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John Edwards: I Still Care Deeply About Elizabeth

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Amy Sussman/Getty

John Edwards spoke out Wednesday in response to a PEOPLE report he and wife Elizabeth quietly separated before his admission he fathered a love child.

It is an extraordinarily sad moment, but I love my children more than anything and still care deeply about Elizabeth,” the former two-time Democratic presidential candidate says in a statement.

In a cover story on newsstands Friday, PEOPLE reports that last December, in a mediated visit in a North Carolina hotel, Elizabeth met the 23-month-old baby whom John had fathered with a mistress.

After that, “She said, ‘I’ve had it. I can’t do this. I want my life back,’ ” Elizabeth’s sister, Nancy Anania, tells PEOPLE. The couple now occupy separate residences.

A spokeswoman for Elizabeth has released a statement saying she’s “moving on with her life” after a “excruciatingly painful period for her.”