CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As John Edwards’ legal fight enters its final phase, the woman who tipped the National Enquirer to his affair spilled the details Thursday in The Huffington Post.
Pigeon O’Brien’s confession came on the day former White House counsel Greg Craig said he’d joined the legal team Edwards has assembled in the face of a grand jury investigation.
A federal grand jury in Raleigh has been deliberating whether the former Democratic U.S. senator and presidential candidate violated campaign finance laws in covering up his affair with Rielle Hunter. It’s expected to finish its case soon.
On The Huffington Post website, O’Brien described how she’d been friends with Lisa Druck since the 1980s when they met as students in New York. They talked on the phone often, even exercising together as they chatted long-distance.
After Druck changed her name to Rielle Hunter and got involved with a man named John from North Carolina, O’Brien found herself keeping an increasingly uncomfortable secret.
“The trickle of calls swelled,” she wrote. “My phone rang a lot. It became a daily issue, hiding what I knew. I was a lobster in a pot at full boil, without really knowing when the water had become so hot.”
Eventually, she says, she decided to spill what she knew. She called the National Enquirer.
“I guess ... John Edwards is having an affair,” she says she told the tabloid.
The television psychic? the person at the Enquirer asked.
No, O’Brien said. The presidential candidate.
“Oh,” he said, “OH!”
“I made one phone call simply to take the pressure off myself because I couldn’t live with it anymore,” O’Brien told the Observer on Thursday.The Enquirer contracted O’Brien to silence. She said she doesn’t recall how much she was paid.
The tabloid went on to expose the affair in 2007, which Edwards vehemently denied. The next year, when the paper disclosed he had fathered Hunter’s daughter, Edwards finally acknowledged the affair.
The federal probe of Edwards has gone on for two years.
Investigators are looking into whether Edwards knew that hundreds of thousand dollars from at least two wealthy supporters – the late Fred Baron and Rachel “Bunny” Mellon – was being used to help support Hunter.
At the time, Edwards was beginning a second presidential run.
Hunter now lives in Charlotte with her 3-year-old daughter. Edwards is secluded at home in Chapel Hill. And O’Brien, who has been living in Asheville, is watching the story unfold from the sidelines.
She said she felt like she could tell her story now, weeks after her father died.
“That somehow makes it easier for me to be honest,” she said Thursday. “I never felt it was right to conceal this. I just think it’s important to realize the truth comes out in a million different ways.”