Politics & Government

Edwards admits affair, but says he didn't father child

Former Sen. John Edwards Friday admitted to having an extramarital affair with a campaign worker.

Edwards, the Democrats' 2004 vice presidential candidate and a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination this year, told ABC's Bob Woodruff that he had an affair with videographer Rielle Hunter, but said he didn't father her baby. The interview will air on "Nightline" tonight.

Edwards later issued a statement, saying in part: "In 2006, I made a serious error in judgment and conducted myself in a way that was disloyal to my family and to my core beliefs. I recognized my mistake and I told my wife that I had a liaison with another woman, and I asked for her forgiveness. Although I was honest in every painful detail with my family, I did not tell the public. When a supermarket tabloid told a version of the story, I used the fact that the story contained many falsities to deny it. But being 99% honest is no longer enough.

"I was and am ashamed of my conduct and choices, and I had hoped that it would never become public."

Edwards had vehemently denied the affair during his run for president last fall, when the National Enquirer first reported the relationship. When confronted last week with questions about the allegations, he declined to answer. This week, however, several prominent Democrats told The Charlotte Observer that Edwards needed to come forward to publicly address the situation.

Hunter, 42, gave birth to a girl in February, but a birth certificate obtained last week by McClatchy listed no father. The Enquirer alleged that Edwards was the father. In his statement, he said " . . . that misconduct took place for a short period in 2006. It ended then. I am and have been willing to take any test necessary to establish the fact that I am not the father of any baby, and I am truly hopeful that a test will be done so this fact can be definitively established."

Edwards also denied the Enquirer's allegations that he was orchestrating the payment of money to Hunter to keep her from going public, but he said it was possible that some of his friends or supporters may have made payments without telling him.

He made a point of telling ABC that he didn't love Hunter, and that his wife Elizabeth's cancer was in remission when he began the affair. Elizabeth Edwards is now battling an incurable form of the disease.

When the Enquirer first made the allegations in October, Edwards told reporters: "It's completely untrue, ridiculous. I've been in love with the same woman for 30-plus years and, as anybody who's been around us knows, she's an extraordinary human being, warm, loving, beautiful, sexy and as good a person as I have ever known. So the story's just false."

Last month, he declined to answer when a McClatchy reporter asked him about the allegations after an event in Washington, D.C.

Edwards admitted the Enquirer was correct when it reported that he'd visited Hunter at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Berverly Hills, Calif. last month.

According to friends of Hunter, Edwards met her at a New York city bar in 2006. His political action committee later paid her $114,000 to produce campaign Web site documentaries despite her lack of experience.

A former campaign aide, Andrew Young, has said that he's the father of the child.

In his statement Edwards said, "It is inadequate to say to the people who believed in me that I am sorry, as it is inadequate to say to the people who love me that I am sorry. In the course of several campaigns, I started to believe that I was special and became increasingly egocentric and narcissistic.

"If you want to beat me up - feel free. You cannot beat me up more than I have already beaten up myself. I have been stripped bare and will now work with everything I have to help my family and others who need my help."

Wayne Lesperance, a professor at New England College, where Edwards gave the commencement address last year, said that one of the strengths of Edwards' image was his relationship with his wife.

"He was seen as the kind of husband that a lot of men would like to be in those situations and that a lot of wives would like to have. He became a model husband in that circunstance," Lesperance said. "... This is the kind of thing that is really gut-wrenching, because it takes away from the sort of persona he tried to portray for so long.”

A spokesman for N.C. Gov. Mike Easley, who supported Edwards' campaign, said, "This is a personal matter between John Edwards and his family."

More from McClatchy:

Tabloid's claims threaten Edwards' role at party's convention

Birth certificate of child linked to Edwards lists no father

Why isn't John Edwards answering reporters' questions?

Related stories from McClatchy DC