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. Dkelsmith

    Democrat vs. Republican political crap aside. I think people are wrong to criticize her. How can they say she is wrong for supporting her husband? How she deals with her husband and their marriage is their business. I understand that is the death penalty when it comes to running for President, but, why heap abuse on a woman who is fighting a losing battle with cancer. I would think that we could muster a little more compassion and empathy for her.

    May 11, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  2. dave

    No one is criticizing her for trying to make her marriage work. That's a comment not worthy of anything, it simply isn't true. What is being criticized is the fact that IF he had been nominated for Dem presidential candidate and THEN this came out (and BOTH of them knew it could have come out as an explosive issue) we could have had another 8 years of hairbrained Republican representation in the White House...someone wasn't thiking or didn;t care that they could have cost the Democrats the election because of their egos and their shortsightedness

    May 11, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  3. Had It

    Soooo many perfect people on this blog. It never ceases to amaze me.

    Leave her alone – she's dying – she loves her children, and yes, she still loves the man John USED to be.

    E-Gossip is a horrible thing that is perpetrated by the news media and all the perfect people love it.

    May 11, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  4. Kathy

    Wow, some of you are really vicious! She should fix herself up? She's out for power and glory? She deserves criticism because she wrote a book? Has this country stooped so long as to kick a woman who has cancer, who has had to learn through the media that her husband was cheating on her, who put up with intense scrutiny of her very private life until she decided to air it all herself? You all should have such trials and the grace to deal with it.

    As for politicos who cheated on their wives, only three presidents in the 20th century did not cheat on their wives while in office: Bush II, Reagan, and Truman. However, all of them did cheat on their wives at some other point in their political careers. Name one politician who claims he/she had no affairs ever and I'll show you a liar. Same goes for just about anyone in any kind of position of power, from leader of a church to bank CEOs.

    Not saying it's right, mind you, just saying it's the reality.

    May 11, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  5. FL


    You seem to be missing the point that Elizabeth Edwards has written a book and is promoting it. She is the one who is making this a public issue to be covered by the media. The story of her husband's affair had all but died until she came out with this book. If she didn't want it to be rehashed in the media, she shouldn't have written the book. If she wants to make money on her story, she will have to deal with the criticism that comes with that.

    May 11, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  6. Kris, in New England

    Brad in OH said: It is very sad that the hate-filled Limbaugh/Hannity crowd chooses to keep this story alive as Mrs. Edwards slowly succumbs to terminal cancer. The presidential campaign is history, as is Edwards' political career. Done. No longer news. Grow up righties, and show a little dignity for a change.

    Um, Brad? ... Elizabeth Edwards wrote the book she is now hawking all over TV and the news. She's the one giving interviews and talking to the media. Consider that you are reading about this on – where Limbaugh and Hannity don't hang out.

    As long as she continues to grant interviews about this, the media will continue to cover it. That's what the media does.

    May 11, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |

    I love smut as much as the rest of the general public (even those who won't admit it), but I think she should have kept her mouth shut. Her husband is a dog, not the victim of a seducing vixin. He knew he lived his life in the public eye and could just have said "NO" when approached.

    They surely don't need the money, and this is no legacy I would want to leave my children, who must be mortified (or the young ones will be) by this whole situation.

    Powerful men are always a big draw for star struck women, and men. As much as I feel Clinton did that was good for the middle class, his sexual antics did terrible damage to the Democratic party for years. Look what we ended up with in Bush. Our country suffered terribly under his 84 IQ watch. The repubs are just waiting to pounce on anything negative the Dems do (even they are much worse, just campaign more effectively).

    At least the public woke up to this with this last election. Obama has a terrible mess to clean up. So, Democrats, keep your pants zipped!

    John Edwards, hopefully, will fade into the woodwork and not disgrace the Democratic party, ever. Better yet, switch parties!
    And, Elizabeth, live out your final days with dignity, and keep your mouth shut. He isn't worth any more pain.

