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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
John Edwards Admits Affair, Denies Fathering Child
Aired August 8, 2008 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, John Edwards' political career lies in shambles, his personal life and lies laid bare. After years of denying rumors, and weeks of intense tabloid investigation and speculation, the former presidential candidate has admitted he had an affair. His statement released just a few hours ago is startling.
But the story has already moved beyond his words alone. Elizabeth Edwards has now commented, as has Barack Obama.
We have all the angles in the hour ahead, all the late-breaking details.
But we begin with the words of John Edwards and the pained personal reaction of his wife Elizabeth.
This is the statement John Edwards released hours ago from his home in North Carolina.
It reads, in full: "In 2006, I made a serious error in judgment and conducted myself in a way that was disloyal to my family and to my core beliefs. I recognized my mistake and I told my wife that I had a liaison with another woman, and I asked for her forgiveness. Although I was honest in every painful detail with my family, I did not tell the public. When a supermarket tabloid told a version of the story, I used the fact that the story contained many falsities to deny it. But being 99 percent honest is no longer enough.
"I was and am ashamed of my conduct and choices, and I had hoped that it would never become public. With my family, I took responsibility for my actions in 2006 and today I take full responsibility publicly. But that misconduct took place for a short period in 2006. It ended then. I am and have been willing to take any test necessary to establish the fact that I am not the father of any baby, and I am truly hopeful that a test will be done so this fact can be definitively established. I only know that the apparent father has said publicly that he is the father of the baby. I also have not been engaged in any activity of any description that requested, agreed to or supported payments of any kind to the woman or to the apparent father of the baby.
"It is inadequate to say to the people who believed in me that I am sorry, as it is inadequate to say to the people who love me that I am sorry. In the course of several campaigns, I started to believe that I was special and became increasingly egocentric and narcissistic. If you want to beat me up, feel free. You cannot beat me up more than I have already beaten up myself. I have been stripped bare and will now work with everything I have to help my family and others who need my help. I have given a complete interview on this matter and having done so, will have nothing more to say."
Late today, hours after that statement, Elizabeth Edwards spoke out as well, posting on the Web site Daily Kos.
"Our family has been through a lot," she wrote, "some caused by nature, some caused by human weakness, and some most recently caused by the desire for sensationalism and profit without any regard for the human consequences. None of these has been easy. But we have stood with one another through them all. Although John believes he should stand alone and take the consequences of his action now, when the door closes behind him, he has his family waiting for him.
"John made a terrible mistake in 2006. The fact that it is a mistake that many others have made before him did not make it any easier for me to hear when he told me what he had done. But he did tell me. And we began a long and painful process in 2006, a process oddly made somewhat easier with my diagnosis in March of 2007.
"Admitting one's mistakes is a hard thing for anyone to do, and I am proud of the courage John showed by his honesty in the face of shame. The toll on our family of news helicopters over our house and reporters in our driveway is yet unknown. But now the truth is out, and the repair work that began in 2006 will continue. I ask that the public, who expressed concern about the harm John's conduct has done to us, think also about the real harm that the present voyeurism does and give me and my family the privacy we need at this time."
Let's look at how this all began to unravel from the CNN Special Investigations Unit and Drew Griffin.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Edwards story has been fodder of "The National Enquirer" for more than a year. And the headlines show why.
A presidential candidate and former U.S. senator with a cancer- stricken wife has an affair and according to the tabloid fathers a child with this woman, a campaign consultant named Rielle Hunter. John Edwards had dismissed the "National Enquirer" allegations. This is what he said just last month in New Orleans.
JOHN EDWARDS (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have no idea what you're asking about. I have responded consistently to these tabloid allegations by saying I don't respond to these lies. And you know that, Raylene. (ph). You've covered me. And I stand by that.
GRIFFIN: Now the stunning about-face. In a statement, Edwards admits -- quote -- "In 2006, I made a serious error in judgment and conducted myself in a way that was disloyal to my family and to my core beliefs. I recognized my mistake and I told my wife that I had a liaison with another woman, and I asked for her forgiveness."
The pressure had been mounting on Edwards for several weeks, since news stories appeared about a confrontation with "The National Enquirer" here at the Beverly Hilton Hotel last month. On July 21, the former senator was in Los Angeles raising awareness for the homeless. That night, "National Enquirer" reporter Alex Hitchen was waiting for Edwards at the hotel. The paper said it had a tip Edwards, Rielle Hunter, and Hunter's baby were meeting in a room. At 2:40 in the morning, Hitchen says he surprised Edwards as Edwards was trying to leave.
ALEX HITCHEN, "THE NATIONAL ENQUIRER": I say to him, Mr. Edwards, Alexander Hitchen from "The National Enquirer." We know that you have been with Rielle Hunter tonight and your child. And then we said to him, don't you think it's about time to actually tell everyone that you are actually the father of this child?
GRIFFIN (on camera): And the reaction again was?
HITCHEN: Sheer panic.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Hitchen says Edwards did not say a word. Instead, he ran down the stairs into this bathroom in the basement and held the door shut.
According to ABC News, Edwards now admits he did go to the hotel that night and did meet Rielle Hunter, as "The Enquirer" has reported.
Wednesday, the tabloid turned up the heat on Edwards, publishing this blurry photograph, a photo the paper claims was shot in the Beverly Hilton Hotel during the encounter. The paper says the baby in the picture is Edwards'.
