John Edwards acknowledges child from affair


Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards admitted Thursday that he had fathered a child with a former campaign videographer, confirming rumors and reports that had been swirling around the former North Carolina senator for months.

“I am Quinn’s father,” Edwards said in a statement, referring to Frances Quinn Hunter, the toddler he fathered with the videographer, Rielle Hunter. “. . . It was wrong for me ever to deny she was my daughter and hopefully one day, when she understands, she will forgive me.”

Edwards, 56, has been married for more than three decades to Elizabeth Edwards, 60, an attorney who played a high-profile role in his political campaigns, and who has been diagnosed with cancer.

The couple had four children together, the eldest of whom, Wade, died in a car accident in 1996. The couple’s two youngest children are not yet high school age.

Edwards publicly admitted to the affair with Hunter, 45, in August 2008, after the National Enquirer reported that he was the child’s father. At the time, Edwards vigorously denied the allegation. The baby was born in February 2008, and Edwards said the affair took place “for a short period” in 2006.

In his statement Thursday, Edwards -- who earned a fortune as one of North Carolina’s most successful trial lawyers -- said that he had been providing financial support for the child and had reached an agreement with Hunter to continue doing so.

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

The slowly unfolding scandal has most likely ended the political career of a man who was once one of America’s most prominent public figures, and one of its most outspoken advocates for the poor. But the scandal has had few broader political repercussions.

The Enquirer reported on Edwards’ affair while he was still vying for the Democratic presidential nomination. When he dropped out of the race in January 2008, much of the analysis focused on his failure to gain ground against front-runners Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.

The most significant subsequent reaction in political circles has been from Democrats who are angry that Edwards continued campaigning with the affair looming over him. If he had won the nomination, they argue, the revelations could have done much more serious damage to the party.

Since admitting the affair, Edwards has kept a relatively low profile. He has reportedly traveled to Central America to build houses for the poor, and has been seen in and around Chapel Hill, N.C.; the family has a large estate just outside of town.

This week, NBC News reported that Edwards and his wife had separated. On Thursday, a representative from the Raleigh-based public relations company representing him, Fitzpatrick Communications, declined to discuss that report or any other aspect of the story.

North Carolina newspapers, meanwhile, report that a grand jury continues to investigate whether Edwards violated federal law by allegedly using campaign donations to pay Hunter to keep silent about the affair.

Edwards’ latest admission comes before Thomas Dunne Books’ release next month of “The Politician,” an account of the scandal by Andrew Young, a former campaign staffer who initially claimed to be the baby’s father in an apparent attempt to cover up Edwards’ involvement with Hunter.

A promotional blurb for the book on the publisher’s website says that Young “was assured throughout the coverup that his boss and friend would ultimately step forward to both tell the truth and protect his aide’s career. Neither promise was kept.”

Harrison Hickman, Edwards’ friend and former pollster, said in an interview Thursday that he had spoken to John and Elizabeth Edwards about a week ago. He said that Edwards released the statement “to begin to put some of this behind him and talk openly about the fact that Quinn is his child.”

“He’s hopeful that in time he’ll be able to do all the things a father should do and can do without a camera popping up in his face every time he’s in public,” Hickman said.