This month, federal prosecutors said they would not retry John Edwards — the former Democratic senator from North Carolina and a two-time presidential candidate — on charges of illegally using campaign contributions to hide an extramarital affair with his mistress Rielle Hunter. A jury in North Carolina had earlier acquitted him on one count of finance fraud and deadlocked on five other counts, enabling Edwards to avoid what could have been a hefty prison sentence. However, Hunter's new memoir — What Really Happened: John Edwards, Our Daughter, and Me — is unlikely to help him in the court of public opinion. Here, 6 sordid details from Hunter's book, excerpts of which were reported ahead of its June 26 release date:
1. Edwards had multiple extramarital affairs
Hunter reveals that Edwards "had affairs with at least two other women dating back 20 years," says Russell Goldman at ABC News. When he first met Hunter in 2006, he even falsely informed her that he already had three mistresses (in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Florida) so that Hunter would not become too attached to him. Hunter says Edwards (whom she refers to throughout the book as "Johnny") "has a long history of lying about one thing only — women."
2. Hunter and Edwards may still be romantically involved
Hunter is coy about the current status of her relationship with Edwards, saying only that "she still has romantic feelings for Edwards but doesn't know how their relationship will turn out," says Meg Kinnard at The Associated Press. (Hunter will apparently elaborate on the topic in an interview with ABC's 20/20 airing later this week.) She says Edwards is a good father to their child, Quinn, "when he is with her."
3. Hunter didn't like Edwards' wife
Hunter's book at times devolves into "a screed against Edwards' wife Elizabeth, whom Hunter routinely describes as 'crazy' and blames for driving Edwards into the arms of other women," says Goldman. Hunter assails Elizabeth for portraying herself as a "saint" in the media, while acting like a "witch on wheels" outside the campaign spotlight. (Elizabeth died of cancer in 2010, and the emotional fallout she experienced upon discovering the affair was a prominent feature in Edwards' trial.)
4. Edwards was 'temporarily insane'
Hunter theorizes that Edwards must have been "temporarily insane" in 2008 when he acknowledged the affair but denied paternity of Quinn. "Think about it," she says. "Sane healthy people do not deny their children, especially on national TV, simply because they are afraid of their abusive spouse's reaction. Only a mentally off person would do that."
5. Edwards thought he would go to a 'country club' jail
Hunter recounts a scene in which she asked the former senator where he thought he would be jailed if convicted on the fraud charges. Edwards apparently speculated that he would go to a "country club" prison somewhere in Virginia.
6. Hunter wrote the book for her daughter
Hunter says she published the book so that her daughter Quinn could "have one entirely truthful public account of how she came into the world." ("This was," scoffs Dan Amira at New York, apparently "the only way.")
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why all drugs should be legal. (Yes, even heroin.)
- The big, gaping hole in the liberal policy arsenal
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- The forgotten victims of the war in Ukraine
- 10 things you need to know today: July 28, 2014
- Why you should really take a nap this afternoon, according to science
- Blame Obama and U.S. evangelicals for the persecution of Iraqi Christians
- A gay Mormon's complicated journey
- 7 things the world's happiest people do every day
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
Subscribe to the Week