But is it? Edwards told ABC News the child could not be his because of the timing of the birth. But the former senator says he wants to take a paternity test to prove he's not the father.
This man, Andrew Young, an Edwards campaign staffer, said last year he was the father, not Edwards. Still, the child's birth certificate adds to the intrigue. The name of the father's child's father is left blank.
John Edwards was a former North Carolina senator, John Kerry's 2004 running mate, and this year a populist candidate for president. The pained language of his statement reflects how far he's fallen from those heady days.
"In the course of several campaigns, I started to believe that I was special and became increasingly egocentric and narcissistic. If you want to beat me up, feel free. You cannot beat me up more than I have already beaten up myself."
GRIFFIN: And, Anderson, the other side of this story that we're learning about tonight is money being paid to Rielle Hunter.
The former head of John Edwards' presidential campaign finance committee, says he is the source of the money. Fred Baron, in a statement tonight, says he independently, now, decided to help two friends and colleagues, as he says, rebuild their lives and escape the media attention. Baron telling "The Dallas Morning News" he helped Rielle Hunter and Andrew Young move out of North Carolina, paid living experiences for them in California.
And, Anderson, he says John Edwards knew nothing of that.
COOPER: Drew, there's a lot we don't know and a lot about the timeline that's kind of fuzzy. And, these payments, that certainly seems to be fuzzy and no doubt will be part of this story in the days and weeks ahead.
But ABC News has reported that they met in a bar and then, all of a sudden, she starts working for the campaign and starts to get paid by the campaign. Do we know if the affair began before she started working for the campaign, or if it began and then, you know, she -- and then she got the job?
GRIFFIN: You know, the nitty-gritty details of how this all went down, we don't know.
What we do know is that, at a bar meeting, suddenly, this woman, who has very, very little experience, practically no experience on any campaign -- in fact, she doesn't even vote -- she says she voted twice in her life -- is suddenly producing these Web videos for John Edwards' campaign, somehow convincing him that she was going to change his image.
She gets paid $114,000 to produce these videos and travel across the world suddenly on this campaign, and, again, with really no credentials. This is a guy running for president, Anderson. He surrounds himself with pretty high-end political people in this country. And here's this woman he meets at a bar suddenly chasing him around the world...
COOPER: And that money is coming from donations to his political action committee.
GRIFFIN: That's correct. That money is coming from the campaign.
Now, we should make clear that, tonight, the other money that is being paid to Rielle Hunter is coming from -- from this attorney, privately, he says.
COOPER: All right.
Well, Barack Obama is on vacation in Hawaii. On arrival a short time ago, he spoke briefly about his former opponent. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If I'm not mistaken, I think they already indicated there was -- family indicated that they probably wouldn't be attending the convention.
I understand that. Look, this is a difficult and painful time for them. And I think they need to work through that process of healing. But -- but my sense is that that's going to be their top priority.
John Edwards was a great champion of working people during the course of this campaign. Many of his themes are ones that Democrats as a whole share. Those will be amplified in the convention.
And I wish them all well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: We will show you what John McCain had to say, as well as Hillary Clinton, in a little bit.
CNN's Jessica Yellin joins us now. She covered the Edwards campaign. Also with us, CNN senior political analyst David Gergen and former Edwards spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri, who was with Edwards as the story came out today.
Jennifer, why did Edwards wait so long to -- to admit the truth?
JENNIFER PALMIERI, FORMER EDWARDS CAMPAIGN SPOKESPERSON: Well, I can tell you what -- I mean, I can tell you what he said to ABC in the interview that people will see later tonight, which was, you know, he was embarrassed, and wanted to keep it a secret. And that was the wrong thing to do, and got to a point where he felt he needed to come forward. And -- and that's what he did today.
COOPER: They apparently met in a bar, according to a statement I read from ABC. And, suddenly, she gets hired by the campaign. Do we know -- does he comment about whether he was sleeping with her before she got hired?
PALMIERI: Woodruff, Bob Woodruff, who did ask that question, and he said, no, that the affair started after she was hired by the campaign -- or the -- by the PAC.
COOPER: So, according to him, and, somehow, they meet in a bar and somehow that leads to she getting hired for a job that she has no real experience with, making these videos. And then they start an affair; that's his story?
PALMIERI: I mean, I'm honestly not that familiar with her background, so I can't speak to -- I can't speak to that. So, I can just tell you what -- how -- how it went in the interview and what he said had happened.
COOPER: We just heard the former chairman of Edwards presidential campaign, the finance committee of it, said that he paid Rielle Hunter to move out of North Carolina to escape, you know, all the speculation. How -- Edwards is claiming he is totally unaware of this?
PALMIERI: Yes, that's right. COOPER: Does that -- I mean, does that pass the smell test?
PALMIERI: I guess we will have to see what people think. That's what he said in the interview today. That's what Mr. Baron has said. And, you know, I certainly believe that to be true.
COOPER: David Gergen, what do you make of all this? It's stunning that, if he had actually won the Democratic nomination, and this story had broken, he would have basically blown the Democrats' chance of retaining the -- of getting the White House.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's absolutely right, Anderson.
And, look, I think we should become less judgmental about other people's marriages and their personal lives, their private lives. I think what is -- what's at issue here is his public life, and the -- and the fact that he lied to the public, he lied to his own staff, and he -- and he -- he put the Democratic Party in real jeopardy.
