Elizabeth Edwards Opens Up to Oprah About Her Husband's Affair

Elizabeth Edwards opens up to Oprah about her reaction to husband's infidelity.

May 6, 2009, 7:26 AM

May 6, 2009 — -- She didn't have a career in politics like her husband, but the spotlight is now on Elizabeth Edwards, who discusses private details about her reaction to her husband's affair in her new book to be released this month and bears her soul on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" scheduled to air Thursday.

Edwards told Winfrey she believed John Edwards when he told her the affair was a one night stand. "You know I believed John," she said. "I believe that. I want to believe that, you know."

But whether she is still in love with the former presidential candidate -- who admitted publicly after his run for the White House ended last summer to having an affair -- is another question.

"Are you still in love with him?" Winfrey asked.

"You know, that's a complicated question," Edwards said.

On the status of their marriage, Edwards said, "Neither one of us is out the door, so I guess it's day by day, but maybe it's month by month."

The interview, taped at the Edwards' 28,000-square-foot home in Chapel Hill, N.C., coincides with the release of Edwards book, "Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts Facing Life's Adversities." Edwards talks about her new memoir, her husband's infidelity, her marriage and how she handled her bout with breast cancer.

In her memoir, Elizabeth Edwards lashed out at Rielle Hunter, the woman with whom her husband had an affair. She called Hunter's life "pathetic," and also said that her husband, a former North Carolina senator, should not have entered the 2008 presidential race.

Edwards suggested that Hunter, a video producer who worked for her husband's campaign seduced John Edwards with the pickup line "You're so hot."

"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.

Hunter was paid $114,000 for producing a batch of short films for the campaign, and federal investigators are looking into whether some of that money was paid to keep the affair under the radar.

A Harpo spokeswoman told The Associated Press that the only caveat to the interview was that Winfrey could not mention John Edwards' mistress by name. Winfrey also spoke with John Edwards but excerpts of his interview were not provided.

In an accompanying article in "O" magazine, Edwards opened up about Hunter and how she was different from her own family.

"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 has three children from her 31-year marriage, 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.

Edwards told Oprah she only asked John Edwards for one gift before they got married 31 years ago. "I wanted him to be faithful to me," she said. "It was enormously important to me."

Edwards Rips Husband's Lover in Memoir

During the years, many of Elizabeth Edwards' private moments have turned public, including the death of her teenage son in 1996 and the announcement of her terminal cancer.

But she has barely been seen publicly since last summer, when news of the affair broke. But that will likely change this month, when her memoir is published.

In the book, Edwards revealed that she vomited when her husband first told her about the affair in December 2006, days after he announced his presidential candidacy.

"I cried and screamed. I went to the bathroom and threw up," Edwards wrote, according to the New York Daily News, which obtained an advance copy of the book.

Edwards apparently does not address the issue of who fathered Hunter's now 1-year-old daughter.

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."

He also described coming clean to his wife. "She had to know it, and it was painful for her. Hard and painful for her, but she responded exactly like the kind of woman she is. And then she forgave me and we went to work on it."

Elizabeth Edwards' account, however, is a little messier. She said in the book that when her husband first admitted the adultery, he "left most of the truth out," saying it was a one-time fling.

'He Should Not Have Run'

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," 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.

But 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 writes.

Had John Edwards not run, some political strategists believe the outcome of the primary may have different.

"If he had come out and dropped out of the race particularly early, I think a lot of voters would have taken a good fresh look at Hillary Clinton," said Mark Penn, a Democratic strategist who worked on Clinton's campaign. "Remember, they supported Edwards because they thought he was honest and trustworthy."

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.

But the couple has weathered her two bouts with cancer and the 1996 death of their son, Wade, and also, it seems, the affair.

"I lie in bed, circles under my eyes, my sparse hair sticking in too many directions," Edwards writes in the book. "And he looks at me as if I am the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. It matters."

Edwards' Troubles Not Yet Over

John Edwards acknowledged that federal officials are investigating whether any presidential campaign cash was used as hush money to keep his affair with Hunter out of the public eye.

"I am confident that no funds from my campaign were used improperly," Edwards said in a statement to the Charlotte Observer. "However, I know that it is the role of government to ensure that this is true. We have made available to the United States both the people and the information necessary to help them get the issue resolved efficiently and in a timely matter. We appreciate the diligence and professionalism of those involved and look forward to a conclusion."

Edwards' senior political adviser Joe Trippi told ABC News that the former Democratic candidate should not have run for the presidency.

"There is no doubt that he changed the race on the war, on healthcare and on challenging special interests and lobbyists." Trippi said. "But even with all that, he probably should not have run."

Americans are divided about what to make of Edwards' renewed spot in the limelight.

"I think it's a calculated decision," one New Yorker told ABC News.

"I think that my sympathy lessens for her if she knew about it and then also aided in concealing it from the public," another said.

Edwards is likely to garner attention -- some sympathetic, some not -- for her situation, but whether that translates into book sales remains to be seen.

ABC News' Raelyn Johnson, Claire Shipman, Kate Snow and Jonann Brady contributed to this report.

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