May 11th, 2009
02:20 PM ET
9 years ago

Elizabeth Edwards responds to critics

Elizabeth Edwards has taken heat for not urging her husband to drop his presidential bid.

Elizabeth Edwards has taken heat for not urging her husband to drop his presidential bid.

(CNN) - Elizabeth Edwards is responding to a wave of criticism in recent days over the fact she did not forcefully urge her husband to exit the presidential race upon learning of his affair with a campaign staffer, saying Monday she was not aware of the extent of the indiscretion.

"When I found out and for a large part of writing the book, I only knew about a single night," she said in an appearance on NBC's Today Show. "A single moment of weakness. Though it was difficult to accept, most of us who seek to lead and most everybody who seeks to be led have moments of weakness in their lives and I did not think that was a fatal flaw and I was wrong."

The comments come days after Mrs. Edwards revealed in a new book out last week she first learned her husband, former presidential candidate John Edwards, had an affair with a former campaign staffer in 2006. The former presidential candidate told his wife about the affair only days after he formally launched his presidential bid in late December of 2006.

Despite his infedelity, the Edwardses decided to press on with the presidential campaign and Mrs. Edwards often served as a vigorous advocate for her husband's character in the months that followed - a fact many in the media have since criticized.

"She ended up going along, helping sell the voters on her husband's character as a truth teller and charm as a loving husband and father," New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd recently wrote. "She had put so many quarters in the shiny slot machine of their mutual ambition."

But in the interview Monday, Mrs. Edwards suggested she would likely not have supported her husband's second attempt at the White House had she known more details of the affair that have since come to light.

"I probably would have been more adamant about him not running than I was," she said. "The whole time he was running I only knew about this one thing."

Programming Note: Watch Elizabeth Edwards' exclusive interview on CNN's Larry King Live at 9 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday night.

Filed under: Elizabeth Edwards
soundoff (100 Responses)
  1. Dave

    Qiute simply; power corrupts. And when they have a taste and have held a seat in power they do not want to give up. So she wanted the life of power that John also wants. look at Specter and what lengths he will go to to hold onto power at 79.

    May 11, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  2. Dial

    I sure hope all this "tell all" from Elizabeth Edwards is to raise enough money to support herself in the manner to which she has become accustomed when she dumps him. Honestly, though, I don't really respect her as much any more and I'm sure not going to buy her book.

    May 11, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  3. Vic

    With the real serious issues facing our country, how can anyone devote any time to this, a truly private matter. Besides, John Edwards sure beats anything the GOP put up..even on his worst day. He truly cared about the working and poor. He never said "Tax cuts for the rich"!!

    May 11, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  4. Nancy in LA

    It was only a matter of time before John Edwards' marital indiscretions became Elizabeth Edwards' fault - SHE should have insisted he leave the race and because she didn't this is all HER fault? How predictable. How sad that this comes from a female journalist.

    We are all so accustomed to the ridiculous and apparently pervasive, character failings of male public figures that we don't place blame where it belongs - on THEM, and instead heap the blame on their spouses when they don't act in accord with some fantasy moral code.

    May 11, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  5. Kari A., New York, NY

    Can they BOTH just go away now?

    May 11, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  6. Dana

    Mrs. Edwards story seems to be used as her book promotion. People did not put interest in the affair these days untill it was brought up my this media. but we cannot say it is "bad" to use her story. because it is "Edwards" story. but I hope they dont use the story too much so the incident have more attention than the actual book.
    Also she should not be criticized of not forcfully urging Mr. Edwards to exit the presidental race. If she found about it in the beginning of the race, she might have stopped it. but it was in the middle/ towards end of the election. I be if she urged him to stop the election there also would be lots of criticize of her being not supportive of her husband

    May 11, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  7. Vikkistea

    One reason to stay with her husband is for the children who are already losing their mother. They need to have the best memories possible of those two people together. That said, Elizabeth is trying to find some higher purpose for herself in all this pain. She sees herself as giving a message to others when faced with terrible things in their lives. She's trying to show how a person faces difficult choices with grace. I think her husband though is a snake and is still going to see the other woman at some point. Right now, Elizabeth needs his support and she has that.

    May 11, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  8. Sean

    Does she want this to continue being in the front pages of papers around the country? I don't understand why she's out there reminding everyone about what I would assume is a very personal issue.

    May 11, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  9. Marsha B

    The only message I get from her new book and the current controversy is that she's going to continue to punish her husband publicly for his bad behavior. Too bad she can't limit herself to private anger. The new book makes both of them look foolish.

    May 11, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  10. dominican mama 4 Obama

    paula Wesley May 11th, 2009 12:07 pm ET

    All cheaters-Roosevelt-Kennedy, Johnson, Clinton–All cheated on their wives.


    And they were all truly great Presidents!! Any correlation? Just asking: IS "happy" President a "better" President. At the very least it kept them from lining their pockets with profits from an unjst war, and tortuting people to illicit an "appropriate response". Oh, but wait, we don't point fingers at this type of behaviour. We just castigate and prosecute someone who's cheated on their wife while in office, not those who cheat the country and it's people. Our level of hypocrisy and our "moral values" are really startling!

    May 11, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  11. FL

    Candy in West VA,

    Keep your bedroom, body and marriage out of the public arena and the Republicans will happily leave you alone. Don't ask for tax dollars (that many Dems apparently don't pay) to support you, or public policy to support you, and the Republicans will happily support your right to privacy. You seem to have a misunderstanding about what the political parties stand for and why. Republicans are all for individual rights and personal responsibility. The Democrats make private matters public issues when they seek gov't policy and funding to support their personal ideals. You are entitled to your opinion, and I am entitled to mine, just don't ask me to pay for your stuff with my tax dollars.

