The former Democratic candidate denies fathering his mistress's child

By Stephen M. Silverman and Sandra Sobieraj Westfall
Updated August 08, 2008 03:25 PM
Evan Agostini/Getty; Billy Farrell/PMc/Sipa

After repeated denials that he was involved in an extramarital relationship, former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards has confirmed that he indeed did have an affair with 44-year old Rielle Hunter, though he denies that he loved her.

Speaking to ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff in an interview scheduled to air Friday on Nightline, Edwards cited the timing of Rielle’s baby’s birth, on Feb. 27, 2008, as proving he is not the father, because the affair with Hunter had ended, he said. He has not submitted to a paternity test.

Former campaign aide Andrew Young has claimed paternity of the child.

‘Surprised and Disappointed’

“I’m just so surprised and disappointed,” a source close to Edwards tells PEOPLE. “We put in all that time and effort and poured our souls into this campaign. It’s really unfortunate, too, that what he did now dilutes his credibility on the poverty issue, where he really had the change to make a difference.”

The source says that Edwards never displayed any behavior that was inappropriate during his campaign. “Not at all. He didn’t have a wandering eye,” says the source. “But he’s very good at compartmentalizing. Whether something’s going on in his family, or on the staff, he’d be able to turn around, go on stage and give a brilliant speech. So maybe he just compartmentalized those emotions.”

Worked on Documentaries

Friends of Hunter tell ABC that she and Edwards, 55, met in 2006 at a New York City bar, and that she received $114,000 from his political action committee to produce Web site documentaries for the Edwards campaign, despite her lack of experience.

Edwards said the affair started after she was employed and that Hunter accompanied him around the U.S. and to Africa. He also said his wife, Elizabeth, and other family members became aware of the relationship in 2006. Edwards stresses that his wife’s cancer was in remission when he began the affair.

Edwards’s wife, Elizabeth, 59, is battling breast cancer, first diagnosed in 2004. After initial treatment, Elizabeth Edwards announced last year that her cancer had returned and is incurable.

A friend of Elizabeth’s, who has been in regular contact with her over recent weeks, tells PEOPLE: “She actually is okay. I’m pretty impressed by how she’s handling it. And her health is stable.”

When the National Enquirer first reported an affair between Edwards and Hunter affair on Oct. 11, the Edwards camp and the politician himself, as well as Hunter, vehemently denied the story.

Recently the story resurfaced. “That’s tabloid trash. They’re full of lies,” Edwards replied when asked about the report at a news conference in Houston July 23. “Not true, completely unfounded and ridiculous.”

Hotel Rendezvous True

Edwards now admits that the Enquirer reporting was true about him visiting with Hunter last month at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. He said his wife was unaware of that rendezvous.

Since becoming a mother, reports ABC, Hunter has assumed aliases and resided in various expensive homes in both in North Carolina and, more recently, in Santa Barbara, Calif.

In regard to anyone’s paying Hunter reputed hush money, Edwards denied anything coming from him, but said he could not vouch for his friends or campaign supporters. He says he will look into any possible financial arrangements that might have taken place.

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