As you say, if he had been the nominee of the party now, and this thing had blown up tonight, it would have -- it would have ruined the Democrats' chances of taking back the White House. And it would have been so, I think just so -- and that's what is so stunning about this whole thing.
If, from -- everything you have been asking, I think they are exactly the right questions. There are a lot of things that don't quite pass the smell test right now. And it seems to me he owes the Democratic Party to move swiftly to put out every fact that's there, to -- to get this paternity test done, to get all of this resolved, so that this doesn't linger and hang over the campaign over the next few weeks. He owes it to the party.
COOPER: You know, it's interesting, David. In his statement, he talks about narcissism and egocentrism, which he -- which grew in him as he campaigned.
But what is incredibly -- and, again, I'm not one for making moral judgments on this program or -- or condemning people, but what is remarkable is just the logical -- his thoughts -- the way he thought this out, because it's not as if he was already running and had an affair. He had an affair, and -- and then decided he could still run for president, and that this would not emerge.
I mean, how does anyone in this day and age...
GERGEN: That's right.
COOPER: ... think that this is not going to come out?
PALMIERI: Can I answer that? Can I respond...
(CROSSTALK) COOPER: Yes, please. Go ahead.
GERGEN: Yes. Yes. Please.
COOPER: Go ahead, Jennifer.
PALMIERI: No, I was just going to say, I don't think that there's anything that either David or Anderson has just said that I disagree with, certainly, or that John Edwards would agree with.
It was cataclysmically stupid. It did put the party -- David's right that it did -- had he been the nominee, that would have -- it would have been a very precarious to put the party in. And I just don't think anybody would -- I certainly don't think that he would disagree with that.
COOPER: Jessica, you were on the trail with Edwards, covering the campaign. There were rumors even then. How did it play out?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there were rumors. He was asked about this, and he emphatically denied it.
And when you're in this environment, you know, you're supposed to be there covering policy, substantive issues. You ask about a tabloid report. You get shot down. The tendency is to have some pretty firm facts the next time you want to bring it up.
So, there's a really powerful sense of shame and scorn they can use with you as a reporter to try to get -- cow you into not pressing this further. And I think the fact that he was so emphatic, repeatedly, that he had nothing to do with this and it was just tabloid trash made people really stay away from it, and believe his denials, even his staff.
And, you know, you can sort of get a sense of who you trust on the staff and who you don't. Even staff that we trusted believed these were untrue rumors. So, I think most of the press believed it, too.
COOPER: Jennifer, he has said now that he wants to take a paternity test. I mean, is there actually a process already under way to have that happen?
PALMIERI: I mean, again, I can only answer this by saying what he said in the interview.
I mean, he was asked in the interview about it, and he said that he would be happy to do that, that he thought that would be a welcome thing. Obviously, there's another party involved that I -- I can't speak to in order to get that test accomplished.
COOPER: All right. We are going to have more from our panel throughout this hour.
As you might imagine, our blog is standing-room-only tonight. I will be logging on during the breaks.
To join the conversation, go to AC360.com. Weigh in.
Up next, David Perel, the editor in chief of "The National Enquirer."
And, later, who is Rielle Hunter? Details of past love and some pretty racy company now coming to light -- that and more when 360 continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "EXTRA," FEBRUARY 2007)
RIELLE HUNTER, ALLEGED EDWARDS MISTRESS: Meeting John Edwards was interesting, because he had -- in person, when you -- when I met him, he was very real and authentic. It was a random meeting. He was in a business meeting in New York, and I was in the same place.
One of the great things about John Edwards is that he's so open and willing to try new things and do things in new ways. The whole experience was life-altering for me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It's life-altering for a lot of people. That's Rielle Hunter on "Extra" in February of 2007.
Her story, as Drew Griffin reported, has been extensively covered in the pages of "The National Enquirer." Editor in chief David Perel joins us now.
David, you been working on this story since October, I think, of 2007. A couple weeks ago, your paper actually caught Edwards and Rielle Hunter in this hotel together. How did that come about? Tell me about it.
DAVID PEREL, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "THE NATIONAL ENQUIRER": Well, Anderson, we had advance information from some of the sources we have developed as we have worked this and reported on the affair that they had been meeting secretly.
But we wanted to catch him in the act, because he had already issued such a vociferous denial, denouncing us publicly, and calling us liars, when we knew at "The Enquirer" that he was the one who was lying.
So, when we got the information, we set up a team of reporters and photographers, and we waited for him. And, sure enough, just as our information said, he showed up. We watched him go in the hotel. We watched him go up to the two rooms that were rented by Bob McGovern for himself and Rielle Hunter. We watched him spend time in those rooms with Rielle and the baby.
And then, at 2:40, he came downstairs. And he got off the elevator in the basement, not the lobby.
COOPER: No, wait. I'm sorry. You said you watched him spend time in those rooms, meaning you were inside those rooms? PEREL: No, I did not mean that.
PEREL: I mean we saw him go in the room, and we know he did not come out of the room.
PEREL: And we know that Rielle and the baby was in the room as well.
And, then, at 2:40, he came downstairs in the basement via elevator. The doors opened. Our reporters were there and attempted to question him. And, frankly, I think that's why he's come out and admitted it, because the evidence is just too overwhelming. He couldn't escape out of this one.
COOPER: And, as your reporter told Drew Griffin, he basically -- he ran into the bathroom and hid there?
