Edwards affair reminder of Lewinsky scandal

August 8, 2008 7:12:02 PM PDT
Senator John Edwards has admitted to ABC News that he cheated on his wife and then repeatedly lied about it in his run for the White House. Edwards confirmed the story that first broke a month ago in a tabloid.

For Edwards it is likely the end of his political career. For the Democrats it is certainly an embarrassment. While many observers say it will have little or no effect on Senator Barack Obama's campaign, it could make the next couple of weeks more challenging than Obama would like.

The rumors of Edwards' affair with 44-year-old Rielle Hunter began circulating shortly after the two met in a New York bar in 2006. Edwards hired the novice filmmaker and paid her $114,000 to produce Web videos for his presidential campaign. After the National Enquirer broke the story in October of last year, Edwards denied the affair repeatedly.

"I've responded consistently to these tabloid allegations by saying I don't respond to these lies," said Edwards.

Even after being caught by Enquirer reporters at a late night rendezvous with Hunter at the Beverly Hilton Hotel last month, Edwards kept up the denials.

"I don't talk about these tabloids. Tabloid trash is full of lies," he said.

In an ABC Nightline report, Edwards is on the record saying, "I was and am ashamed of my conduct and choices and I had hoped that it would never become public."

He also says his wife found out about the affair in 2006 and that the misconduct took place only for a short period. He says he met Hunter in the middle of the night at the Beverly Hilton in an effort to make sure the affair would not become public. Getting caught at the hotel insured that it did.

Wade Randlett, a fund raiser for Obama, says it won't impact Obama's run for the White House.

"I do think there's an unfortunate possibility that it'll diminish the odds of him being in an Obama cabinet, assuming that Obama wins," said Randlett.

Admitting the affair also means Edwards will not be prominent at the Democratic Convention.

ABC7's political analyst, Professor Bruce Cain, says the convention brings up a second effect of the Edwards scandal. It reminds voters of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal and it comes just as Obama's campaign is trying to calm Hillary Clinton's supporters and get them on board.

"And this kind of incident just brings out a lot of anger, particularly among a lot of women voters who rightly feel Mrs. Edwards was a victim just as Mrs. Clinton had been a victim," said Professor Cain. "Just how this will play out has yet to be determined."

How that will play out in the next few weeks is hard to tell. A spokesman for the California Democratic Party tells ABC7 that it is not their ticket so it is not an issue. However, it certainly increases the scrutiny reporters will pay to rumors of infidelity. For months, the mainstream media looked the other way on this story. Both Obama and McCain will have to deal with reporters who are less likely to do that again.

Elizabeth Edwards has posted a response to the news at Daily Kos. Read it here.

You can watch ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff's complete interview with Edwards on Nightline, Friday at 11:35 p.m.


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