John Edwards's Scandals

Allegedly Cheated On His Dying Wife
Sweetheart Real Estate Deal with Saudi Lobbyist
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Allegedly Cheated on His Dying Wife (And Got His Mistress Pregnant)


John Edwards today (8/8/08) confirmed his affair with Rielle Hunter to ABC News. We've run this item since last winter, when print and broadcast journalists wouldn't touch it, and even blogs were leery. Here is what we wrote:

This item does NOT have solid proof, and it was a very close call whether to list it here at all. In the end, after reading all the evidence, my gut tells me that it's real but lacks a smoking gun. If anyone has solid evidence to offer, either way, please email me with details.

The National Enquirer reported first (in October 2007) that Edwards was having an affair with an unnamed staffer, and later (in December 2007) said that her name was Rielle Hunter, and that she was 6 months pregnant with Edwards' child. His campaign denies it and the lawyer for Hunter said another Edwards campaign staffer, Andy Woods, got her pregnant.

Here are the FACTS we know for sure: picture of Rielle Rielle Hunter is an attractive 44-year old divorcee who had a reputation as a New York City party girl (and called herself Lisa Druck) when she dated author Jay McInerney in the late 1980s. McInerney based the narrator Alison Poole of his book "The Story of My Life" on her, describing Alison as "an ostensibly jaded, cocaine-addled, sexually voracious 20-year-old who was, shall we say, inspired by Lisa." Later Druck moved to Los Angeles to (in her words) get away from the drugs. She found spiritual enlightenment, and took the name Rielle Hunter.

Hunter described these events on a New Age website, "Being Is Free." That website is no longer available, even in archives, but this quote was preserved by "On May 4th 2004, enlightenment happened. Meaning, I realized I AM what I've been looking for. And it's my experience that when Self truly realizes Self, the awareness doesn't go anywhere, there is nowhere for it to go. It's always here. Enlightenment is conscious connectedness with It, felt oneness with totality that never goes away. Enlightenment is living a human life as awareness of being 24/7."

In December of 2006, Newsweek ran a feature on several new "webisodes", videos showing the "real John Edwards", on his campaign website. This was many months before any rumors of an affair. Rielle Hunter made the webisodes, and the campaign paid her company $114,000 for them. The Newsweek feature said that Rielle met Edwards in a New York bar, and convinced him to hire her for the videos. In its review, the Newsweek writer added that "In the midst of a short theme sequence that begins each Webisode, the camera lingers over the former senator’s behind as he tucks a starched white shirt into his pants. Still, Hunter, now under contract with Edwards’s organization, says she sees the untucked John Edwards coming more and more to the fore."

Sometime in the spring of 2007, the videos disappeared, and Hunter's website was pulled down as well. As of October, 2007, an archive of her website was available on the "Wayback Machine" archive, showing that it was last updated in April 2007, but since then that archive has been blocked by the original website's owner, apparently Hunter. If she was "more than 6 months pregnant" in December 2007, as all seem to agree, she presumably got pregnant some time between March and June of 2007.

In March of 2007, Elizabeth Edwards announced that her cancer had recurred and was not curable.

In late September of 2007, a young reporter with the Huffington Post blog, Sam Stein, noticed or was tipped off that the webisodes has disappeared and started asking questions. He got surprisingly strong rejections from the campaign and from Rielle Hunter's production company, Midline Groove Productions. Though she is an film and video actress and producer, and member of the Screen Actor's Guild, she has no way to contact her on the Internet (which is very unusual), even opting out of the Screen Actor's Guild membership database. The campaign denied that they had the videos, then later offered to show him a copy.

Stein published an update with links to the webisodes, which had been posted anonymously on Youtube, on October 10th -- the same day that the National Enquirer published their first story alleging Edwards had an affair with a staffer they didn't name. (While the Enquirer did not name Rielle Hunter, several blogs put two and two together and identified her by name.) Edwards and Hunter both denied any "unprofessional" behavior, and no mainstream papers reported anything beyond the National Enquirer's allegation and the denials.

It does not seem to be disputed that in November, 2007, Rielle Hunter moved from New York City to a gated community named "Governor's Club" in North Carolina, less than 5 miles from the Edwards' headquarters. Another resident of the Governor's Club is Andrew Young -- not the former Atlanta Mayor, but a 41-year old longtime Edwards aide, who lives there with his wife and 2 children. Young quit his job as John Edward's Director of Operations about the same time Rielle Hunter moved there. Hunter is living in a house owned by an unnamed Edwards supporter, and driving a BMW SUV registered to Young.

On December 18, 2007, the Enquirer reported that Hunter was "over six months" pregnant and had told close friends that the baby was Edwards'. He again denied it, and her lawyer issued a statement naming Andrew Young as the father, and not Edwards. The Enquirer article quoted Hunter as saying that Young was just a friend, and that he had been appointed to find her a house and car. Those are the facts that we know.

What about the National Enquirer? Well, it is definitely a tabloid that has peddled some questionable stories, and pays it sources cash for their stories and pictures. At the same time, they are subject to libel laws like anyone else, and in the past they have uncovered a number of legitimate political scandals about politicians in both parties -- Jesse Jackson's love child, Bob Dole's affair during his first marriage, Rush Limbaugh's problem with Oxycontin, and most famously Monica Lewinsky's blue dress.

In this case, they say that their sources are two different close friends of Rielle Hunter, and that they were given emails and voice mail messages that support the story. For example, they quote one email from Hunter where she said "Last night and this a.m., he actually has amazed me. He is a great man. My heart is loud and my head is silenced."