PEREL: He ran into the bathroom and pushed the door shut, and wouldn't let the reporters in who were still trying to question him. And, finally, security came and escorted him out of the hotel.
COOPER: He maintains he is not the father of Rielle Hunter's child, willing to take a paternity test to prove it. Why are you so sure that the baby is his?
PEREL: Well, Rielle Hunter is sure that the baby is his. Rielle Hunter -- according to the sources we have developed during this investigation, Rielle Hunter has said she never had a sexual relationship with Andrew Young, the man who has claimed paternity. And it all looks like it's part of a big cover-up.
And now we have learned today, as you saw, that money is being funneled to Rielle Hunter, which "The Enquirer" reported last week, $15,000 a month, by Fred Baron. And we also can tell you that we have uncovered evidence money is being funneled -- funneled to Mr. Young as well.
COOPER: Now, the statement from Fred Baron saying that -- that -- or implied, at least, that the money had -- in the past tense, that it had been given for her to get out of town after the initial speculation began a long time ago. You're saying you have evidence that money continues to be?
And, in fact, I can tell you that Mr. Young is living in a $5.4 million house, with no visible means of support and no nest egg, and that Rielle Hunter is also living in a multimillion-dollar house right now with no job and no visible means of support.
COOPER: Elizabeth Edwards released a statement, as you know, tonight. And I want to read part of it to you. She says, "Because of a recent string of hurtful and absurd lies in a tabloid publication, because of a picture falsely suggesting that John was spending time with a child it wrongly alleged he had fathered outside our marriage, our private matter could no longer be wholly private."
How do you respond to that?
PEREL: We're sorry that John Edwards betrayed her. We're sorry that John Edwards betrayed his country. But the man was running for president and lying about an affair. And he could have blown up the Democratic Party if he had gotten the nomination.
COOPER: There's no...
PEREL: So, it needs no further explanation.
COOPER: There's no doubt John Edwards coming forward with this on a Friday night, with the Olympic ceremonies, clearly, he hopes this is kind of going to get buried or not get covered as much with Olympic week coming up. As far as your publication is concerned, where does the story go now?
PEREL: The story goes into the cover-up and to the paternity issue.
We want to know where the money is coming from and what Edwards' connection is to it. We can also tell you that, not only did he meet in July, 21, they also met a month before, in June, at the same hotel with the baby.
COOPER: Just for the record, did you pay your source -- or sources -- for the information?
PEREL: Anderson, we do pay for information, as long as it's verified and it checks out. So, we make no bones about that.
And, in terms of specific stories, we don't say whether we did or we didn't. You can assume we did, but all the information, as you can tell by Edwards admitting to the affair, has checked out.
COOPER: David Perel, we appreciate your time. Thank you.
PEREL: Thank you.
COOPER: We have got much more ahead on John Edwards' stunning admission about the affair he had and what it means for his career. Is his political life over? It's certainly in a shambles, as we said, tonight.
Plus, the woman who may have cost him his career, Rielle Hunter -- or I guess it could be argued that he cost himself his career -- details about her past are starting to emerge, including her ties to the novelist Jay McInerney. He reportedly based one of his characters on her. We will have that ahead.
Also, the woman who has been at Edwards' side for more than 30 years, his law school sweetheart and the mother of his children, his wife, Elizabeth -- what they have been through and what Elizabeth Edwards kept to herself as she resumed her fight against cancer.
COOPER: John Edwards has now admitted he had an affair with this woman, Rielle Hunter, a filmmaker who made Web videos for his presidential campaign. But who is she? And why has she changed her name? We will have details about her life coming up.
But, first, Erica Hill joins us with a 360 bulletin with some of tonight's other stories -- Erica.
ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, Russia and Georgia edging toward all-out war today, with Russia sending tanks into Georgia and reportedly bombing three military bases. That's after Georgia attacked a breakaway province to crush separatists.
Witnesses said hundreds of civilians were killed. The U.N. Security Council responded with two emergency sessions and will meet again tomorrow.
Now, that fighting, of course, broke out as the Summer Olympic Games began in China with an extravagant opening ceremony, 91,000 people in attendance at a brand-new stadium in Beijing. Russia's prime minister, Vladimir Putin, and President Bush were at the ceremony. They spoke earlier about the Georgia-Russia crisis at a luncheon.
A plunge in oil prices and a stronger dollar sending stocks surging today -- the Dow up more than 300 points, and the Nasdaq and S&P both had double-digit gains -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right.
Next, more on our breaking news on John Edwards, the latest on the affair and the fallout for the former presidential candidate, and his wife, Elizabeth, battling cancer and faced with the fact that the public knows that her husband was cheating on her.
And, later, the alleged other woman -- who is Rielle Hunter? A profile of her is emerging -- new details about her life ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EDWARDS: I hate to admit it, but I'm not the best parent in my family. The best parent in my family is here with me today. It's my wife, Elizabeth, who is down here.
EDWARDS: And, by the way, Harry, I was happy to hear that you have a modern marriage, where everything is negotiable. I need some advice...
EDWARDS: ... where everything is negotiable, because I don't seem to get that very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: John Edwards last year in New York being honored for father of the year.
As you just heard, the former presidential candidate told the audience he wasn't the best parent in his family. No, he said, it was his wife, Elizabeth.
