Edwards: I Cheated
Americans Won’t Be Surprised by Presidential Candidate’s Extramarital Affair, Experts Say
After months of denying he had an affair while his wife was battling inoperable cancer, former presidential candidate John Edwards admitted to ABC News today that he did, in fact, have an extramarital affair and lied about it while campaigning for the country’s top job.
In an interview scheduled to be broadcast tonight on “Nightline,” ABC News reports that the former North Carolina senator admitted he had an affair with 44-year old Rielle Hunter, but that he did not love her. He also denied he was the father of Hunter’s baby girl, Frances Quinn, although he has not taken a paternity test.The interview will be broadcast tonight at 11:35 p.m.
“Learning that your partner has betrayed you is one of the most traumatizing experiences someone can face but it has to be particularly devastating to the spouse of a public figure,” said relationship expert Brenda Della Casa, author of “Cinderella Was a Liar.” “They go through the shock, humiliation, and pain every betrayed spouse feels but they suffer on a national scale,” she says.
The story about the affair began to make the rounds last month after Edwards, who was considered a potential Democratic vice presidential candidate for Barack Obama, ran into the bathroom at The Beverly Hills Hilton Hotel after being confronted by two reporters who said he was visiting Hunter.
Hunter was paid more than $100,000 for web videos used to promoteEdwards during his presidential run. Hunter is said to be the mother of a child that The National Enquirer has alleged to be his, even though Hunter has said another man, Andrew Young, a former Edwards aide who is married, is the father. Young has also claimed the child as his.
The child’s birth certificate lists no one as the child’s father, despite Young’s claim. California law requires both parents to sign a paternity form before the child’s father can be listed on the certificate, though it can be added later.
The allegations about a potential relationship betweenEdwards and Hunter first surfaced in October 2007when The National Enquirer published a story, which the newspaper continued to follow over time. Late last month, its reporters, who were guests at the hotel, say Edwards went into the hotel to visit Hunter, who was staying there. When he left her room, the reporters say they confronted him and he ran into a hotel bathroom.
The two reporters filed an incident report with the local authorities alleging the hotel’s security guards detained them and escorted Edwards out of the bathroom and to safety.
When the story first broke, Edwards denied the allegations, saying “The story is false. It’s completely untrue, ridiculous.” “I’ve been in love with the same woman for 30-plus years,” Edwards said, “and as anybody who’s been around us knows, she’s an extraordinary human being, warm, loving, beautiful, sexy and as good a person as I have ever known. So the story’s just false.”
When the recent story broke, Edwards said he wouldn’t respond to lies.
The scandal spread across the blogosphere like wildfire, though traditional media outlets were slow to follow because The Enquirer has a less-than-credible reputation. Wikipedia eventually locked up John Edwards’ entry on the encyclopedia site, saying any additions may be libelous. TheWeb site has since unlocked the profile.
Edwards said his wife, Elizabeth, who is battling inoperable breast cancer that has spread to her lungs, knows about the affair.
It isn’t the first time a politician has been caught in an extramarital affair.
- In 1987, U.S. Sen. Gary Hart’s presidential campaign was destroyed after photographs surfaced of a woman, not his wife, sitting on his lap during a trip to Bimini on a boat called “Monkey Business”.
- A decade later, U.S. President Bill Clinton was caught in an extramarital affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky after the young woman confided to a friend in a taped phone call that she was having a sexual relationship with him.
- In 2006, U.S. Congressman Mark Foley resigned from office after ABC News uncovered sexually explicit instant messages between Foley and a male page.
- A year later, U.S. Sen. Larry Craig is serving out the remainder of his term in office, despite his guilty plea for disorderly conduct after he was arrested at an airport by undercover officers who had set up a bathroom sex sting.
- New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned from office in March 2008 after it was discovered that he’d been using an Internet prostitution ring for sex.
“Being in the limelight doesn’t make our presidents, royals, and celebrities any less human or any more moral than the rest of us,” Della Casa said. “It just shines a light on their faults and gives others a reason to dig deeper in your garbage. If a man or woman has issues that make him or her want to cheat, lie, steal, do drugs or engage in destructive behavior, having an adoring public isn’t going to discourage you from dabbling in your destruction; on the contrary, it may make it easier. There are more people willing to help you self-destruct and the ego on a celebrity can be a mighty motivation.”
The fact that Edwards’ wife has been battling cancer would almost certainly add to a higher level of public disgust to the story. “We feel for victims like John Edward’s wife. Most cheaters steal not only the marital funds, but the victim’s dignity is at stake, too. Only a deviant wants to witness this type of humiliation. And this is the real price of adultery. The consequences of bad behavior are limitless. In general, cheaters focus on their best interests leaving little remedy for those who love them,” said Bill Mitchell, a private investigator who operates Mitchell Reports Investigations LLC, which routinely deals with cases of marital infidelity.
“Cheating conduct is nothing original, but it is visibly more apparent today. To demonstrate this trend just consider the significant Internet memberships at cheaters Web sites. You can order an affair online. A team of experts joins forces to deceive your mate, a trend not available to previous generations of married couples,” Mitchell said.
The problem, according to New York family law attorney Daniel Clement, who publishes a blog about divorce and related issues, is simple: “No one thinks they are going to get caught. It is not a narcissistic thing or power thing. Like athletes, politicians are spending a lot of time away from the spouses and temptation is everywhere. Their political power is an aphrodisiac.”
And if Hunter’s child does, indeed, end up being linked to the married Edwards, it could certainly complicate his life, according to Mitchell, who said “having a child out of wedlock with a married person isn’t an uncommon circumstance when someone wants a legal stronghold. Forgetting to use birth control can be a great ploy for financial security.”
“After years of similar stories about politicians and sex scandals, some say Americans have simply gotten used to sex scandals. Americans are obsessed with instant gratification and the bigger, better deal in just about every aspect of their lives from clothes and shoes to relationships and zip codes,” Della Casa said. “Our scandal is no different. There was a time when a starlet flashing her private parts and walking around with cocaine on her nose would never be heard of again, now it will get her on the cover of People magazine and a book deal.”
Mitchell believes Americans have even come to expect scandals particularly when a President makes a mockery of marriage. And given there aren’t many repercussions, legal or otherwise, for extramarital affairs, it’s not likely to change. “The lasting image is denying your way out of story,” Mitchell said.
President Clinton demonstrated great skill in waving a web of deceit and lives to smile about it today. “It’s sad, how few have remorse,” said Mitchell. “We can blame bad morals the TV media, Hollywood, or the Internet but it really comes down to parenting. Children learn what they live. Home life should bring stability, loyalty, and trustworthiness. It appears our country is losing the battle for monogamy.”