What about the videos themselves? 3 of the 4 (and a bit less than half of the fourth video) are now available on YouTube and WebCastr. There is certainly no smoking gun in them that would justify hiding them.

This is all subjective, but to my eye there are definite signs of Edwards flirting with Hunter captured on tape. Newsweek commented on the focus on his butt in the opening sequence back in December of 2006. The first video is a dialog between Rielle and Edwards, where he's bragging about a speech he's going to give that night, and he definitely appears to be showing off for her, or just plain in love. (Some bloggers have thought he was drunk.) At the beginning of the video, about 45 seconds in, she is walking on the plane, and as Edwards greets her he definitely has a "cat that ate the bird" smile. At the very end of the second video, (starting at 4:58), Edwards teases Rielle about falling down. "Did you get a shot of her where she fell on her butt?", he asks the second cameraman. "Very graceful, camera girl."

Obviously this is all speculation, and I was looking for signs of flirting. But just as interesting as the fact that he flirted with her is the fact that she included the clips in the finished videos.
Affair Sources

Sweetheart Real Estate Deal with Saudi Lobbyist

John Edwards is on the Senate Intelligence Committee, whose members have high security clearances, are privy to highly classified data and have been actively investigating links between Saudi Arabia and the 9/11 terrorist attacks (15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis.)

Michael Petruzello is a lobbyist, registered foreign agent and the manager of Qorvis Communications. That firm was hired by Saudi Arabia on November 14, 2001 (just 2 months after 9-11) to counter criticism of the Arab kingdom.

On May 17, 2002, Petruzello offered to buy Edwards' Washington home -- which had been on the market for over a year -- for 3.52 million dollars. (Edwards paid 2.2 million for it in 1999.) The deal later fell through but Edwards still has the $100,000 deposit. He says he hasn't decided whether to keep it, and would only have to report the conflict of interest if he does so. The house eventually sold for $3 million, a full $500,000 less than the Saudi agent offered.

The Edwards claims he had no idea Petruzzello worked for the Saudis, but in the weeks before the offer Petruzzello visited Edwards home state of North Carolina with the Saudis as part of their publicity campaign, and he was widely quoted in Washington and national publications describing his work for the Saudis. His firm even ran pro-Saudi TV ads in 20 large markets including North Carolina (and other states from which Senate Intelligence Committee members came.)

Kent Cooper, the former head of the government's public disclosure office for federal candidates, said " The potential conflict of interest is readily apparent when a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence receives $100,000 in a real or sham business deal with a foreign agent or a person with extensive foreign contracts at teh same time the Senate is investigating possible lapses in national security."

Highly Suspicious Campaign Contributions

John Edwards, who is himself a lawyer, has received tons of campaign money from law firms. Nothing illegal or particularly wrong about that, however you may feel about lawyers.

But many of them show strong signs of being illegal contributions designed to evade limits on the amount of contributions, by having employees and spouses "contribute" money that a wealthy lawyer wanted to give. Other campaigns have used these practices; Bob Dole's national campaign co-chairman was convicted of the practice in 1996.

There are several cases described in "The Hill" (a magazine about Congress) where low-paid paralegals who had never contributed to campaigns before, and weren't registered to vote (or were even Republicans) gave the maximum $2,000 donation to Edwards. So did their spouse and several other people at the law firm where they work. Two had even filed bankruptcy recently.

We can't prove these people were helping their bosses give more than the $2,000 maximum. But, as Bill Allison of the non-partisan Center for Public Integrity said, “It seems on the surface very suspicious. I think it is somewhat questionable that people who have never donated before would suddenly donate $2,000,” he said.

In one case there IS direct evidence that such an employee was illegally contributing for her boss. Michelle Abu-Halmeh, a legal assistant at Turner & Associates in Arkansas, told The Washington Post in April of 2003 that she expected to be reimbursed by her boss for her $2,000 contribution. The Department of Justice has begun a criminal investigation of the case.


Affair Sources

"Politics 2008: John Edwards, Untucked", By Jonathan Darman, NEWSWEEK, Dec 25, 2006

Excellent wrapup of the source materials -- "John Edwards Love Child Scandal - A Year Ago This Woman Told Newsweek ‘She Sees The Untucked John Edwards Coming More And More To The Fore’", By Luke Ford, the Luke Ford Website, December 18, 2007, 7:14 PM


"UPDATE: JOHN EDWARDS LOVE CHILD SCANDAL!", the National Enquirer, December 19, 2007

The first Rielle Hunter video ("Plane Truths"), hosted on

That same first video, on YouTube

Second Webisode Video ("Golden Rule"), on YouTube

Third Webisode Video ("Plight of Uganda"), on YouTube

Fourth Webisode Video ("Plugs"), on Webcastr. (It cuts off after 2 and a half minutes).

"Well, She's Hotter Than Monica", website, October 10, 2007

Edwards Mystery: Innocuous Videos Suddenly Shrouded In Secrecy" by Sam Stein, The Huffington Post Website, September 26, 2007 11:34 PM

"Scrubbed: Edwards Filmmaker's Deleted Website Raises Questions", by Sam Stein, The Huffington Post, October 10, 2007

Saudi connection -- "Edwards House Sale Raises Questions", The Oregonian (from AP), November 1, 2003 pA4

Contributions -- "Donations to Sen. Edwards questioned," By Sam Dealey , The Hill (a non-partisan magazine about Congress), May 7, 2003

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