But, as we know tonight, the father of the year was keeping a secret from the public. He had been having an affair with a filmmaker named Rielle Hunter. By the time that video was shown, the affair was allegedly over.
Who is Rielle Hunter? Where is she now? Where is she from?
A picture is beginning to emerge, details. Let's take a look.
COOPER (voice-over): She's been called the mistress, the other woman, but who is Rielle Hunter? The woman who John Edwards says she had an affair with. We know the 42-year-old was hired by the Edwards' campaign to produce documentaries. We know she's unmarried and she has a baby born in February.
Last year, she told the television show "Extra" about how she met the senator in 2006.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "EXTRA")
RIELLE HUNTER, ALLEGED EDWARDS MISTRESS: It was a random meeting. He was in a business meeting in New York, and I was in the same place.
Meeting John Edwards was interesting, because he had -- in person, when you -- when I met him, he was very real and authentic, in my perception.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: David Perel from "The National Enquirer" says Hunter and Edwards had chemistry from the very start.
PEREL: They quickly became enamored with one another.
COOPER: IMDB lists Hunter as a writer, actress, and producer. She's the co-founder of Midline Groove Productions, a New-Jersey-based production company.
Hunter traveled the country with Edwards, producing many documentaries called Webisodes, which were supposed to give voters a behind-the- scenes look at the real John Edwards.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EDWARDS: But, for me, personally, I would rather be successful or unsuccessful based on who I really am, not based on some plastic Ken doll that you put up in front of audiences.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: She even traveled with him to Africa to highlight his campaign against poverty. She said she spent a lot of time with Edwards on that trip and called the experience life-altering.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "EXTRA")
HUNTER: One of the great things about John Edwards is that he's so open and willing to try new things.
He was very real and authentic. He was inspirational to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The Edwards campaign paid her close to $115,000 allegedly for her work.
Little is known about Hunter's past. According to the "National Enquirer," she's a Florida native who is born Lisa Druck. She lived in Los Angeles and then moved to New York in the 1980s where she changed her name to Rielle Hunter.
DAVID PEREL, NATIONAL ENQUIRER: People who know her describe her as a nice person, somebody who's very touchy-feely, but somebody who has really lived not a dull life, let's say, and she is very fond of John Edwards.
COOPER: The author James McInerney told "The New York Post" he dated Hunter in the 1980s and said he based his book "Story of My Life" about a hard-living, aspiring actress on her.
KEN VOGEL, POLITICO: She gave an interview in which she described herself as a formerly hard partying girl who had kind of seen the light and reformed her ways.
COOPER: Although Edwards has not admitted publicly to his affair, we still have not heard from Rielle Hunter who, so far, hasn't confirmed or denied anything about the relationship.
COOPER: Well, here's what John McCain and Hillary Clinton said earlier today about the story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't have any -- any comment on it. SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Well, look, my thoughts and prayers are with the Edwards family today and that's all I have to say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And we showed you Barack Obama's comments earlier tonight saying his thoughts are with the Edwards family as well.
Let's dig deeper. CNN's Jessica Yellin covered Edwards during the primary. She joins us, again, along with CNN senior political analyst, David Gergen, and former Edwards spokeswoman, Jennifer Palmieri, who's been with John Edwards as the story broke today.
Jennifer, Edwards told ABC that his wife's cancer was in remission when the affair began. How long does he say the affair lasted?
JENNIFER PALMIERI, FORMER EDWARDS SPOKESWOMAN: He doesn't get into the specifics of it. He just said it was a short amount of time.
COOPER: David, Edwards' political action committee, we know, paid Hunter's production company about $114,000 in 2006 and 2007. I mean, legally speaking, could there be trouble for Edwards on money issues on this?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think there's going to be a legal problem, Anderson. I do think that there are two pieces of this story that are -- that remain to be fully explored. One is the paternity question. And others -- the other is going to be the money question.
Is it really true that she's been paid $15,000 a month as "The National Enquirer" there just asserted or is that not true? That's a lot of money per month and if it comes from the finance chairman, is he really paying this out of his personal pocket with no -- and John Edwards is not participating in this? Where does the money come from for the houses?
I think -- that's what I think -- why I think that John Edwards, having opened this Pandora's box, needs to get everything out of it as quickly as possible. So that -- because this is going to be a chase by the -- not only by the mainstream press, but clearly by "The National Enquirer" and others.
And this is -- this story is going to have lots of legs and keep marching along and chase him along. So he needs -- he has a responsibility, as I said again, to the Democratic Party whom this is going to hurt.
PALMIERI: I would just also...
GERGEN: ... to get all this story out.
PALMIERI: I'm sorry, David. I just asked...
GERGEN: Please, go ahead. PALMIERI: We haven't even seen the interview yet that Senator Edwards gave where he was asked many of these questions and, you know, answered all of -- each of them. And so I think that -- before everyone makes a judgment about what else he needs to do to at least let people see what he -- what he does have to say.
COOPER: Jessica, Edwards styled himself on the campaign trail as a teller of truths, I think you've said throughout the day. What do you mean by that? And that certainly for a teller of truths, this is particularly troublesome.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's what I find so striking about this. When you'd watch him on the campaign trail, he always wanted to be in these audiences that were tended to be smaller audiences with real working folk. That was -- and he would sort of say, I'm going to stand up against corporate interests and look out for the little guy.
And he sold this story where everyone else was representing the establishment, people were representing powered interests, and he understood where the truth was and he was going to expose the lies on behalf of the real folk.
