May 10th, 2009
11:23 PM ET
5 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. jaye

    Why would anybody dislike Elizabeth Edwards? Well, other than the Republicans....

    May 10, 2009 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  2. repo

    Her timing might be off but she is telling the truth. This is totally contrary to what some of the news media do...

    May 10, 2009 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  3. willowood

    I don't know whether the public will turn on Elizabeth Edwards, but she certainly has me confused. So she wants to call the "other woman" pathetic. The whole group of people in that circle including herself fit that bill. Trick the public into believing you are solid pro-family all American. Run for President on a platform of understanding the working man and family issues, knowing fulll well that all concerned are living a lie. Peddling a book about all this does not appeal to me in the least. She has cancer as do many people in this world. She has lost a son, as have many people in this world. The rest is all a struggle for power. That's why politicians and their families are held in such low regard...that need for power takes it's toll on all of us. Would have been better if she had forgotten to write the book.

    May 10, 2009 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  4. Uwe

    get a life ! people have affairs. as long as the country itself is not at stake this is an issue between the three parties involved.it's bad enough for at least one of them....

    May 10, 2009 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  5. TJ

    Give me a break. It's bad enough to have your spouse cheat on you but to have it happen in the public eye? Of course she agreed initially to keep it private. She was operating on the partial truth he shared. She isn't putting him down or dragging up dirt; she's talking about her journey and believe me there are many, many women who have experienced this kind of pain who will appreciate her honesty. I admire her strength.

    May 10, 2009 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  6. susie

    Elizabeth was not truthful to the public. I would not buy her book.

    May 10, 2009 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  7. Isabel & Bob

    While running for President, Mr. Edwards had an affair and not only cheated on Mrs. Edwards who was suffering with cancer but cheated on the people who were going to vote for him.
    How truly low could this man get?
    No one will ever turn their back on Mrs. Edwards and I am glad she is finally coming out and talking about her life.
    God Bless her and give her strength.
    Thank you,
    Isabel & Bob

    May 10, 2009 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  8. ky

    It's non of our bloody business, and it's too bad that our media thinks we have to know ALL of their dirt...personally, I don't want to know about their pain unless it's something I can help them with...this is not one of those situations. I think it's a genuine "butt out", family issue of theirs.
    Ugh.

    May 10, 2009 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  9. Steve

    I'm one of those who think airing your dirty laundry to the media is a bit gross.
    I know it is a sympathetic story but it makes one wonder just what the motives are.

    May 10, 2009 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  10. Gilley in PA

    I feel sorry for her... no one knows what goes on behind closed doors... but you see it time and again, women who are mistreated are blind to the general sorry character of the man they are mixed up with.

    May 10, 2009 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  11. jdquest

    Don't be ridiculous. Elizabeth Edward's own feelings were worth more than the campaign. When you are in the public eye every bit of your life is scrutinized and you can't even grieve the loss of your marriage (as you knew it) without everyone in the world judging you. Certainly a part of covering up what what going on was self preservation. As her private life has been put on display, let her have a smidgen of control over that, for once. I applaud a brave women, and I applaud John Edwards for supporting her in this decision.

    May 10, 2009 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  12. Jackie in Dallas

    I have no doubt that Elizabeth will finally reach the end of her goodwill with the public. I like her very much, but quite frankly, am getting a bit tired of the "show". No one is a saint...not even a wronged wife, dying of cancer. My mom taught me that. She told me: "Stop treating me like a little brass idol; my poop still smells the same; I still make the same mistakes; and I didn't grow a halo and wings when I grew cancer cells." [slightly edited since my Mom's vocabulary was a bit more earthy than probably gets posted on CNN!]

    We, none of us, are party to the internal dynamics between Elizabeth and John Edwards - and neither should we be. But we take it upon ourselves to judge John's behavior while giving Elizabeth a pass. The truth of the matter is, it is difficult to be the spouse (or family) of someone dying of cancer. Treatments, side effects, frailty, and medical routines can quickly drive away the intimacy of a marriage and family relatioships. If John sought solace elsewhere, while it violates our sense of morality, it really is something we should understand as human beings. I'm not saying it is right, but it IS understandable. What is the real shame here is that our "gossip column" mentality has made it a media circus, giving the Edwards family no privacy in which to work the situation out. But neither did Elizabeth become a saint because she has cancer. If she was involved in the money handling that is being questioned, it will prove it. Every one seems to be taking sides, when both people are flawed. They are humans, after all.

    May 10, 2009 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  13. andrea

    I support Elizabeth Edwards. Anybody who has been what she has been through has a right to talk about it, and if she can make money doing it, more power to her.

