May 10th, 2009
11:23 PM ET
9 years ago

Will the public turn on Elizabeth Edwards?

WASHINGTON (CNN) – She’s lost her first born child, continues to battle cancer, suffered through coping with her husband’s extramarital affair, and been an integral part of two unsuccessful presidential campaigns.

But notwithstanding all of the sympathy from voters built up in favor of Elizabeth Edwards, two reporters suggested Sunday that the famous political spouse’s current media blitz could bankrupt her goodwill with the American public.

“She was painted as this martyr figure,” CNN American Morning Entertainment Reporter Lola Ogunnaike said on CNN’s Reliable Sources.“

“They had what seemed to be this ideal marriage. And it turns out that she was complicit in basically this cover- up. She knew all along that he'd had an affair, that he cheated on her, and decided that they would go along with this massive cover-up, and she ultimately decided that his political career was worth more than being honest.” Ogunnaike added.

Washington Post reporter Lois Romano said Mrs. Edwards recent efforts to rehash her husband’s extramarital affair in multiple interviews and her forthcoming book is filling some sort of need but is risky.

“There's clearly something in her personality that is pushing her to get the last word,” said Romano. “I think she is at risk of diminishing her own stature. I mean, people held her up as the soul of this relationship, and now she's turned it into a spectacle again,” Romano also said.

Romano also suggested that Mrs. Edwards’ book tour might backfire. “Well, I think what we're going to see here is we're going to see the curve of the public follow us [the media]. Right now . . . the public is still generally in support of her,” Romano said. “Let's see what happens after two weeks of this.”

Elizabeth Edwards’ upcoming book, “Resilence,” touches on learning that her husband, former Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards, had carried on an affair with videographer Rielle Hunter.

"After I cried and screamed, I went to the bathroom and threw up," Edwards writes of her reaction when her husband told her about the affair in late 2006, soon after he announced his second presidential bid.

In a recently aired interview on “Oprah,” John Edwards said he wasn't sure whether his wife would leave him after he admitted to the affair.

"I didn't know, I think the honest truth is that I didn't know what she would do," he said. “I don't think anybody knows when they go through something like this."

Edwards also said he and his wife are "are getting to a good place." But he added, "It's not over."

One issue the Edwardses have apparently yet apparently to completely confront is whether a child resulted from the affair. Asked about Hunter’s daughter, a toddler, Elizabeth Edwards told Oprah Winfrey she did not know whether her husband was the baby’s father.

“I've seen a picture of the baby,” Elizabeth Edwards told the media mogul. “I have no idea. It doesn't look like my children. But, I don't have any idea.”

The Edwardses also recently acknowledged a pending federal investigation into payments by the former candidate's political action committee to a production company owned by Hunter.

In a statement recently given to several news organizations, including to CNN, John Edwards for the first time acknowledged the ongoing federal probe, but would provide no further details.

"I am confident that no funds from my campaign were used improperly," Edwards said in the statement. "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 get the issue resolved efficiently and in a timely manner."

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in North Carolina refused to confirm or deny any ongoing investigation.

It is a federal crime to knowingly use money from a political action committee for personal use.

soundoff (134 Responses)
  1. JonDie

    Her trials and tribulations notwithstanding, Elizabeth Edwards is totally irrelevant to American politics, but the media keeps her in the limelight.

    May 10, 2009 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  2. Millicent

    It is my feeling that Elizabeth Edwards is doing everything that she can to earn money that she will put into a trust for her children to make sure that they are taken care of without needing anything from their father. It is her goal to see that they have a sound financial future, & I feel that she wants to provide this for them by herself, if she can. It will be her legacy to them, & I feel that she has no other agenda.

    May 10, 2009 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  3. patsy

    I think it would have been better for all concerned to leave things alone. Just the fact that she is appearing everywhere pushing her book sales makes her appear smaller in the public's eye. She chose to stay with him and to support him in his campaign and now she is looking for .... what? I would feel better if she had aired the facts when it would have counted, instead of waiting until now. I always admired Elizabeth and I know she was not in control of what happened to turn John's campaign into something sleezy; I was an Edwards person to the end. But I will not buy her book.

    May 10, 2009 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  4. Marina

    John Edwards needs to find out whether he is in fact the baby's father and, if he is, he needs to step up and fulfill his responsibilities. All three of the adults need to be putting the needs of the various children first. I don't see that being done at present.

    May 10, 2009 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  5. kim

    Both of these reporters must be very unsophisticated to have such a puritanical view of Elizabeth and John Edward's marriage. Do they honestly believe that Mrs. Edwards should have kicked her husband out of the house and given up a lifelong marriage and family over
    a silly affair? Why would anyone end a lifetime of marriage and family over just an indescretion? Hello...this is 2009. If every marriage in politics and business were dissolved over an extramarital affair, there would be no one left married in Washington, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, etc. As to whether Elizabeth should have campaigned for her husband once she knew about the affair,- of course she should have. Again, it's 2009: Bill Clinton, one of our better Presidents, had several affairs that his wife knew about. Newt Gingrich, John Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, and John McCain have had affairs. If we start disqualifying men from running for office on the basis of affairs, we will have allwomen Presidents from now on. How does an affair impinge on a person's ability to be President. It's all poppycock, hogwash. Elizabeth Edwards did and is doing the right thing.

    May 10, 2009 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  6. G

    Massive cover-up it was an affair she didn't sell drugs across the border! I don't really understand or see how this is any of our business and quite frankly I don't care and wish people would just let it go!

    May 10, 2009 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  7. Sarah Douglas

    I think she said a few ridiculous things; i.e. it wouldn't matter or affect her life if it was John's child. Silly and rather strongly in denial. I also think she blames "the other woman" too much. No one can take your husband away from you. No one. Your spouse williingly goes and that is what she can't stomach.

    I do not know why couples stay together when there is such anger and resentment but if the Edwards choose to stay together we should respect that.

    May 10, 2009 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  8. Joanna

    I just can't handle these women – especially those in the political limelight – who "stand by their man". As long as women continue to accept men's infidelity – men will continue to believe that they can cheat and get away with it. Men in politics are especially bad about affairs, and if these powerful wives would give them the boot – the rest of these men would hopefully get the message that it is unacceptable. Period. Hopefully, the rest of the men in our society would take a hint, as well.

    May 10, 2009 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  9. really?

    Jeez, just leave her alone will ya?

    May 10, 2009 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  10. Chrissy

    Funny, I thought (read and heard) that people WANTED to know how E. Edwards was dealing with this. God knows it wasn't any secret who was trying to land an interview with her prior to her even writing her book.
    Now she's done what people having been asking her to do, and she's wrong?
    This isn't like Kathy Lee dragging her husband out to humilate him for his affair.
    Mrs Edwards is simply stating how she feels about and deals with the situation.

    May 10, 2009 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  11. Dan

    "Massive cover-up?" What planet is CNN on? She didn't want it to be public knowledge that she was cheated on – that seems like a very normal reaction. What's 'massive' here?

    May 10, 2009 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  12. StuckinmoderationMari

    I watched the interview with Oprah Winfrey & Elizabeth Edwards. I sensed that Mrs. Edwards was not always truthful, there was a nervousness about her.

    My gut tells me that the Edwards are trying to salvage John Edward's career as a politician. Elizabeth, is the long-suffering-loving-wife, whose last act of love will be to help salvage the career of the man who broke the marriage vows.

    I am not usually a cynic, but I seriously doubt that this is the first time he has cheated on her! Its just that .... this time..... he got caught!

    Sorry, Mrs. Edwards, you are a nice lady, but something about the interview and the book, smells funny.

    May 10, 2009 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  13. DZ

    Hi Liz,
    While we all sympathize with all the heartbreak you've had to endure in your life, it's really time to bring in the dirty laundry and start focusing on moving forward. It's not healthy for either you or John to stay transfixed on the garbage and sadness/disappointment of your lives. Better to show your stronger side and do meaningful activities with your life that bring real meaning to your lives, and meaning for others. Reaching out looking for sympathy just keeps you stuck in the same mud-hole that you've been in since the death of your youngest. It's not productive, and it benefits no one. Better to reach out to others with a personal mission as your motivation, and not for self-interest.
    p.s. I'm not one who's never been touched by your kinds of circumstances, so please don't think that I'm just trying to diminish your hurt and pain without understanding it. I do! But you need to move forward! 😉 God bless!

    May 10, 2009 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  14. Lauren

    You have got to be kidding me. Asking if the public will turn on Elizabeth Edwards??????

    If they do, it will be by a bunch of two faced idiots. Read below and see if any names come to mind? Clinton perhaps? And the country puts them on a pedestal.

    They had what seemed to be this ideal marriage. And it turns out that she was complicit in basically this cover- up. She knew all along that he'd had an affair, that he cheated on her, and decided that they would go along with this massive cover-up, and she ultimately decided that his political career was worth more than being honest.”

    May 10, 2009 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  15. David

    What a great human; I think I would vote for her for President . She has had GOD put her thur so much; I think of her as a healer to this great nation.

    May 10, 2009 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  16. tami

    This poor woman has more than enough going on in her life. What the hell does it matter what the public thinks? Good lord...just leave her alone and let her get along with things. So she wrote a book called about resilience...I applaud her and wish her and her family nothing but the best. The press would be well served to do the same.

    May 10, 2009 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  17. gminsfnc

    I believe Elizabeth Edwards made a decision to support her husband in his Presidential campaign under very trying circumstances. This lady has suffered the loss of her first-born and the loss of her husband's fidelity, while being treated for cancer, and I believe she was grasping to hold on to anything she could to keep what was left of her family in tact. I think she is following in the footsteps of women the world over who try their best to make as good a picture of wholesomeness of their family that is possible.

    Yes, I was hoodwinked to think they were the perfect family and that they would make us proud to have them as first couple and I felt betrayed..but I do admire her for telling us now how she felt. We can identy with that.

    So, to Mrs. Edwards I say, "You really took a giant step to come forward. For those who would judge you harshly for taking the steps you took in a very trying time in your life, I say to them, "did you walk in her shoes?"

    May 10, 2009 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  18. anita

    E. is the "scorned woman" seeking retribution in the most humiliating way possible.
    "Instructing" Oprah not to speak Rielle Hunter's name exemplifies how E's raw emotions remain unsettled with the past.
    Now, if she bolted on J.E., she might actually feel vindicated, even if he brought Hunter into his life. After all, he is the weasel.

    May 10, 2009 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  19. Pierce

    Edwards and his wife are both spoiled, rich people who cannot live out of the public spotlight.

    He is the goat for having the affair. But she is the scorned woman who is getting her revenge and basking in the glow of the woman done wrong who is valient, etc. etc.

    Elizabeth Edwards is a liar and will soon have her 15 minutes of fame over with.

    When she first learned she had cancer, in typical rich woman fashion, she was being treated within days.
    The rest of the women in the country would have had to fill out papers for months before getting treated - and Elizabeth wanted to be seen as valient.
    You are valient only for sticking beside your shallow pretty boy who has always been an errand boy for the unions.

    I am tired of both of you Edwards.
    Go home and not a peep out of you!

    May 10, 2009 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  20. Lisa

    I believe Mrs. Edwards needs the money since the Edwards' reputations are in question with campaign misapproprations and the child with Rielle Hunter.

    Sad to say, but many of these political wives like the power and privilege their husband's career can provide them. In essence, most of these women with advanced degrees go to college looking for a husband, just like they did in the 1950s. Nothing has changed really.

    Like most women, they really do not want to compete in the business world if they don't have to.

    I find it interesting how these liberal female reporters are so hard on Mrs. Edwards since she is in a precarious position with cancer and let's face it she is five years older than John. A woman who is 60 has a more difficult time finding a new husband than the reverse.

    Mrs. Edwards publicly prefers to believe that John Edwards only cheated with Rielle Hunter once. Let her live out her remaining years in a fantasy.

    Probably the marriage was a fantasy to begin with.

    May 10, 2009 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  21. Barbara

    Wish she hadn't written the book and gone on the talkshow circuit. Thought better of her. Can't believe she went along his run for the President knowing what she knew and realizing how such a story-although none of our business-gets disected and twisted and turned inside out-over and over and over again.

    May 10, 2009 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  22. Pierce

    Elizabeth called Edwards' child with Reille and "it"?

    Great going for this mother's day, Elizabeth.

    Calling an innocent child an "it"?

    I guess class is hard to come by in the hollers of North Carolina.

    May 10, 2009 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  23. dave

    I agree that she is not as sympathetic a figure as she thinks she is.
    I'm a Democrat, left of center. When John Edwards was campaigning, I liked the Two Americas message, but as a NC resident and knowing his background, my attitude was "He is the wrong person to be delivering this message"
    Then we find out he is a sleaze phlianderer screwing around when his wife has cancer...clue # 1. Then we find out that she knew he had been screwing around and she still campaigned for him (admirable in a way, but ...)
    Then it hits everyone that "He could have been the Dem Candidate, THEN this could have come out, then the Dem candidate is dead in the water and we get another 8 years of Bush's garbage under another Republican slimebag.
    The Edwardses could have wrecked the Dem Party fr antoher 8 years. They have to be smart people to ahve grad from Law School, but someone wasn't thinking on this one...

    May 10, 2009 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  24. Jane

    Has anyone ever considered that she hid this to protect her children and not her husband (or herself). Here is a woman who constantly fears remission and death...wouldn't you want to maintain a close knit family structure for as long as possible with such a sad future for them looming? (Or even in consideration of all the hardship and fears of abandonment they've already been through). A good mother puts her children first and Elizabeth is a very good mother. It would be of no benefit to her children to open up her family to criticism and destruction or to further taint their own perceptions of their father at this time. Those children may lose their mother before they are grown...why would she take away their father as well?

    John deserves every bit of the media's ire. But leave Elizabeth out of this. She was put in a horrible situation and chose to protect her family...why is she at fault for that?

    May 10, 2009 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  25. D. D.

    The public will not fully tyrn on Mrs. Edwards but will now be leary of her and her why she is doing what she is doing now.
    Does she not want him ever to run for an office or is she shoring up the locks that the Baby's Msmma will never be accepted by the piblic and keep John from marrying her?
    "Love is never having to say I am sorry."

    May 10, 2009 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6