John Edwards admitted Friday he had an affair with a woman 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.
The two-time presidential candidate and 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 liaison.
“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 two presidential campaigns, which he blamed for the affair.
Related story:Elizabeth Edwards’ statement about the affair
He first acknowledged the affair to ABC News, then released a statement.
“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 statement said.
ABC said Mr. Edwards stressed he began the affair while his wife’s cancer was in remission, and that he didn’t love the other woman, Rielle Hunter.
The former Democratic vice presidential nominee and one-term senator from North Carolina told ABC he began an affair in 2006 with the woman, a divorcee, and put her on his campaign payroll, though he said he did not pay her to keep quiet about the story. ABC reported he met the woman at a New York City bar.
He denied he is the father of her 5-month-old daughter, saying the timing didn’t coincide with the affair. Frances Quinn Hunter was born Feb. 27, and no father’s name is given on the California birth certificate. Mr. Edwards said he would be willing to take “any test necessary to establish the fact that I am not the father of any baby.”
Mr. Edwards said the affair only happened in 2006, though ABC said Mr. Edwards confirmed that he did visit Ms. Hunter at her hotel in California last month, as the National Enquirer reported.
Mr. Edwards 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.”
Two weeks ago Mr. Edwards waved off a reporter who asked about the July Enquirer story in which reporters caught him at the woman’s hotel, calling it “trash.”
The Enquirer said Mr. Edwards hid in a bathroom to avoid the tabloid newspaper’s reporters.
Mrs. Edwards was diagnosed with breast cancer after his 2004 runs for president and vice president, and was diagnosed with cancer in a rib last year in the middle of Mr. Edwards’s second presidential bid. The cancer is considered treatable but not curable.
Mr. Edwards in his statement said he told his family about the affair, and asked his wife for forgiveness.
Mr. Edwards’ political action committee paid Ms. Hunter’s company $100,000 in 2006 to make campaign videos.
Political analysts said the affair takes him out of the running to be Sen. Barack Obama’s vice presidential nominee, and likely derails his political career. His distant third-place showing in this year’s Democratic primaries meant he likely could have expected only a small role at his party’s nominating convention, and even that is now in jeopardy.
Just this week Mr. Obama took care of another potential distraction at the convention, offering former President Bill Clinton a Wednesday night speaking slot. The complete speaker slate has not been announced.
Separately, Vice President Dick Cheney’s office confirmed he will address the Republican convention in St. Paul.
Mr. Obama told reporters flying with him to Chicago on Thursday that he had spoken separately with Mr. Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton this week about arrangements for the convention, which begins in Denver 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 had 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 party, 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 November.”
With Mr. Obama heading to Hawaii for a week’s vacation, Mrs. Clinton begins campaigning on his behalf 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 Wednesday night, before the eventual vice presidential nominee speaks. Mrs. Clinton is expected to speak Tuesday night.
For Republicans, the White House has said President Bush will speak Monday night. A White House source said Mr. Cheney will speak that same night.
Stephen Dinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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