John Edwards: his mistress, the new age guru, and the cover-up

Once a clean-cut hero for the Democrats, the Senator's fall from grace has been rapid and complete following more lurid revelations about the affair he had while his wife battled cancer

It was the best he could do in severely botched circumstances. John Edwards, the former US Senator with that sincerer-than-thou southern drawl, went on late night television to acknowledge what a certain tabloid newspaper had been hollering for months. Yes, he had had an extra-marital affair with a videographer who had once worked for him. It was over. He loves his wife. He was sorry. End of story.

Or not. A full week later – with the Democratic Convention in Denver just days away – and the story of Mr Edwards's dalliance with the film-maker, Rielle Hunter, won't lie down. In short order, we have learned of a payment of more than $14,000 (£7,000) that was paid to Ms Hunter months after her work for the campaign was done, that a well-known Texas lawyer and Democratic fundraiser called Fred Baron made additional cash transfers to her and to the man who she claims fathered a child she bore last February (a former aide to the Senator called Andrew Young) and that Mr Baron may also have helped in providing housing for Ms Hunter after she left the campaign, first in North Carolina and then in California.

All this and a steady stream of other related tidbits – some provided by a self-described New Age guru and former close friend of Ms Hunter named Pigeon O'Brien – add to the growing impression that there is more to the Edwards' story than just family tragedy and deception. Namely, did the campaign and its staff (with or without Mr Edwards knowing) channel funds to Ms Hunter to buy her silence at a time when Mr Edwards was embarking on a campaign to become the president of the country? And, perhaps more disturbing still, did that deal include an agreement to pin the paternity of the love child on the aide, Mr Young. Just days before the start of the Democratic convention in Denver, which will culminate in the crowning of Barack Obama, are we, in fact, seeing the early outlines of a first-rate political cover-up?

It is because this is not just trivial voyeurism into a private story of marital mess, that the story the Democrats need to go away, just won't. Mr Baron, who hosted a fundraiser for Mr Obama in Colorado the night before Mr Edwards went on national TV to bare his contrite soul, is starting finally to give some substance to the rumours of his involvement in taking care of Ms Hunter as Mr Edward's campaign got off the ground.

Not that she can really know for sure, but Pigeon O'Brien has meanwhile been putting in her penny's worth about the child's paternity on the breakfast TV shows. Mr Young, she says, is not the Dad. The suspicions regarding paternity only deepened when Ms Hunter let it be known that she has no interest in submitting any of the child's DNA for a paternity test. The full extent of Mr Baron's part in this play remains blurry but is becoming more clear.

It was Mr Baron, who had served as finance chairman on Mr Edwards' campaign as well as on the 2004 campaign of John Kerry, for instance, who reportedly recommended the respective lawyers who ended up speaking for Mr Young and for Ms Hunter, the one confirming that Mr Young was the father of the child and other saying that Mr Edwards was not. And Mr Baron stepped forward to help Ms Hunter in other ways, too, both with occasional cash contributions and in finding her housing after the child was born.

"I have a brief recollection of giving someone some cash," Mr Baron admitted to The New York Times. "My assumption is I loaned some small amount of money to both of them." Elsewhere, Mr Baron last week said that whatever else he did or did not do for Hunter and Young, it was all with a view to keeping them away from prying tabloid reporters and he did all of it without the knowledge of Mr Edwards.

Then there is the matter of Ms Hunter's accommodations. By the middle of 2007, long after the affair was meant to be over and the child was already born, she moved into a house in a gated community in Raleigh, North Carolina – the same gated community where Mr Young lived with his wife and three children. Later that year, Ms Hunter and the Youngs moved to a new home in California. For a while at least, they were all living under the same roof, a rum arrangement for sure, particularly for Mr Young's wife. Mr Baron told the Times that he had covered some of the costs of that move with his own money.

Attracting red flags all last week were the circumstances of a $14,086, payment made to Ms Hunter in April 2007 with funds from Mr Edwards' now defunct political action committee, several months after her contract to make short videos for the candidate's web site had been terminated. Former aides to the Senator now insist it was a legitimate late payment for footage she had shot that had never been used.

Ms O'Brien, meanwhile, does not purport to have any window on to any of the financial goings on, only into the heart of Ms Hunter. The two were good friends – or used to be – and shared an interest in New Age teaching. Indeed, Pigeon helped Rielle create a web site for herself called beingisfree.org.

Importantly, Ms O'Brien is adamant that Mr Edwards has been fibbing about the dates and duration of the affair. It started, she says, not in the autumn of 2006 but at the start of the year after meeting for the first time at the Regency Hotel in New York. Moreover, according to Ms O'Brien during those early months of visiting North Carolina, the home state of Mr Edwards, she spoke only of him and not once of Mr Young, the purported father of her child.

When an interviewer on CBS last week asked Ms O'Brien if she believed that Mr Edwards was in fact the father, her answer was instant. "I do. I don't see any other explanation. She would not have a child with someone she doesn't love and she loves him."

Democrats have been rehearsing the what-ifs about Senator Edwards all week. What if he had decided against running and his absence had allowed Hillary Clinton to win Iowa in January? (Answer: she, not Barack Obama, might very well be the nominee now.) What if he had somehow caught fire in the primaries and he was their nominee when the extra-marital beans started spilling? (Doesn't bare thinking about.) But more urgent now is calculating to what extent the ripples from the Edward quake might damage the party at its convention in Denver and at the polls in November.

Republicans cannot throw stones when it comes to politics and bad behaviour. But this is the year when politics were meant to be upbeat and hopeful, at least according to the Democratic script. If the Edwards campaign is found to have perpetrated a cover-up, the American voters will want an explanation. If it involved a deal to conceal the Senator's paternity of the child, they may want to tear him limb from limb.

At the very least, the Edwards affair is an unwelcome downer. As Margaret Carlson, a political commentator for Bloomberg News put it: "Lying, regardless of who engages in it, rebounds to the detriment of the party that asks people to believe they can do better."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
glastonbury
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Shock of the news: Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Nightcrawler’
filmReview: Gyllenhaal, in one of his finest performances, is funny, engaging and sinister all at once
Arts and Entertainment
Shelley Duvall stars in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining
filmCritic Kaleem Aftab picks his favourites for Halloween
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington has been given a huge pay rise to extend his contract as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones
tv
Life and Style
Taste the difference: Nell Frizzell tucks into a fry-up in Jesse's cafe in east London
food + drinkHow a bike accident left one woman living in a distorted world in which spices smell of old socks and muesli tastes like pork fat
Sport
Luke Shaw’s performance in the derby will be key to how his Manchester United side get on
footballBeating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Life and Style
Google's doodle celebrating Halloween 2014
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Don’t send in the clowns: masks and make-up conceal true facial expressions, thwarting our instinct to read people’s minds through their faces, as seen in ‘It’
filmThis Halloween, we ask what makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?
News
peopleFarage challenges 'liberally biased' comedians to 'call him a narcissist'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior IP Opportunity at Major Firm

vary Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - AN OPENING AT A VERY HIGH Q...

Nursery Manager

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Nursery Manager Long term Ran...

Sales Consultant – Permanent – West Sussex – £24-£25k plus commission and other benefits

£24000 - £25000 Per Annum plus company car and commission: Clearwater People S...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£45 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply SEN Support Jobs in Bris...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes