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. Dimslie

    The affair is no one's business but their own. However, the two of them chose to answer the questions and to answer them with lies as they continued with their campaign. All together it has the stench of an ambulance-chasing phone book cover lawyer's deceit.

    May 10, 2009 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  2. elana

    First of all, I believe it was a BIG mistake for Elizabeth Edwards to ever come forward to make any interview with the media, or with Oprah. With the 21st Century media blitz, and the constant "scoop watch" being put on any prospective person who has some sort of a "family challenge", whether it be an illness or a relationship, is only going to cause more "heartache" for the resepctive individuals who consent to being "put through the mill" by the Media and others. Secondly, it seems to be an every day "bash" by the news media, to repeat, over, and over again, the latest "gossip" as though they were the National Enquirer. In my opinion, the Media has completely "disrespected" the Edwards family, as well as the Gosselin family, the Anthony family, the Drew Peterson family, and others by going after them to make these interviews. Once they consent to the interview, the 'fun" begins because EACH and EVERY word spoken by the person being interviewed is completely analyzed, (by umpteen persons), chewed up, and spit out, as if it were a "dog" being chastised for misbehavior! Honestly, CNN and ALL media outlets, can ANY ONE PERSON who is employed with you realize these people are human beings just like you are. Would you wish to have your name and your family members smeared by the media? Think about it! American journalism and media outlets have completely lost the ability to "live and let live", and to just plain STAY OUT OF OTHER PEOPLES'S LIVES!! There certainly is other news that could be reported on a day to day basis. Let the National Enquirer handle the "garbage gossip", and leave these poor victims of your "media spin" ALONE!!

    May 10, 2009 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  3. kate Parker

    I don't think there's anything 'martyr-like' about what she's doing, and I don't think there's a backlash to follow. It's always about the women behind the men, and if the men can stand up to the comparison, then they are "good people;" if not, oh well. Michelle Obama is superb, as is her husband. Elizabeth Edwards would have made an excellent First Lady, but her husband is not up to snuff. McCain was hampered, not necessarily by his wife, but by his unresolved relationships with his ex-wife, and therefore, with his current wife as well. Clinton? Need I say more? If you can't resolve the issue of where to put it, then you can't be in politics. It's that simple. And if you're a wife of someone who can't figure that out, then you're guilty by association, but (thankfully) in this massive media culture, you're also judged by your own sensibility. And this, Ms. Edwards has shown in great stead.

    May 11, 2009 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  4. Noelle

    What rot! So, she's supposed to grin and bear it and shut up? It didn't happen to the naysayers, it happened to her. Give her a break and move on!

    May 11, 2009 12:22 am at 12:22 am |
  5. NJD

    It has been months since the public knew of the affair. She is not exploiting it. She waited, and she is talking ONLY because everyone wants her to. She isn't making the $$,, the networks are. Do not fault a woman for trying to make her marriage work after infidelity. She knows Edwards better than any of us. Let him answer to her.He is clearly weaker than her!

    May 11, 2009 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  6. steve

    I care about this, almost as much as I do about the Palin stories.... NADA!!!!

    May 11, 2009 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  7. Tara , Canada

    Elizabeth Edwards is a very brave and couragious woman.
    She is termially ill and has endured enough pain and suffering , so leave her alone .
    You want to go after her husband , go ahead .

    May 11, 2009 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  8. Ann

    Good luck with your book, Elizabeth. I will be buying it as soon as I can. You go girl.
    God Bless.
    Ann.

    May 11, 2009 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  9. Annie M

    I think she has every right to the "last word". How many devsting blows should she have to suffer silently. You know after learning that you rcancer has returned in a form that will surely take your life- and you find out that your husband has had an affair- you would probably beleive him when he says it happened once- honestly if you lover your spouse, and he has never done anything like that before, I don"t find it odd that you would beleive, and try to forgive.
    It's easy to say that you would kick them out- but I think you have to be there to really understand that. No less then that they have small children, I think she was trying to take them into consideration.
    I find her story compelling, and I have so much compassion for what she has had to deal with. Maybe those who don't have compassion for her are the "other women" types. You couldn't have an ounce of compassion, or be trustworthy about anything but yourself if you can take or be with another woman's husband. I don't feel one bit sorry for the woman he had the affair with, as she knew who he was and that he was married. And I am not giving him a pass- but he has lost it all as far as I am concerned and rightly so.
    I am glad she is able to set the record straight. And none of us would know what we might do in her situation. I have great admiration for her and how she has handled all the sadness she has had thrown at her. I wish her the very best.

