May 7, 2009 — -- Elizabeth Edwards showed contempt today for the woman she claimed seduced her husband, John Edwards, saying, "There is no excuse for women to do this."
In a sitdown with Oprah Winfrey, Elizabeth Edwards, 59, refused to utter the name Rielle Hunter, 45, but said her husband's mistress was partly to blame for the affair that torpedoed her husband's political career and traumatized her family.
"Women need to have respect for other women," she told Winfrey.
Elizabeth Edwards placed much of the blame on her husband, but said Hunter had to know that John Edwards had a wife who'd been diagnosed with terminal cancer and that she had two young children, along with an adult daughter. That should have prevented Hunter from going after her husband, she said.
"You can't just knock on that door and say you're out, I'm in," Edwards said. "If you admire that life, you can't just take it. Build your own."
Hunter has reportedly been angered by comments Edwards made in recent days while touting her memoir "Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts Facing Life's Adversities."
The National Enquirer, which first reported John Edwards' affair in 2007, reported that Hunter wants him to take a paternity test and is threatening legal action. John Edwards, who has denied fathering the baby, initially agreed to a paternity test, but Hunter had declined.
Elizabeth Edwards has barely been seen in public since last summer, when news of the affair broke. Some are questioning her motives and her decision to put her family in the spotlight and stir up the scandal. Her husband, the former senator from North Carolina, told Winfrey the decision to publish her book was totally his wife's.
"I think it's thoughtful. ? I think it's [about] how she feels. ? I never suggested she change anything," John Edwards said.
Gayle King, editor at large of O magazine, which is running excerpts of the books and who also visited the Edwards' sprawling home in Chapel Hill, N.C., with Winfrey, said Elizabeth Edwards wanted to present her side of the story.
"I don't think she wants to be portrayed as a long-suffering wife. I think she wanted people to know what she was thinking and what she's feeling," King said in an exclusive interview with Diane Sawyer on "Good Morning America."
The Edwards said they are working on their 31-year marriage, but that trust remains a key issue.
On whether they are getting to a better place, John Edwards said, "I feel like we're getting to it. It's not over, but we're getting to it."
"I love her. I care about her," he said about his wife.
He said he wasn't certain whether his wife would leave him when he first told her about the affair two days after announcing his candidacy for president in December 2006.
"It's an ongoing process of finding your feet again. You know, finding, sort of retelling your story to yourself," Elizabeth Edwards told Winfrey. "There's a lot of adjustments to make. And when you talk about trust, I think that's probably the most difficult hurdle."
In her book, Edwards said that when her husband first admitted the adultery, he "left most of the truth out," saying it was a onetime fling.
"I didn't suspect he would drop by and see her again after we had that conversation," she told Winfrey, referring to her husband's visit to Hunter's hotel in which photographs show him picking up her baby. "What it meant was that this trust we managed to build just pushed us way back -- farther back actually -- in the process."
John Edwards Seduced With the Phrase 'You Are So Hot'
Elizabeth Edwards, who said the affair deeply shattered her self-confidence, was careful not to use the word "affair" in the interview to describe her husband's relationship with Hunter.
She said the video producer who worked for her husband's campaign seduced her husbands with four words, "You are so hot."
"If you asked me to wager this house we were building whether my husband would've responded to the come-on 'You are so hot,' I would've responded, no," she told Winfrey. "And I think if you pulled him out of the situation, he would've said no, and he doesn't know to this day why he said yes."
Edwards denied rumors that the former senator had moved out of their 28,000-square-foot home in North Carolina, which was completed three years ago.
"Yes, he's still living in the house. Yes, they're still together," King said. "It was very clear that she loves her family and loves the family life that she has, and wants to preserve that."
The Edwards have three children. The oldest is 27, and the youngest, 3. Their 16-year-old son Wade died in 1996.
Elizabeth Edwards said her children know about the affair and that their father told them he acted inappropriately.
"The children pretty much know, I don't know what they heard in school, but they have computers," she said.
When thinking about her cancer, Edwards said she sometimes cries and cries and thinks of "things undone, people I'll leave behind."
In her book, Elizabeth Edwards revealed that she vomited when her husband first told her about the affair.
"I cried and screamed. I went to the bathroom and threw up," Edwards wrote, according to the New York Daily News.
John Edwards publicly admitted the affair in an August 2008 interview with ABC News' Bob Woodruff.
"It was a huge judgment, mistake in judgment," he said. "But yeah, I didn't think anyone would ever know about it. I didn't."
