John Edwards admitted Friday he did have an affair during his presidential campaign and repeatedly lied about it as he was seeking the White House.
“I had hoped it would never become public,” Mr. Edwards said in a statement. The former trial lawyer said he felt able to lie about the affair because the National Enquirer didn’t get some details exactly right in its first story last year exposing the affair.
“If you want to beat me up — feel free. You cannot beat me up more than I have already beaten up myself,” he said, adding that he became “narcissistic” during his several presidential campaigns.
The affair was first reported by ABC, which interviewed him for its “Nightline” program scheduled to run Friday night. ABC said Mr. Edwards stressed that he began the affair while his wife’s cancer was in remission and that he didn’t love the woman.
The two-time Democratic presidential candidate and his party’s 2004 vice presidential nominee told ABC he began an affair in 2006 with Rielle Hunter and put her on his campaign payroll.
He denied he is the father of her 5-month-old girl, saying the timing didn’t coincide with the affair, which he said ended too early. The ABC interview appears to validate a story that the National Enquirer ran last month that documented a visit Mr. Edwards made to the woman’s hotel room in California, though Mr. Edwards did not address that in his statement.
The former one-term senator from North Carolina repeatedly denied the accusations on the campaign trail.
“The story is false. It’s completely untrue, ridiculous,” Mr. Edwards told reporters in October after the Enquirer first reported on the affair.
“I’ve been in love with the same woman for 30-plus years,” Mr. Edwards said, referring to his wife, Elizabeth, “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.”
Last month Mr. Edwards called the July Enquirer article tracking him at the woman’s hotel “trash.”
Political experts said the admission takes him out of the running to be Sen. Barack Obama’s vice presidential nominee, and likely derails his political career. It also makes it unlikely he will be able to attend the Democrats’ presidential nominating convention in Denver later this month.
Just this week Mr. Obama took care of another potential distraction at the convention, offering former President Bill Clinton a Wednesday-night speaking slot.
Separately, Vice President Dick Cheney’s office confirmed Friday morning he will address the Republican convention in St. Paul, Minn.
Mr. Obama told reporters flying with him to Chicago on Thursday he had spoken separately with Mr. Clinton and his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, this week about arrangements for the convention, which kicks off on Aug. 25.
“As is true in all conventions, we’re still working out the mechanics, the coordination,” Mr. Obama said.
There are some thorny issues still to be worked through. In an online chat on her Web site Thursday, Mrs. Clinton said she has not yet decided whether she will ask for a vote at the convention.
“I know that there have been a lot of questions on this subject. Senator Obama and I share the goal of ensuring that the voices of everyone who participated in this historic process are respected,” she said. I want to assure everyone that we are working together with Senator Obama’s campaign and the DNC, and I am confident we will have a successful and unified Convention in Denver.”
The back-and-forth over the Clintons’ convention roles, coupled with recent ambiguous comments from each, have left pundits wondering how dedicated the former first couple is to Mr. Obama’s victory. Mrs. Clinton told supporters last month her delegates needed to feel validated in the process.
In her Web chat Thursday Mrs. Clinton indicated she would be open if Mr. Obama asks her to be his running mate. She mentioned Mr. Obama 13 times during the chat, pledging “to continue to do whatever I can to help Senator Obama and Democrats across the country win in the November.”
With Mr. Obama heading to vacation in Hawaii, Mrs. Clinton begins campaigning on behalf of Mr. Obama today in Nevada, a state she won during the primaries. Later this month she will campaign in Florida, which she also won.
Mr. Clinton reportedly will speak at the convention on Wednesday night, some time before the eventual vice presidential nominee speaks that night. Mrs. Clinton is expected to speak Tuesday night.
For Republicans, the White House has said President Bush will speak Monday night. Mr. Cheney’s office said details of his speaking slot are still being worked out.
Jon Ward contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.
Stephen Dinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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