And so what's so hypocritical here, he was living a lie during this time and the other lie at the time was, of course, that he was portraying himself as this ultimate family man, which may have been true, in part of his being, but it was a compartmentalized part. At the same time, obviously, he was hiding this lie.
The thing that's so fascinating, Anderson, about the statement is where he says that this egocentrism and narcissism developed in him -- well, if that misled him into infidelity, what kind of effect does it have on his judgment, broadly speaking, for a man who wanted to have the highest office in a land?
Did he live in a world of some compartmentalization, some illusion? He was taking a big gamble with the nation if he was allowing himself to be led down this path where he was no longer in sound judgment.
COOPER: David, later in the program I talk to Paul Begala and he calls this statement bizarre. He thinks John Edwards said way too much in the statement, talking about the paternity testing.
Do you -- what do you make of the statement?
GERGEN: Well, I think the statement and the one person who emerges with dignity, the best statement of the day has been from Elizabeth Edwards. That was very moving.
John Edwards, by saying he wants to take a paternity test, has to follow through on that. You know, I don't think he said -- I think he...
COOPER: Do you think he cannot say anymore as he has -- I mean, he said look, I've given this complete interview...
COOPER: ... and as Jennifer said, we haven't seen it yet. But do you think it will be the be all and end all? Do you think he cannot say anymore?
GERGEN: Well, I respect Jennifer's point of view. We do need to see the interview. But he has said, look, I want to take a paternity test. You know, he himself has left that door open to go through that.
And then there is this...
COOPER: It doesn't have to be on Maury Povich. I mean do you see this as some sort of public event or -- you know, Maury Povich seems like every episode they're taking paternity test. How does he do this in a way in which he no longer comments on it?
GERGEN: Beats the hell out of me. But I think he's got -- I think he's got to sort of come back to this now. This story is not going to go away. There are too many loose ends. Too many questions still surrounding this. And it seems to me that, yes, he may have a very compelling interview tonight, but the loose ends are still going to be there. And they've come up during the day.
So I think he -- you know in damage control -- damage control 101 is figure out where the bottom is, get all the facts together, and get them out.
And Anderson, just to go to this point, I have known other people who wanted to be president who decided not to run because they had an issue like this. And they didn't think it was fair, not only to their families, didn't think it was fair to their party or the country.
I know somebody who've had a love child supposedly and who was seen as -- widely seen as someone who would be an excellent president who decided not to run. You know there are a lot of stories about Bill Clinton in 1988, taking advice not to run that year, to get his life in order, which he was working on, I think.
You know, so this is a -- this is one of the threshold questions that when you run for high public office, you have to face -- and you then have to look your supporters straight in the eye and said, don't worry, I'm OK.
And I think he violated that trust.
COOPER: We're going to...
COOPER: I'm sorry, Jennifer.
PALMIERI: I'm sorry. Just -- I don't think that we've discussed this, but he did -- Senator Edwards did do a conference call today with a lot of the former staff where he did -- you know, maybe it was not as much fervor as David just did, but did, you know, pretty did apologize to the staff for, first of all, just misleading them about the affair but also for -- I mean for the reasons that David just said.
PALMIERI: But you know, in terms of putting the candidacy -- his candidacy at risk, his campaign at risk, and all the work that so, you know, that literally thousands of people...
PALMIERI: ... undertook for him.
COOPER: We're going to have to leave it there.
Jennifer Palmieri, David Gergen, Jessica Yellin, thank you very much.
Tonight, we know a lot more about when Elizabeth Edwards first learned of her husband's affair. He told her before announcing he's running for the presidency. She never let on, of course.
Just ahead, Elizabeth Edwards, remarkable strength and how it has been tested over the years.
Plus, we've seen this story before way too many times. Powerful man strays, then lies, then pays a steep price. Why do they do it? We'll look at that ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELIZABETH EDWARDS, JOHN EDWARDS' WIFE: Really, before I want something, he's there, he's there, you know, getting me whatever I might have thought I need in the next 10 minutes. Other -- other spouses, husbands and family need to be as supportive as he's been.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That was Elizabeth Edwards back in 2004 shortly after she was diagnosed with breast cancer, talking about her husband.
John Edwards and John Kerry had just lost the presidential election. The race was still in full swing when Mrs. Edwards discovered a lump in her breast, but she pushed on, making campaign appearances and finally getting the cancer diagnosis hours after her husband and Kerry conceded the race.
It's remarkable that she could soldier on like that. And now we know she did the same kind of thing in this past primary race, soldiering on in spite of devastating news.
Here's "360's" Tom Foreman.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): She knew about the affair when the campaign began.
E. EDWARDS: The only thing that hurts me on my whole...
FOREMAN: Knew about it when her cancer returned. That's what her husband John says. But Elizabeth Edwards never said a word, even as she faced her disease and urged her husband to press on for the presidency.
E. EDWARDS: I expect to do next week all the things I did last week, and the week after that and next year at the same time.
FOREMAN: The couple met at the University of North Carolina Law School, marrying just days after they both took the bar exam. Celebrated the birth of four children and mourned the loss of one. They enjoyed the meteoric rise of John's career.
E. EDWARDS: With this man as your next vice president, tomorrow will be a better day, John Edwards.
FOREMAN: And they stood together during the falls, too.
