentioning the word "GOD" - and WaPo bloggers love it! But dare say anything about Edwards knocking up his baby Mama or Clinton and Reid dissing the Negro Obama - and suddenly it becomes "tabloid trash."

Libs are too funny!

Posted by: pgr88 | January 11, 2010 9:24 PM | Report abuse

Tabloid bull****. Cmon' WaPo.

Posted by: simon3891 | January 11, 2010 9:05 PM | Report abuse

Why are we just now hearing about this? Cheers

Posted by: MPNangle | January 11, 2010 8:35 PM | Report abuse

"and next month Andrew Young will publish a tell-all book that promises to give new definition to the term sordid."

WOW! Maybe he's going to tell some stories about Abu Graib, or give us details of some of the fatal beatings of young Arab men?
Or maybe some insight into Condi Rice's role in the "Flesh Tableaus" that were arranged with naked men, apparently at HER direction?

Now THAT would be sordid.

Posted by: TOMHERE | January 11, 2010 8:23 PM | Report abuse

Garbage. Pure f***ing tabloid garbage.
If I wanted this fecal reading I'd buy the Inquirer.

Posted by: TOMHERE | January 11, 2010 8:19 PM | Report abuse

So, whatever happened to the Swine Flu?

Posted by: BaracksTeleprompter | January 11, 2010 8:14 PM | Report abuse

And this guy is seriously hoping to be named AG if there is a next Obama term? Unbelievable...

http://www.political-buzz.com/

Posted by: parkerfl1 | January 11, 2010 7:41 PM | Report abuse

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