Former CIA Director David Petraeus and U.S. Army reservist Paula Broadwell both suffered career consequences when news of their extra-marital affair went public in 2012. But four years after the scandal unfolded, Broadwell says she is still feeling negative professional effects, while Petraeus — who is on President-elect Donald Trump’s shortlist for secretary of state — has largely had his reputation restored.
In her first national television interview since news of the affair broke, the 44-year-old opened up to CBS This Morning co-anchor Norah O’Donnell Thursday about fighting for her reputation and the shock she felt when she heard of Petraeus’ possible Cabinet position.
“I’ve been strongly advised to not talk to the press, and I understand that,” Broadwell said. “Sometimes it’s better to remain silent — I’ve had that philosophy for the last five years. But I’ve reached a point where I feel like … I need to fight back for my life.’ ”
“It’s time to move on,” she added. “And to be able to move forward and not have this sort of potential cancer hanging over my head. I mean, it’s really been what it’s like for the last five years — thinking and living with cancer. And I don’t know if it’s going to metastasize and get worse or will it go away.”
“It’s probably a very poor analogy, but when you don’t know — when there’s uncertainty, constant uncertainty, it’s… it’s kind of soul-eating,” she said.
Broadwell and Petraeus’ affair began in 2011 while Broadwell, who was married at the time, was writing a biography on the then-new CIA director, All In: The Education of General David Petraeus. They admitted to the affair in 2012, soon after their romantic relationship had ended.
The pair first met in 2006, when Petraeus came to speak at Harvard. The general and his leadership skills eventually became the subject of Broadwell’s Ph.D. dissertation — which led to the biography.
Petraeus pleaded guilty last year to the misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information during their time together, reports The Washington Post.
While Broadwell was never formally charged by the Justice Department, she was demoted from lieutenant colonel to major after the affair, despite serving 21 years in the U.S. military and 13 years in the Army Reserves. She also lost her top secret security clearance and recently received a formal reprimand.
She’s currently waiting for her resignation paperwork to be approved after initially submitting the resignation this past summer.
“I’d love a ‘Merry Christmas’ present,” Broadwell said, hoping the request would be approved soon. “But I don’t know … I thought earlier this year when David Petraeus was pardoned, for lack of a better word, that I would hear something soon. And so, it’s ten months later and I’m hopeful that the end is here.”
“I’m really just asking on principle to be treated with dignity and also to be treated by the same standard with the military,” she continued.
Broadwell explained that the scandal has prevented her from achieving new opportunities. Recently, she was denied a position at a prominent bank. Though qualified for the role, she was told by the military recruiter that “it would be front page news” if she were hired and that the bank “wouldn’t want to deal with that.”
“I realized that’s probably true, but it was hard to stomach at the time,” Broadwell said. “I have a degree from the University of Denver in international conflict resolution. I have a degree from Harvard in public policy.”
As for how she felt about Petraeus’ possible top-level post in the Trump administration, Broadwell told CBS This Morning cohost Norah O’Donnell that while she thinks he’s “unequally qualified for many positions,” she was still surprised by the news.
“As I woke up to the news, you know, it was a bit of a shocker that he was being considered for a Cabinet position,” Broadwell said. “I was both shocked that I’m still in this tenuous position, and yet, happy because I think he should be able to go on with his life. He’s earned it, and so should his family. But then it begged the question of, ‘Why shouldn’t I be able to go on?’ ”
Broadwell said her family has been “incredibly supportive” – especially husband Scott. The two have been married since 2000, and have two young boys together.
“I frankly, owe my life to my husband and my children,” she said. “They know I made a mistake and that it hurt Daddy. And what I talk about with them is that when you make a mistake, you acknowledge it. Yet you don’t dwell on it. And you need to move forward at some point. So we apply that mantra in pretty much everything in our household.”
Since the scandal, Broadwell founded an organization called the Think Broader Foundation which targets social and gender bias in the media. Fighting for what’s right is part of her narrative — something she said she learned while an undergraduate at West Point.
“I believe, on principle, I’ve got something to offer the world and I’m not a bench warmer,” she said. “That’s not my personality. Put me in, coach.”
“I’m hopeful,” she continued. “I think time heals everything. I’m wiser now. I’m humbler now … But I’m always proud to be an optimist.”