E. EDWARDS: I felt the lump October 21st and the election was November 3rd when I was campaigning. But I've convinced myself, I let -- I wouldn't let myself think that this could be cancer.
FOREMAN: Through it all, Elizabeth Edwards has become famous in her own right, as an author and as an advocate for health insurance reform.
E. EDWARDS: It doesn't matter what kind of services we have if we don't have access to them.
FOREMAN: Her cancer is incurable, but she continues to impress fans, even showing up to support Barack Obama this summer.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think to add cancer to an already very busy life is -- would seem impossible to some people, although she seems to do a pretty good job.
FOREMAN: Her attacks on other candidates and her support for gay rights created waves for her husband in his recent campaign.
E. EDWARDS: I don't know why somebody else's marriage has anything to do with me. I'm completely comfortable with gay marriage.
FOREMAN (on camera): But he never publicly backed away from her and she stayed by him. This latest news is undeniably a terrible thing for any couple to face.
BETH FRERKING, THE POLITICO: Again, though, she's an -- incredibly tough woman. She's dealt with the death of a son. She's dealt with cancer. This is somebody who has been around and has dealt with a lot of things and I suspect that she and John Edwards are dealing with this in their own way.
FOREMAN (voice over): Just as they have dealt with many issues through more than 30 years of marriage.
Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.
COLLINS: Well, next on "360," sex, lies and power. John Edwards, just the latest politician to do this. He will certainly not be the last. A look at the lawmakers caught in scandal. What we've learned from the past.
Also later, redemption or ruin? The future for John Edwards. What should it be? What will it be? We'll see what our panel thinks, coming up.
COOPER: In his statement today, John Edwards may have tried to offer some sort of rationale for his extramarital affair. Edwards said he believed he was special and had become increasingly egocentric and narcissistic.
That may not fully explain why he cheated on his wife or lied about it for so long. But sadly, his story is not unique to high profile politicians. We've seen it often. In fact, people in power who seem to have it all, giving into temptation and in doing so, losing everything.
"360's" Erica Hill takes a look at some more infamous political sex scandals.
JOHN EDWARDS (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm proud of where I come from.
ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): First, the denial. Then the truth. And now the question.
As a politician who often spoke of his deep religious faith and values, how could John Edwards stray?
Idaho senator Larry Craig was a champion of family values. Then last summer he was arrested for alleged lewd conduct in an airport bathroom.
SEN. LARRY CRAIG (R), IDAHO: Did I slide them too close to yours? Did I -- I looked down once, your foot was close to mine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
CRAIG: Did we bump? You said so, I don't recall that. But apparently we were close.
HILL: Craig, who insists he is innocent, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct.
Disgraced former New York governor Eliot Spitzer ran for that office on ethics and his track record fighting corruption, even prostitution as attorney general.
ELIOT SPITZER, FORMER NEW YORK GOVERNOR: Some public officials may not want to face stricter ethics rules and more competitive elections. But all citizens will win when we finally get a government that puts the people's interests, openness and integrity first.
HILL: Earlier this year, Spitzer stepped down amid allegations he'd used a high-priced escort service on several occasions.
For many Americans, the hypocrisy is often the most disturbing part of a political scandal.
Florida congressman Mark Foley made a name for himself working to protect kids and teens from sexual predators online, only to resign after suggestive text messages he sent to a former teenage page were published.
One of the most memorable political scandals was 20 years ago.
GARY HART, FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do not have to answer that question.
HILL: While many, like Foley and Spitzer, immediately stepped down in disgrace, it is not a given.
Bill Clinton has been down this road at least three times, with allegations of sexual harassment from Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers' claims of a 12-year affair, and of course, the Monica Lewinsky scandal in the oval office.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: I did not have sexual relations with that woman.
HILL: But none of those alleged indiscretions kept him from winning and keeping the White House or from continuing his successful speaking and diplomacy career.
Whether John Edwards can follow Clinton's path remains to be seen.
Erica Hill, CNN, New York.
COOPER: We're joined now by Alex Castellanos, Republican consultant, and Paul Begala, a Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor.
Paul, is Edwards' political career over?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I wouldn't say over. It's certainly not in great shape tonight, Anderson. But, you know, there's always a redemption story in America. What he's got to do, of course, is heal his family, heal his marriage. And then he's got to deal with the fact that he lied. He lied to his friends, he lied to his staff, he lied to the voters.
But, you know, there are sadly plenty of politicians who went on after affairs like this to have careers in Washington or another appointed offices.
COOPER: But Alex, you know, there aren't many politicians who've had an affair and then chosen to run for president of the United States, and had he done better, had he become the Democratic nominee, and then this story broke, that could have jeopardized everything for the Democrats.
Can he come back from that? I mean isn't that the height of arrogance?
ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: That's the height of arrogance and also another part of the issue is that it wasn't just an affair, it was an affair when his wife was ill with cancer. And you know, not everyone survives that. Maybe there are second acts in -- American politics but some characters get shot at the end of the first act.
And I think there's no political future here for John Edwards that I can see.
COOPER: Yes, but, I mean, Paul, you've gone through this, obviously, with Bill Clinton. What do you make of the statement that John Edwards' released just a few hours ago?
BEGALA: I thought it was bizarre. I thought this...
BEGALA: Bizarre. It was way too detailed. Way too much information. I don't want to hear him talking about what medical tests he's going to take. I thought it was way too...
COOPER: You're talking about taking a paternity test?