    May 11, 2009 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  10. IMHO

    I can only imagine the kind of strain Elizabeth Edwards has been under all these years. I would have preferred she come clean when she found out about her husband's affair, but maybe she just didn't have the emotional strength to do it at the time. Plus, who knows except the Edwards what the result of his affair has been on their marriage – maybe it has brought them closer together and more appreciative of each other. Ultimately, it is their business and theirs alone.

    May 11, 2009 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  11. lou

    I saw the Oprah interview and this woman is so deep in denial of her reality, this trailer trash drama should be on Jerry Springer. Thank God they never made it into the White House. John is nothing more than a junior Bill Clinton with another wife who puts what they perceive as personal achievement ahead of either good judgement or personal pride. These people live in big houses and have lots of money but are morally bankrupt and all of them think they should lead America. While I'm no fan of NObama, at least his wife knows her man's heart and body is with her.

    Its time for Elizabeth and John to keep their private lives between them and their poor children who have to watch all this garbage play out on the world stage for whatever their reasoning is. Selling books? How pathetic.

    May 11, 2009 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  12. Kris

    It is kind of hard to feel sorry for someone who takes part in a lie that deceives the very people they want to govern. They are both opportunists and I hope she gets the cold shoulder for her behavior.

    May 11, 2009 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  13. Vincent Petrosino

    The public will turn on Elizabeth Edwards because they are fickle and frankly, confused about her reasons for doing this media blitz. She believes she is fighting against time which she has precious little of if her cancer is terminal. John Edwards says very little and is still there. All Rielle has to do is wait for the inevitable. And in the end, Elizabeth Edwards goes out like a vindictive, self-centered and scorned woman. She is to be pitied for faltering at the finish line and allowing her need for vengeance to tilt her halo.

    May 11, 2009 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  14. Lawrence

    She's as phony as a three dollar bill – trying to sell a book and get some payback in the process is all she's about.

    The temerity of acting like the aggrieved wife when she knew about the affair all along is pathetic – and so typical. She deserves her pretty boy hubby and all his pitiful lies and betrayals. In the end, she's no better than him and in no position to judge him now for his transgressions.

    May 11, 2009 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  15. Mark

    This story is real news only because it is yet another sorry example of the National Inquirerization of the national news media. I guess both John and Elizabeth Edwards asked for it by Oprah-airing their martial problems to the country.

    It would have been far better for the Edwards to have followed the examples of FDR, Kennedy, Johnson and other Presidential candidates with respect to their extramarital affairs - no comment. Only if the candidate's sexual partner would be relevant regardless of his marital status, e.g., mistress is foreign agent, or tied to Mob, would it be relevant.

    I think the whole thing is being driven by the unfortunate recent tendency to put the politician's spouse in a constant spotlight. Its a throwback to monarchies, where everyone in the royal familiy had an official position. I think the trend is causec by those women who care more about a candidate's private life, than his public life and policies.

    May 11, 2009 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  16. barking republican ankle biters

    The question should be "will the media turn on her"?

    May 11, 2009 12:57 am at 12:57 am |
  17. gypsyz

    but I bet people will buy that book even if and perhaps especially due to a lack of respect and sense of pity. people love the drama or she wouldn't even have written a book. we feed this monster with our recognition, obsession and desire to see the mighty fall. the problem does not just lie in 'them'. food for thought.

    May 11, 2009 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  18. Anonymous

    This is similar to the Clnton fiasco in that the hypocrisy is rampant. How many of the presidential candidates, actual presidents, congressional candidates and actual congressmen and women cheat on their spouses daily? And, they all know it, not to mention the media, as well. Sure, Edwards sort of used his perfect marriage and ailing wife (whom he does love) as part of the message in his campaign...fair enough. But, to go on like this and now attack Mrs. Edwards for voicing her truth is a little too much. Why not focus on the issue of why do so many men in politics cheat?

