John Edwards Admits He Fathered Rielle Hunter's Child

Former aide says Edwards had him steal diaper to secretly check his paternity.

July 24, 2008, 10:23 AM

Jan. 21, 2010 — -- Former presidential candidate John Edwards abandoned his long denial that he had fathered a child during an affair with a campaign aide and admitted today that he is the father of the almost 2-year-old girl.

"I am Quinn's father," Edwards said in the bombshell statement this morning. "I will do everything in my power to provide her with the love and support she deserves."

The former senator and presidential hopeful had an affair with campaign cinematographer Rielle Hunter, 45, and she later give birth to Frances Quinn.

Edwards' admission comes a week before the man who had claimed he was the baby's father, former aide Andrew Young, was scheduled to appear in an exclusive interview on "20/20".

In an excerpt from his upcoming interview with ABC News's Bob Woodruff, Young alleges that Edwards asked him to arrange a fake a paternity test.

"Get a doctor to fake the DNA results," Young said Edwards told him. "And he asked me ... to steal a diaper from the baby so he could secretly do a DNA test to find out if this [was] indeed his child."

Young recently wrote a book about the affair called "The Politician" that has yet to be released.

Edwards was in Haiti today working on earthquake relief and said only, "I've said what I have to say for now and I'm here to help people."

Tune in to ABC News' "20/20" and "Nightline" Friday Jan. 29 to see Young's groundbreaking interview. Then tune in to "Good Morning America" on the following Monday, Feb. 1, when Young will appear for his first live interview.

In the statement today, Edwards said it was "wrong" that he denied he was the girl's father.

"I have been able to spend time with her during the past year and trust that future efforts to show her the love and affection she deserves can be done privately and in peace," Edwards' statement said, referring to the little girl. "It was wrong for me ever to deny she was my daughter and hopefully one day, when she understands, she will forgive me."

"To all those I have disappointed and hurt, these words will never be enough, but I am truly sorry," he said.

Edwards' lawyer, Harrison Hickman, bluntly told NBC today, "He lied."

Hickman said that Edwards has been visiting Quinn and paying child support for about a year. Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, learned last summer that Quinn was her husband's child.

"He's not doing this as a way to try to bring attention to himself," Hickman said. "He's doing this as a way... to begin to put this behind, not just him, but everybody else who's been affected by this."

Elizabeth Edwards told the Associated Press that "the whole family is relieved."

August 2008: Edwards Categorically Denies Paternity

In August 2008 Edwards admitted to the affair with Hunter but denied fathering the child in an exclusive "Nightline" interview with Bob Woodruff (WATCH THE INTERVIEW). Edwards said he repeatedly lied about the extramarital affair with Hunter, a 42-year old campaign employee, but strenuously denied he was involved in paying the woman hush money or fathering her newborn child.

Edwards categorically declared it was "not possible" that the baby was his.

"I know that it's not possible that this child could be mine because of the timing of events, so I know it's not possible," Edwards said. "[I'm] happy to take a paternity test, and would love to see it happen.

Click here to see a timeline of major events in scandal involving John Edwards.

"Two years ago, I made a very serious mistake, a mistake that I am responsible for and no one else," Edwards said in the interview. "In 2006, I told Elizabeth about the mistake, asked her for her forgiveness, asked God for his forgiveness. And we have kept this within our family since that time."

Edwards, 56, said he told his entire family about the affair after it ended in 2006, and that his wife, Elizabeth, who has incurable breast cancer, was "furious" but that their marriage would survive. The couple have three children, Cate, 27; Emma, 11; and Jack, 9.

Months after the confession, Elizabeth Edwards wrote a book, "Resilience," in which she discussed her husband's affair. While promoting the book on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in May, she said no paternity test had yet taken place.

But in the summer of 2009, the National Enquirer published reports that Edwards had taken a paternity test, and the results confirmed he was the father.

Hunter gave birth to daughter Frances Quinn in February 2008, a month after Edwards ended his bid for the presidency. She listed no name for the father on the birth certificate, which created further speculation about who it might be.

Andrew Young, a close political aide to Edwards, originally claimed he was the father of Hunter's daughter, not Edwards. But Young -- who has two children with his wife, Cheri -- has since retracted that story and was expected to reveal more about the affair in the exclusive "20/20" interview Friday Jan. 29.

Soon after she was told of the affair, Elizabeth Edwards posted a message on her blog, saying that she and her children will stand by Edwards.

"Our family has been through a lot. Some caused by nature, some caused by human weakness, and some -- most recently -- caused by the desire for sensationalism and profit without any regard for the human consequences," she wrote on her blog. "None of these has been easy.  But we have stood with one another through them all.  Although John believes he should stand alone and take the consequences of his action now, when the door closes behind him, he has his family waiting for him."  

She too, denied in the blog post that Hunter's child was fathered by her husband.

Edwards told ABC News in 2008 that he'd met secretly with former lover Rielle Hunter as recently as last month in a California hotel room at her request because "she was having some trouble, she just wanted to talk."

"I wanted her not to tell the public what had happened," he said at another point. "Very simple. That's the reason I went."

Edwards contacted ABC News about the August 2008 interview and requested that he be interviewed about the allegations. He agreed before the interview to place no limitations on the questions he would be asked, but he limited the amount of time he would be questioned. He declined to clarify exactly when the relationship began or ended but said it was over before he announced his campaign for the presidency Dec. 28, 2006.

"I think my family is entitled to every detail," Edwards said then. "They've been told every detail. … I think beyond the basics … I think that's where it stops in terms of the public because I think everything else is within my family and those privacy boundaries out to be respected."

A series of dramatic allegations revolving around the affair was reported by the supermarket tabloid National Enquirer. The most serious of those allegations was that Hunter had been receiving hush money through the Edwards campaign in order to keep her quiet.

In the 2008 interview, Edwards denied knowing anything about any support being provided to Hunter or to Young, who claimed the child.

If any such support was being provided, Edwards insisted, "I had nothing to do with any money being paid, and no knowledge of any money being paid, and if something was paid, it wasn't being paid on my behalf."

Edwards' 2008 national finance chairman Fred Baron said then that he had provided "assistance" to Hunter and others without Edwards' knowledge.

In a statement emailed to ABC News, Baron said that he "decided independently to help two friends and former colleagues rebuild their lives when harassment by supermarket tabloids made it impossible for them to move forward on their own."  

"I did this of my own volition without the instruction or suggestion of anyone, and made a conscious decision not to tell anyone, including John Edwards, that assistance was provided.  The assistance was offered and accepted without condition.  This is now and shall always remain a private matter between these individuals and me."

Edwards said he could not be the father based on the timing of the baby's birth on February 27, 2008.

A grainy photo that appears to show Edwards holding a child was published in 2008 in the National Enquirer, which claimed that the baby was Rielle Hunter's child Frances Quinn.

Edwards said he couldn't make "sense" of the photo.

"I don't know if that picture is me," Edwards said in the ABC News interview. "It could well be. It looks like me. I don't know who that baby is. I have no idea what that picture is."

Pressed to clarify whether the child in the picture was Hunter's child, Edwards suggested that the tabloid may have digitally altered the picture, but also noted the frequency with which politicians hold babies.

"Do you know how many pictures have been taken of me holding children in the last three years? I mean it happens all the time."

Edwards blamed the affair on the adulation surrounding his remarkable rise into presidential politics.

"I went from being a senator, a young senator to being considered for vice president, running for president, being a vice presidential candidate and becoming a national public figure. All of which fed a self-focus, an egotism, a narcissism that leads you to believe that you can do whatever you want. You're invincible. And there will be no consequences."