    May 11, 2009 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  8. Julie

    I'm not sure what people are fussing about. If every politician dropped out because of infidelity, we'd have no government. And just because of Edward's infidelity, it doesn't mean that he couldn't be a great president. One does not cancel out the other. Politician infidelities are such a given; it's just the way of the life. Who are we to say how a political wife should act when her husband cheats on her? They know the life & they signed up for it. People need to quit criticizing her because (1) it's in the past, (2) it's none of our business, & (3) she's dying... SHUT UP!!!

    May 11, 2009 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  9. Marina

    The issue is not whether she knew that he had a one night's extra marital sex or a long term affair or sex with dozens of women. The issue is that she knew that he had done something that would have tanked his candidacy in the current public climate if he had won the nomination, and she still used her best efforts to help him cover it up. With her assistance, he defrauded the thousands of people who gave their time, money and faith to his campaign. If he had won the candidacy, we would have ended up with the McCain/Palin administration because of their dishonesty.

    May 11, 2009 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  10. Candy West Virginia

    This is her and her own husbands personal business, no one has the right to criticize them over their personal bus just like we wouldn't like to be criticized over our lives. RETHUGLICANS stay out of our bedroom, bodies and marraiges please.

    May 11, 2009 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  11. BJs

    "No Brad, you are truly sad that you will play politics WITH EVERY THING. Obviously you know this will hurt Democrats…in the long list of corruption and deceipt they are experiencing and YOU wish to try to blame Limbaugh or right wingers." –

    Wow Democrat no more... you talk as though the GOP doesn't have the same problem. Honey, get your head out of your butt. This isn't a "Democrat" problem nor is it just a "Republican" problem.

    May 11, 2009 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  12. Terry

    I see from the women posting here that the sacrament of marriage is not as important as social status. According to most of you, Ms. Edwards should have outed her straying husband rather than stood by her man. I can understand that. After all, the marriage vows say "What God has joined together, let no MAN put asunder." Doesn't apply to women, right? The vow for women should be, "What God has joined together, let no man put asunder, but a woman can change the locks and empty the accounts if she thinks she has a good reason to do so."

    How about all you unpatriotic wives who know that your husband, a coporate employee, is being unfaithful. Don't you have a duty to the stockholders to let them know? Same goes for women married to any elected official, school employee, college professor, physician, or pharmacist. Aren't we entitled to know what kind of man we are dealing with?

    Divorced individuals need not reply to this post, because you don't know anything about marriage anyway, or you would have picked the right person in the first place.

    May 11, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  13. suzanne charlton

    Elizabeth Edwards is living in denial or dreamland!!! Saying "it only happened once" is like saying I didn't inhale! Get a grip girl, your husband is a liar and a cheat and has ruined your marriage and his career and credibility. You are defending a dead horse.

    May 11, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  14. Jackie in Dallas


    You are right...McCain's affair with Cindy did not start until he came back from being a POW to a crippled and disfigured wife. THEN he started the affair with Cindy. It is just so much more honorable to dump a wife that loyally stood by you during your years as a POW, then was crippled and disfigured in an accident after she is out of danger. She actually still WAS in the hospital when he dropped the divorce idea on her. Of course, this shows much stronger family values!

    May 11, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  15. c7

    I will never understand the need to write about something so private if the motive is not for another reason. I understand closure, I understand the need to help others, but this expose' only benefits the publisher and her bank account. Not to mention she knew of once.. isn't that enough to raise a red flag about him being the leader of our great country??? Adultery is inexcusable...a cheat is a cheat what else has been overlooked...only once???

    May 11, 2009 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  16. Laverne

    It is unfortunate she is cancer stricken and i would not wish that on anyone. However, Elizabeth Edwards is doing what the "typical" cheated on wife does. She is now defending his actions in a way and basically blaming Rielle for the affair, even though it was John who made a committement to her. She says she stayed because of the children and her illness, but she definitely has her own reasons beyond that. I don't think she is being totally honest to herself and she is certainly down playing the possibility that he has a child outside of their marriage. I don't think Elizabeth is doing women justice at all by publishing her book. I know it is her story, but it is the same story that has happened to thousand upon thousands of women. The strength of such a book would have more effect if she, despite the fact she has these life struggles still stood up and said NO to a cheating husband and decided to kick his butt to the curb. Now that would have been admirable, but not just talking about it and not doing a damn thing about it! Sorry E, you did exactly what most women do after being cheated on.

