Edwards Admits To Affair, But Denies Fathering Child

Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards today admitted to an extramarital affair while his wife's cancer was in remission. But the former U.S. senator from North Carolina denied to ABC News that he was the father of the woman's child.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

We begin this hour with news that former senator and presidential contender John Edwards has admitted to having an affair. For more than six months, he's been denying reports of the affair with the woman who did video work for his presidential campaign. Last month, Edwards was confronted by reporters from The National Enquirer in a California hotel where the woman was staying. He had this to say the next day.

Mr. JOHN EDWARDS (Former Senator and Presidential Candidate): I don't talk about these tabloids and they're tabloid trash and just full of lies. I'm here to talk about helping…

BLOCK: Well, tonight on the ABC News program "Nightline," John Edwards will admit he did have an affair with Rielle Hunter, but he will deny fathering the daughter that Hunter gave birth to in February.

Joining us to talk about the story is NPR's media correspondent David Folkenflik. And David, why don't you lay out exactly what John Edwards is going to say tonight on "Nightline?"

DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Well, as far as we know, John Edwards is going to say, I mean, I guess the headline is that he lied. He lied consistently throughout his ill-fated presidential primary bid. He did in fact have an affair with a woman, 42-year-old Rielle Hunter. He'd said that he'll say that the affair started in 2006 after she'd been hired to do some video work for the campaign. According to her friends, they met at a bar and she pitched the idea of doing videos. The videos were posted online, mysteriously disappeared. He'll say to ABC's Bob Woodruff that he did have the affair for a few months but that he was not in love with her.

BLOCK: David, this story has been kicking around for quite some time now, starting with The National Enquirer. And in fact, a former John Edwards campaign aide has come out and said he is actually the father of this baby. He's also married.

FOLKENFLIK: Well, that's right. You know, The National Enquirer published back in October of 2007 saying that Rielle Hunter was pregnant and that he was the likely father of the baby. He denies that in this interview tonight. A campaign aide, Andrew Young, had come out and issued a statement saying he in fact was the father. The birth certificate lists no father on that.

John Edwards stresses that his affair only lasted a few months, and part of that's important because A, it means that and he stresses to ABC that Elizabeth Edwards was in remission at the time from what is apparently a death sentence for cancer; and B, that he could not have been the father of this baby, that the affair ended too early for him to have been able to have been the father of it.

BLOCK: David, what about the timing here? Why is John Edwards saying this now?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, you know, this is, as we say, bubbled up in The National Enquirer, but you started to see it appear not only in blogs and commentary but in respectable mainstream newspapers as well. Two of the largest newspapers in his home state of North Carolina, The Charlotte Observer and its sister paper, The News and Observer of Raleigh, have reported that this is becoming a growing source of concern for Democratic officials, that Edwards had been, as a leading candidate, thought to address the convention, you know, which Barack Obama will be nominated formally for president, and with this cloud hanging over him, they couldn't see that happening. They thought it might detract from Senator Obama's moment.

BLOCK: And John Edwards' name has been kicked around as a possible vice presidential nominee or to have some part in an eventual Obama (unintelligible).

FOLKENFLIK: Well, right now you've got to imagine the idea of him being a running mate is absolutely dead in the water. The idea of him running for president again seems extremely unlikely. The current media reaction will be likely that he does not have much of a political future even as a cabinet official. You know, his hope is that he's dealing with it in a prominent media display like "Nightline." He's, of course, dealing with it on the same night as the opening ceremonies and opening events of the Olympics in Beijing, and he's hoping that will kind of drown it out. But in the current media atmosphere, it looks very, very dim indeed that he has a political future.

BLOCK: Okay, NPR's David Folkenflik in New York. David, thanks so much.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet.

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