    May 10, 2009 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  14. Ray Fisher

    Somebody must explain what gives the right to the media to "Take on" anyone??? Does the media pay these folks for their pictures, interviews, autographs??? Freedom of the press is one thing but harassment by the press is another, just leave her be, her husband committed political suicide despite her illness...

    May 10, 2009 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  15. Denise

    Why? She is the wronged spouse.

    May 10, 2009 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  16. Laurie Whalen-Martinez

    I totally disagree with this. For any woman who has been in a marriage with a partner and who has gone through the life experiences that both of them have been through (death of a child, infertility, raising children, a partner with political motivations and building a beautiful family home that future generations will be proud of) it would not be easy to just leave and remain quiet.

    I believe she needs to get her word in – she has dedicated her life to this man and her family – she is the one who is dying – someone can take this all away from her. Imagine yourself in her shoes. Read the book – she acknowledges that other people (when she is gone) will love her husband, kiss her children and live her life. Shouldn't she stand up for what she has created? A strong family unit with a beautiful home for of love. People are human and make mistakes – she realizes this. Give her credit for her strength! She is sticking by him – for herself and for her children. We should all look at her as an example of how we should live our life.

    May 10, 2009 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  17. diane

    I don't know why people in the public eye feel the need to inform the public of their personal business and write books about it. Once the affair became public and was acknowledged, that was enough.

    Now we need to hear all this stuff again for what reason? Nothing has essentially changed. She like other political wives, opted to stay with Jon Edwards for whatever reason. I would respect these women more if just one said, that's it, that's enough and just left.

    Don't the Edwards have enough money without her writing a book on the subject? He could have been the Democrat nominee and what a mess that party would have been in if he had been and this came out. How can either of them justify keeping this secret during his campaign run?

    I feel very sorry for her because she is terminally ill and think John was a smuck for even contemplating running for President given her diagnoisis, not to mention the affair. But I am really sick of hearing women who have been cheated on talking ad nauseum about their relationships, writing books, doing interviews. What is the lesson here, stand by your man? Get revenge by writing a book and embarrassing him and the other woman? A better lesson would be to have respect for yourself and not tolerate a cheater- especially one who would do so while you are literally fighting for your life!

    May 10, 2009 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  18. Janz

    Oh, so what does she have to lose? Reporters like this one need to find someone else to criticize. Considering Mrs Edwards's future and her present condition, I think Ms. Ogunnaike is the one whose reputation is in danger because of comments like these. Until she has walked in Elizabeth's shoes, she should find some other person to criticize. Besides, what exactly was Elizabeth supposed to do. Call a press conference and reveal to all the world what pain she was experiencing...pain that was both emotional and physical.
    I think Ms. Ogunnaike should look to those in the campaign, and I suspect other political reporters who kept quiet even though they knew ( and long before Elizabeth) about the affair. They were so anxious to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House that it influence their reporting the affair to the public and forcing John out of the race.
    No, I think if Elizabeth feels some cleansing by her public appearances, let her have this time! Back off of Elizabeth already!

    May 10, 2009 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  19. Proud American

    Oh yeah, turn on a sick women who's husband cheated on her?

    May 10, 2009 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  20. Jude

    It's obvious something is up all of a sudden. I assumed she took a turn for the worst and wanted to clear things up. But she looked pretty healthy. Maybe she just waited for the book to happen, so kept quiet till now.

    May 10, 2009 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  21. Elizabeth Supporter

    Elizabeth Edwards is a woman who has struggled through the loss of her eldest son, two bouts with cancer, and the revelation that her husband was unfaithful. I can forgive her for not publicly inviting more pain and heartbreak into her life by informing the ravenous media of her husband's idiotic indiscretion. At some point, let the pain be private. Elizabeth, I will always admire your strong will and moral character! Keep Fighting!

    May 10, 2009 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  22. jjheinis

    She's dealing with a philandering husband and dying. Being human, ask ourselves what would we do in a similar situation? Then and only then can we judge.

    May 10, 2009 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  23. NickS

    Before they rehash or attack her start in on the Republicans. Newt, Rush the religious leaders whom are supposed to be the moral high ground.

    May 10, 2009 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  24. Andrea

    I agree with Elizabeth Edwards. She has a limited time to live with no control over what her husband chooses to do after she's gone. Why should she concern herself with a child that may or may not be his that was possibly conceived in an affair? Since the other woman chose to have the child as a single mother and not place it for adoption or have an abortion, she obviously fees quite capable of raising this child on her own.
    Although I never thought of Elizabeth as a martyr, I do wish her only the best in her years left on earth.

    May 10, 2009 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  25. Randy, San Francisco

    Only mean spirited reporters and Republicans will turn on Elizabeth Edwards.

    May 10, 2009 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
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