BEGALA: Yes. God, shut up, Senator, with all due respect. He needed to say, I did it, I lied, I hurt my wife and I will -- I am going to apologize to my wife publicly because I've humiliated her publicly, and then shut the hell up.
I thought it was way too self referential. It was really narcissistic, It was really kind of a creepy statement, frankly. He needed to say a lot less, basically, to say I'm sorry and particularly apologize publicly to his wife.
COOPER: Alex, (INAUDIBLE), in the statement he says he's had become increasingly narcissistic and egocentric. What did you make of the statement?
CASTELLANOS: And then he goes on to produce a fairly narcissistic statement. I thought -- I was confused by it. I thought a lawyer or somebody who'd been on the national scene that long would no better.
But you know there are things in there, like I was 99 percent honest. You're either honest for you're not. There were lines in there that -- you know, I've beaten myself up enough. And I've been stripped bare.
You get the sense that he still thinks he's the victim here. And I don't think that most folks looking at this situation would agree.
COOPER: Paul, again, talking about the egocentrism and the narcissism, which he references in this statement, tonight Politico is reporting that he is still considering appearing at the Democratic convention.
Is that even a possibility?
BEGALA: No. No. I mean -- I suppose he can show up if he's a delegate, I guess. He is -- he's got some delegates of his own. But no, that's ridiculous. And I do think -- I don't want to make light of this. I really don't. I think it's a terrible, sad moment for that family.
But there's something wrong with your head when you're caught in a sex scandal and you use phrases like I've been stripped bare.
I mean, hello, note to self: leave bare out of it, Senator.
COOPER: I hadn't thought about that.
CASTELLANOS: It's all you need. It's all you need.
COOPER: We're going to have more right after this short break.
COOPER: We're joined again by Republican consultant Alex Castellanos and Paul Begala, a Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor.
Alex, Edwards repeatedly lied and scolded reporters for bringing this issue up. Here's one example from just last month.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: When you were running for president, you've flat-out denied having a relationship with Rielle Hunter. Is -- did you give me a truthful answer, were you telling me the truth then?
J. EDWARDS: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Has you or your campaign provided any financial support to Rielle Hunter or Andrew Young? Has you or your -- anyone affiliated with your presidential campaign provided any financial help to Rielle Hunter or Andrew Young?
J. EDWARDS: I have no idea what you're asking about. I have responded to consistently to these tabloid allegations by saying I don't respond to these lies. And you know that, (INAUDIBLE), you've covered me. And I stand by that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It turns out that Edwards' political action committee paid Rielle Hunter almost $115,000 allegedly for campaign related production work. Edwards now says maybe some of his friends gave her money but he didn't know anything about it.
Does this pass the smell test to you?
CASTELLANOS: No, of course it doesn't. You know, now we know why his campaign slogan was "two Americas" and that's because there were two John Edwards. And, you know, one was very comfortable, at least at that point, standing in front of voters and saying something that wasn't true.
And when you're running for president of the United States, when people are trusting you with the future of the country, when the world is in the shape it's in, such an uncertain time, whether you can trust your leaders is, I think, the first thing that voters look for.
And so now I think what's going to happen is trust is going to become a much bigger issue for Republicans and Democrats going forward in this election.
COOPER: Paul, Edwards clearly, I mean, hopes this story is buried. It's a Friday night, Olympic coverage is starting. He's hoping, obviously, it all goes away.
Do you think it will? I mean there's the financial questions and now he talks about taking a paternity test to prove he's not the baby's father.
BEGALA: Yes, but I do think it starts -- it should go away relatively soon. I don't think it's going to have a big impact on the presidential election. He's not on the ticket. He's not running for anything. He doesn't serve on any public office.
And by the way, let's put this into context. Not that it's something I'm particularly good at. But he didn't order that anybody be tortured. He didn't violate the Geneva convention. He did water board him. He didn't order the CIA to falsify documents to lead us into a war.
I mean we have serious problems in our country. And the presidential campaign should be focused on those problems, not on whether John Edwards had an affair and lied about it.
COOPER: Alex, do you think it would be used by Republicans at all? I mean John McCain has passed, he said no comment on it.
CASTELLANOS: Well, I don't think this will be used by anybody. You don't want to go there. It'd be a political liability. Anybody who sees a politician using this for their own political gain, that tells you what kind of person they are, what kind of leader they are.
But I do think it has an impact on the race this way. You know Paul can -- I think is -- can talk about issues and positions on issues all you want, but at the end of the day, voters also need to know if they can trust you to live up to your promises.
Otherwise, the promises and the stands you take on issues are just meaningless. And now I think voters are going to get out their magnifying glass and look at these candidates a little closer.
Who can you trust to do what they say and to be whom they -- who they are? Who's the real thing? When you open the box, beyond the glittery wrapping of it, what's inside the package of these candidates?
COOPER: Alex Castellanos, Paul Begala, thanks.
At the top of the hour, the Edwards affair. More coverage of the breaking news, the statements from both John Edwards and his wife. The latest on the story and the alleged other woman when "360" continues.
COOPER: At the end of this striking day, a man who might have been president admitting to committing adultery and lying about it, now seeking to rebuild his marriage and perhaps the public trust.
Coming up at the top of the hour, what John and Elizabeth Edwards are saying about the affair in their own searing words.
And later the alleged other woman, who is Rielle Hunter? When "360" continues.