John Edwards Says He Fathered Child
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Madeleine Brand.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
Today the former senator and presidential candidate John Edwards admitted that he fathered a child out of wedlock. Edwards had earlier confessed to having an affair with a woman who worked on his 2008 presidential campaign but until now, he had denied paternity even after the National Enquirer printed a blurry photo of him holding the baby.
From Edwards' home state of North Carolina, NPR's Adam Hochberg reports.
ADAM HOCHBERG: Edwards' friends say he's hoping to move forward with his life after this latest in his drawn-out series of confessions. It was more than a year ago that Edwards first admitted he had a relationship with his campaign videographer, Rielle Hunter.
Originally, he confessed only to a one-time affair. Later, it became clear they were together longer. And now, in a written statement, he's finally confirmed what the tabloids have said all along, that he fathered Hunter's now almost 2-year-old daughter.
Edwards' attorney, Wade Smith, says the ex-senator has been wrestling with making the announcement for months, but Smith describes the situation as complex.
Mr.�WADE SMITH (Attorney): There are a lot of people involved. It isn't just John. I mean, he can't just bodaciously make this announcement. He has to think about, how do other people feel? And whereas you could certainly accuse John of just thinking about himself at times in the past, in this instance, he thought about other people.
HOCHBERG: In his statement, Edwards said he hopes his daughter Frances Quinn Hunter will forgive him for his initial denial that he's her father. He apologized to those he's disappointed and hurt. And Smith, who's been Edwards' friend and mentor for decades, described him as lonely and sad.
Mr.�SMITH: He is absolutely as sorry about the whole last year and a half or two years as he can be. It's a train wreck. And so it hasn't been easy for him. It's been very hard for him. And he suffered a lot.
HOCHBERG: Edwards himself has been keeping a low profile. A spokeswoman said he's not granting interviews. Smith says Edwards is headed to Haiti to take part in relief efforts.
Last month, the former senator was in El Salvador, working with a Christian group called Homes from the Heart. And in a video on the group's Web site, he said he's dedicating himself to charity work.
Former Senator JOHN EDWARDS (Democrat, South Carolina): I am not here about politics. I am no longer a politician running for any office. I'm here, hopefully to join with you, in this cause that is the cause of my life - is to help all those who are suffering.
(Soundbite of applause)
HOCHBERG: But moving on from his personal scandal will be a challenge. Edwards' family situation is unstable, to put it mildly. His wife, Elizabeth, continues to battle terminal cancer. Their marital struggles were detailed in a recent, political tell-all book.
Meanwhile, another book is due soon by Andrew Young, a campaign aide who initially claimed he was the father of Rielle Hunter's baby, a claim he says Edwards pressured him to make. In the book, Young alleges Edwards asked him to fake a paternity test.
As Edwards' reputation has unraveled, some of his longtime associates have become almost numb to the revelations. And Edwards' former political consultant, Gary Pearce, says people who once were close to the ex-senator now are repulsed by his behavior.
Mr.�GARY PEARCE (Political Consultant): They feel betrayed. They feel like they put a lot of trust in him, and it's beyond disappointment. It is a real sense of betrayal and anger. And also, I think a lot of people feel now like they just sort of wish they could take a shower and make this thing go away.
HOCHBERG: In an interview with the Associated Press, Elizabeth Edwards said the whole family is relieved that her husband made the announcement. She said she doesn't know what's next for her and John, and refused to address media reports that they've separated. Harrison Hickman, who was Edwards' campaign pollster, says he spoke with Elizabeth earlier this week.
Mr.�HARRISON HICKMAN (Pollster): She certainly was supportive of this announcement being made, and would like to get on with her life without worrying about every time you open the door, there being a camera stuck in your face.
HOCHBERG: On top of all of his personal turmoil, Edwards also remains the subject of a criminal investigation. A federal grand jury is examining a series of payments his political supporters allegedly funneled to Rielle Hunter during the campaign to help keep her quiet about the affair. Wade Smith, Edwards' attorney, refused to comment on the case, but Hickman says Edwards seems to have little concern that the scandal will result in criminal charges.
Adam Hochberg, NPR News, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
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