    May 11, 2009 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  12. Kathy

    Paula: All cheaters-Roosevelt-Kennedy, Johnson, Clinton–All cheated on their wives.

    I think you also missed Eisenhower, Bush and Bush. Funny you only mentioned democrats. Partners sometimes cheat and it's probably pretty evenly divided between the parties. At least with democrats you don't usually have the gay bashing gay guys.

    May 11, 2009 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  13. lawyermommy

    Oh please leave her alone. She cannot control her husbands acts. He cheated like an old wet dog and she took him back. The way I see it, she has more problems than holding him back from making even bigger mistakes.

    Go go Elizabeth!!


    May 11, 2009 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  14. Takesia

    Why is she even discussing this now? Either forgive or move on. Who
    really cares? Why is she talking about this now? So that people will
    purchase her book? When she got sick she told him to continue with his campaigning. So what is the problem? Stop looking for pity! Yes, I'm married. If you forgive him then keep the media out of your life. More than half of you ordinary people have probably had a spouse cheat on you. Did you leave or stay? More than likely you stayed. So stop getting so bent out of shape.

    Paul, I agree with you. She looks just like his mother, not his wife. I think that he's a very youthful and attractive looking man. You have to do what it takes to keep him! Spouses like for you to maintain a level of look good, and still be a parent as well! You know they have house keepers, and nannies. So it's no excuses! True she has been sick, but make yourself look good so that you will feel good.

    May 11, 2009 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  15. mkat

    Elizabeth, Do you make John serve you cheese in bed to go along with all the WHINE? Go away. Just go away already.

    May 11, 2009 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  16. Val in NYC

    I watched the Oprah interview and was willing to give Elizabeth Edwards a pass.

    But the more I realized that he could have become the Democratic nominee, the more angry I became that we could have gotten stuck with McCain/ obviously nightmarish situation!!

    I definitely agree with the majority of commenters that Mrs. Edwards should have stopped her husband's campaign as soon as she learned of his deception.

    May 11, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  17. A. Goodwin

    Republican Presidential Candidates Who Have Cheated:
    – Newt Gingrich
    – John McSame
    – Rudi Guilliani

    Replican Office Holders Who Have Cheated:
    – Larry Craig – with a man in a airport bathroom
    – David Vitter – who was elected on his "proud family values"

    Interestingly, as the norm with Republican's, when it came to Larry Craig and David Vitter – there is a big difference why Craig was basically ousted from the Senate: homophobic hypocricy!!

    I feel badly for Mrs. Edwards, and her husband seems like a scum for doing that to her. Perhaps she needs to vent to get over this...or to make sense of it all. Eventually she will overcome this drama, and hopefully for her sake either salvaged her marriage or moved on.

    May 11, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  18. Butch Dillon

    It's hard to conclude anything except that Elizabeth Edwards is lying to promote her book and a rehabilitation of her husband's reputation in the eyes of the public. She has lost her right to sympathy.

    May 11, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  19. George

    Elizabeth did not have an affair, she did not cheat on her husband. The reverse is true. I don't understand why people are so insensitive and beating on her, she is hurting and has been humiliated in public let alone in her family. This woman has been betrayed by the only person who should be in her corner, considering what she is going through, please have some compassion and just a little understanding of the pain and shame she has to face each day. Please give Elizabeth some room to heal. All she need now is our support and encouragement. She is a great person who is hurting, remember that. Keep your head up my dear and remember, for every critic, there are many who understand what you are going through and pray for you and your family.

    May 11, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  20. Louise Cincinnati

    No one can begin to imagine what she must be going through. It is the most devastating thing to live through, but she is strong. It takes a stronger person to stay and work on a marriage then to take the easy way out and walk away. She is a smart woman and would not allow herself to be fooled again. He should have never ran for office considering the fact we have too many people that are so immoral running our country.

    May 11, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  21. gtaylor

    It is NOT Elizabeth's fault! It is JOHN's fault and his MISTRESS. This woman can NEVER say she did not know John was married and everything I have read SHE went after him. Yes, he is just as responsible, and I think Elizabeth can say what the hell she want. This woman knew his wife was sick and obviously he was not thinking with his head but another body part!

    Anyway, what does this have to do with being capable of running the country? If you have sex you can't function in your job?


    May 11, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  22. Lisa in Shelton

    Elizabeth Edwards was betrayed by her spouse and obviously there weren't millions who voted for him – so, moaning now about being betrayed will get noone anywhere. If you've been offended by personal failures and believe it affects anyone's ability to "govern," show your ire at the polls if/when the bums run again. Being angry at wives of cheaters because the men cheated, and being mad at them when they may have been misled and being mad when they decide to forgive – all is their business and we need to mind our own – let him who is without sin cast the first stone. Where was the ire when W & Dick betrayed the whole country in other ways? Is anyone mad at Laura or Lynn because of the sins of their spouses?

    May 11, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  23. Amy

    It seems like Elizabeth is set to destroy any remaining career her husband might have... And who could blame her? What was most puzzling was the two hour interview she gave Oprah in her multi-million dollar sprawling mansion. In the time of an economic crisis when some of the major headline stories are about families trapped in unemployment, it was a weird choice to highlight the Edwards' decadence in home a that looks more like an institution than anything else. This was the candidate that was running on a poverty platform??? Here's an idea, you want to stop poverty? Start with yourself.

    May 11, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  24. Common Sense

    It's not only Democrats that have affairs, PEOPLE! John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich...shall I go on? I don't care what goes on in the personal lives of Politicians. Neither should you!

    May 11, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  25. John

    John Edwards could not be elected dog catcher in North Carolina. We have too much respect for dogs.

    May 11, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
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