    May 11, 2009 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  17. liberalismisasickness

    Having a mistress is a Dems rite of passage going all the way back to Kennedy. What's the problem?

    May 11, 2009 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  18. Marsha

    With an ego as big as John Edwards' I am not surprised that he continued with his presidential campaign. It was not Elizabeth's place to make him stop – a driven man is hard to stop. His ego would not let him stop the campaign or the affair. He lost on all counts. I am so sorry for Elizabeth, she does not deserve any of this crap.

    May 11, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  19. Teresa M.

    Mrs. Edwards displays Southern-Belle-passive-aggressive behavior at it's most blatant. I'm not buying the BS. The press is not intruding into their lives at this point. She's splaying her husband's dirty laundry all over for everyone to ooh and ahh over. The woman is massively angry inside, you can bet on it. With good reason, I might add. What good comes of this book? Why, she finishes John Edward's reputation off, for one thing. Not that he had one left to begin with, mind you. The best thing you could do for this couple is IGNORE THEM. Let them live what's left of their lives in infamy.

    May 11, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  20. cryptomeria

    Coming soon to OPRAH!!!!!!!!!!
    aah...the Edwards perfect pair of political twits. John with his skanky tryst, expensive do', persistant mendacities, and self-righteous campaign air. Elizabeth along for the ride with her Stepford Wife cluenessness. Now 'I've been wronged Liz's' cashing in, gaining notoriety and healing her marriage with a tell-all [ghostwritten] book.
    (Paying attention Hillary?)
    The market's in the tank, unemployment is rising, Fed's printing trillions of dollars, new 'entitlement' every day. Life in America doesn't
    get better than this.

    May 11, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  21. kcl

    Just another person exploiting exploitation for a.............BOOK!! She should have kept her dignity intact, now she's like everyone else, greedy. It's sad from every aspect.

    May 11, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  22. fsuwalterb

    Typical.......she's staying for the same reason all Democrat women stay with their adulterous husbands – power & money.

    Elizabeth, like Hillary, wasn't going to give up her 'easy street' life – the wife of a public servant. (Isn't that a joke.........we, the public, have become the servants to perverted politicians.)

    Where is NOW? The bastion of 'womanhood' can never be found when a liberal democrat commits a 'crime' against their female spouses(which occurs often); but, should a conservative or Republican just happens to make an 'off-the-cuff' remark – all hell brakes loose from NOW.

    Liberals – what a joke they are. They have a double standard for everything. For instance: when Ted Kennedy killed a young woman – they put out this spin: "Young couple has mishap on way to midnight Mass"

    May 11, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  23. Mandy

    Elizabeth should not be criticized for not forcing him to not run. His affair shows he clearly does not have much respect for her and obviously would not listen to her.

    May 11, 2009 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  24. Carol

    BULL. During the campaign, she was lying and slinging mud at Hillary and Obama as fast as she could. She knew everything that was going on and she didn't care. She was a power hungry as her husband was.

    Now she's trying to play the sweet, innocent, housewife who was wronged by a city-slicker, wild woman who took advantage of her poor husband's innocence.

    Gag me, Liz. You're trying to salvage what's left of your image. Get off the stage – you and Edwards are two of a kind, and you're both toast.
    Think of your kids and don't drag them through this – AGAIN.

    BTW – where did all of those campaign contributions go?

    May 11, 2009 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  25. Jon in CA

    How obscene!

    This enabler – who cries for sympathy – writes a tell-all book hoping to make millions off the sorted affair???

    I wish BOTH of them (Edwards') would go away!

    May 11, 2009 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
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