She revealed in the interview that she had asked John Edwards for only one gift when they got married -- fidelity -- because her father's cheating had had a detrimental impact on her mother.
"It was really important to me partly because I had seen what happened to my mother when she caught my father cheating on her. I didn't want to go through that. It made her less than she could be, and I just did not want to see that happen to me, so that was the one thing I asked for. He willingly said yes," she told Winfrey.
Edwards told Winfrey she had no idea whether John Edwards was the father of Hunter's baby. John Edwards has said he and his wife believe he is not the father. However, his wife does not state that explicitly in the interview with Winfrey.
"And there is great speculation that your husband, John Edwards, is the father of that baby," Winfrey said.
"That's what I understand. I've seen a picture of the baby. I have no idea. It doesn't look like my children, but I don't have any idea," Edwards said.
When pressed by Winfrey, Edwards added that whether the baby is her husband's or not would make a different in her husband's life but not hers.
"This is the part where you have to concentrate on your own life. Whatever the facts are doesn't change my life, in that sense," she said. "I don't see an upside of making it part of my life. ? He doesn't know any more than I do about this."
In her book, Edwards apparently does not address the issue of who fathered Hunter's daughter.
In it, she also lashed out at Hunter, calling her life "pathetic" and in the interview with Winfrey, she detailed how her husband told her the affair began.
"What John said is that this woman spotted him in the hotel in which he was staying," she said. "He was meeting someone in the restaurant bar area, and she verified with someone who he worked with that it was John. John went to dinner at a nearby restaurant, and when he walked back to the hotel, she was standing in front of the hotel. She said to him, 'You are so hot.'
"I can't deliver it because I don't know how you deliver such a line as that," Edwards added, laughing.
"This person is very different from me, and really very different from him," she said. "We're basically old-fashioned people. So, this was a pretty big leap for him. Maybe it's being so different is what was attractive."
Edwards, who fought her first bout with breast cancer in 2005, was diagnosed again during her husband's presidential campaign, this time finding out that it could not be cured.
"Being sick meant a number of things. One, that my life is going to be less long, and I didn't want to spend it fighting. ... I was reminded constantly of how supportive he'd been and how great he'd been. ... I didn't want it [the affair] to define our marriage. ? If you take that piece out, I do have a perfect marriage. ? The times when I've been in enormous pain, he's been at my side," she said.
Her treatment includes chemo pills she takes at home and intravenous medication every two weeks. She has a port in her chest for the medication.
"Maybe my cancer is a bigger thing in their life then this woman passing through," she said.
Edwards said she still feels angry and hurt, and doubts herself at times, but she has realized that it was not about her.
"I am now a different person. The way we were is no longer," she wrote in her book."That's really the entire meaning of the book ... is that we resist any kind of change ... Start saying what's the best I can make of what I have right now. ... [Fairy tales are] not real for most people. There are all sorts of things that are going to interrupt the dream you had," she said.
Even when she knew the full truth, Edwards threw herself behind her husband's campaign. When her breast cancer returned in March 2007, she urged him to continue his run.
"Once they hear him speak, once they feel his passion, once they understand he is the truth teller in this race," Elizabeth Edwards said in January 2008 about her husband's presidential bid.
Lagging behind Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, John Edwards dropped out of the Democratic race in January 2008.
However, her book tells a different story. Elizabeth Edwards writes in the book that she had initially wanted her husband to quit the race because she was afraid the affair would raise destructive questions for her family, according to the Daily News.
"He should not have run," she wrote.
"I thought for my family, for my children, for me, it would be best if he got out of the campaign. He said truthfuly ? that if you want to raise a lot of questions you get out of a campaign you got into two days before," she said, admitting that he was right.
"I changed the way I talked a lot. ... At first I didn't think I could do it and I didn't. I canceled a lot of things at the beginning. It would be overwhelming ... that the one thing I asked for I didn't get," Edwards said, referring to her promise about fidelity.
The couple were always thought to have a strong marriage. In a rare interview with the Detroit Free Press last fall, Elizabeth Edwards said the idea that they were a perfect couple was a myth.
"There is no perfection out there," she told the newspaper.
For now, as Elizabeth Edwards said, the two are working on their relationship and marriage.
"I lie in bed, circles under my eyes, my sparse hair sticking in too many directions," she wrote in the book. "And he looks at me as if I am the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. It matters."
"I wouldn't be here if I didn't love him," she told Winfrey.