    May 11, 2009 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  19. Changed My Mind

    I used to be a huge supporter of Mr. & Mrs. Edwards, now I have changed my mind entirely. Except for the fact that they seem to be two of the few politicians that really care about the disadvantaged, I can't believe the way Mrs. Edwards trashed Ms. Hunter. Does she understand that this child is most likely the stepsister of her own children???????? Also, she painted the Mother, Ms. Hunter, as a lazy person, who has time to hang out in front of a hotel? Ms. Hunter had a career as a videographer. Unbelievable denial on her part that her husband has little if any guilt in this situation. Does she really believe this inane story of how SHE picked him up & he was a victim? Elizabeth I thought you were a feminist. Give me a break.

    May 11, 2009 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  20. Jeanne Beans

    Excuse me? No chance the public will turn against her. She's carrying enough of a load. Most of us have empathy for the position she was in and is in now.

    I wouldn't put it past the media to start in on her though. Knock it off, ok? Go pick on Sarah Palin or someone else more deserving of your attention!

    May 11, 2009 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  21. DJ in the Silicon Forest

    I guess I feel that Elizabeth Edwards has a right to write a book about this sorry and sordid mess. For her, I believe it is cathartic. It isn't enough sometimes to talk to a counselor etc, but try and look at it from her perspective...to REALLY look at what she is facing. She will die from cancer (who knows how long she has) and she must go to bed every night wondering how long it will be after she's gone, that he will most likely take up with the homewrecker. How very, very sad...and to wonder if that child is your husband's. That would be the ultimate blow that would probably shorten her life, as stress takes a terrible toll on the body, even for healthy people! Would you honestly want to know that your husband had a child with someone else while you were battling cancer? Yet, to leave him and end up brokenhearted to die without the man she thought would never betray her in this way must be indescribable pain. She HAD to write this book, because it will be the only written record of her side of the story, so I don't blame her. As far as going along with his continuing his ego-driven presidential campaign, she had more power than she realized at the time. Obviously she was still in shock when she agreed to go along with it. She should have just said NO, or "I will tell the public the real reason", and just call his bluff. It's always easy to sit back and tell people what they should do or whatever, but until you walk a mile in their shoes, you have no idea. However, my one piece of unsolicited advice would be to quietly (and I mean quietly) go to an attorney and draw up a new will, leaving her half of their estate to her children and making it ironclad so that NO ONE can get their grubby hands on it! North Carolina isn't a community property state, but she can still do it. Then, when she dies, she has the last say and can rest in peace, knowing that at least HER kids will get her share of the estate, since she doesn't appear to be willing to divorce the smarmy snake and take him for half of everything. Tough for the whole family and I hope she finds peace before she passes.

    May 11, 2009 01:13 am at 1:13 am |
  22. Sidney Jacobs

    That's right folks, blame the victim. It's the American way.

    May 11, 2009 01:17 am at 1:17 am |
  23. leave Elizabeth alone

    I think the public will turn. I think that is because of gender bias. People want women to turn a blind eye to their husband's indiscretions or leave him in a melodramatic attitude-filled fashion. The woman is terminal. Give her a break. I think what she is doing, really describing how most women feel when they experience this is honorable. Her husband is the one who really disappointed so many Americans. He surely disappointed me. She has a right to tell her story. If Miley Cyrus can have a book about her life, why can't Elizabeth? I am really so tired of this kind of stuff.

    May 11, 2009 01:23 am at 1:23 am |
  24. publicv

    Mrs. Edwards is good. People dream. People hope. She has spent over thirty years as she sAys building a life. If people stay out of her life it can be good again. No one has the right to judge. She is not a victim. Let her and John work it out.

    May 11, 2009 01:24 am at 1:24 am |
  25. Elizabeth (not Edwards)

    Why shouldn't Elizabeth Edwards write a book? Let us not forget the fact that she is an accomplished woman. It appears, like me, she gave up her career, to support her husband. My ex-husband cheated on me and swore, "it was the first time". Right. He married his lover, and is now divorcing her because he got his mistress pregnant.

    I have no qualms about Elizabeth Edwards voicing her thoughts and opinions in print. Like every other American, she is entitled to do so. I think because her husband is, or was, a politician we have lost sight of the fact Mrs. Edwards has endured some very difficult struggles.

    If writing her book can make one woman survive the death of a child, endure a battle with breast cancer or just help her through a difficult time, what is the problem?

    She is not an "accomplice". She was just doing what most women would do. She is trying to save her family.

    May 11, 2009 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
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