Jesse Jackson's Ex-Mistress Has No Regrets

ByABC News

Aug. 17, 2001 -- In her first television interview, a woman who had a four-year affair with the Rev. Jesse Jackson calls their daughter her "miracle baby" and expresses no regrets over her relationship with the civil rights leader.

"I'm convinced she is supposed to be here, and I am supposed to be her mom," Karin Stanford says of her daughter, Ashley. "And I'm very proud of that."

Stanford tells ABCNEWS' Connie Chung that since the affair became public, her relationship with Jackson has been strained. He has only seen Ashley once in the last seven months, she says.

Recently, Stanford, a former Jackson aide, went to court to formalize the $4,000-a-month child support payments the former presidential candidate was already paying her. Jackson then asked her to sign a confidentiality agreement, she says. She refused.

"I was shocked," says Stanford, 39. "I had basically kept the details of our relationship confidential. … So then to be hit with the confidentiality agreement was highly insulting to me."

Jackson declined to comment on the interview except to say: "I offer no response because any response further exposes the child in ways I feel to be harmful. She deserves support, a guaranteed college education, dignity, and privacy."

Mixing Business and Pleasure

Stanford first met Jackson when she was completing her doctoral dissertation on his foreign policy record. From the beginning, Jackson impressed her.

"I was very inspired, and I walked away from that meeting believing that this guy is a true believer," Stanford tells Chung. "I was won over."

Their paths crossed again in the mid-1990s, when Stanford was a professor at the University of Georgia and turning her dissertation into a book. After an all-day meeting, Jackson offered her a position on his staff.

For Stanford, it was a dream job. But before long her relationship with Jackson — who was married with five children — became personal.

She says they were in love with one another but accepted that their circumstances precluded a conventional relationship.

"He didn't make any promises," she says. "I didn't think we'd have a future together. I just thought it was something we were doing for the moment."

Stanford also says it did not bother her that Jackson was married. "From what I understood about Rev. Jackson's marriage was that it was basically a political marriage," she says.

"I was very comfortable with our relationship, and I knew that while we were together his heart was nowhere else."

Unexpected Pregnancy

In 1998, Stanford discovered she was pregnant with Jackson's child.

She was surprised because she had undergone chemotherapy during a bout with breast cancer. Doctors had told her it was unlikely she would be able to bear children. Furthermore, she and Jackson had no intention of having children.

"It was unplanned," she says. "We took all the precautions that one would take when they're trying not to have a child, and it happened anyway."

Although her doctors warned her the pregnancy could jeopardize her own life, she decided to have the baby. "I knew that it was probably going to be my only opportunity to have a child," she says. "I couldn't just say, 'Well, God, it's not the right time.'"

Meanwhile, Stanford says she thought Jackson was considering running in the year 2000 presidential race. Not wanting to mar his political future, Stanford decided not to tell him she was pregnant.

"I told him that I had been dating someone else and that I was going to get engaged, get married and leave town," she says. "I just didn't know how to tell him that he was going to be a father again."

While Jackson was advising President Clinton in the heat of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Stanford told Jackson she was pregnant, but said another man was the father. But Stanford says Jackson soon realized the truth, and during this time he also decided not to enter the presidential race.

"I think he was concerned that because reporters were calling and asking about who the father of my baby was," she says. "His concern was that they would focus more on his personal life rather than his campaign platform."

The Affair Becomes Public Knowledge

Stanford left Washington for California in 1999 and that May, two weeks after Jackson made headlines by winning the release of three U.S. hostages in Serbia, Stanford gave birth to a baby girl.

For the next year and a half, Stanford says, he continued seeing her. Despite his busy schedule, Jackson was attentive to his daughter, visiting them in Los Angeles a couple of times a month.

Ashley strongly resembles her father, Stanford says.

"He was her father," Stanford says. "He was concerned about her just like any father would be. He checked on her, he came to visit her, he played with her, she knew he was Daddy."

A short while later, Stanford says, a tabloid called her, threatening to publish a story about the affair and Ashley. Jackson made a public statement about the affair, saying he accepted responsibility for his actions and he was sorry.

Stanford denies ever trying to blackmail Jackson for money. Both admit that his organization gave her $15,000 for moving expenses and another $20,000 for consulting fees, which Jackson has defended as legitimate business expenses.

Stanford, now working as a consultant for a billionaire friend of Jackson's, says she has no regrets.

"I know it's caused a lot of pain," she says. "I know it's caused a lot of problems for people, but she's here, and she's happy and she's healthy. I think it was a good decision."

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