Rielle Hunter speaks for the first time in GQ interview about John and Elizabeth Edwards, Andrew Young, and the big-money donors
(Our colleague Garance Franke-Ruta contributed to this report.)
For more than two years after Rielle Hunter emerged at the center of the John Edwards love-child scandal, the former campaign videographer kept quiet -- while Edwards denied fathering her daughter (before finally acknowledging it); while Elizabeth Edwards wrote a book describing her as an aggressive homewrecker; while campaign aide Andrew Young wrote one describing her as a loony, needy loose cannon.
Now, though, she's talking, in an extensive new GQ interview obtained by The Washington Post. It's a doozy.
Hunter says she's still in love with "Johnny" and believes he loves her. That they went to bed together the day they met. That his marriage was "toxic," that he feared "the wrath of Elizabeth." That it was Young's idea for the coverup in which he claimed paternity. That she had no idea how much money -- now the subject of a grand jury inquiry -- was being funneled to her from top campaign donors.
Elizabeth Edwards, who has separated from her husband, did not respond to a request for comment. Lawyers for John Edwards did not return e-mails for comment -- but in the interview, Hunter says that he is "supportive of me talking now."
The nearly 10,000-word Q&A is accompanied by photos of Hunter
styled as Jennifer Aniston might be for a glossy
mag: Glowing skin, blond hair, curled on a bed in a white shirt and
strand of pearls, bare-legged with a glimpse of panties. There are also
two pictures of Hunter holding her daughter.
In an interesting twist, the interview was conducted -- mostly over two days in late January -- by longtime GQ contributor Lisa DePaulo, whom Young informed us he had briefly hired as a ghostwriter when writing his tell-all, "The Politician." That connection, later severed, was not disclosed in the GQ article. DePaulo told us she signed a confidentiality agreement with Young, which prevented her from discussing the work they'd done -- all of which, she said, was separate from her work with Hunter, whom she first approached via mutual friends in December, six months after her last contact with Young.
"There's nothing he shared with me that I would ever share," DePaulo said. "The questions I asked her about him I think anyone would ask her."
Where to begin? How about at John and Rielle's sensational beginning.
After stating for the record that she's not getting paid for the
interview, Hunter tells DePaulo that she met Edwards in February 2006
outside a New York City hotel, after "a mutual, unusual staring" at each
other earlier inside the lounge. She was surprised to learn the
stranger she was flirting with was Edwards, who had come across as a
"two-dimensional geek" on TV. "You're so hot," she said to him. "Why,
thank you," she said he replied. He begged her to call, she says; hours
later, they met in his room.
"I. Was. Terrified," she told DePaulo. "You know, it was just this, this magnetic force field like I had never experienced."
Hunter expresses bewilderment about the money directed to her from
wealthy donors via Young, starting in May 2007 -- the month her daughter
Frances Quinn was conceived.
"Andrew would put $5,000 a month into my bank account. One month it was $6,000. He told me it was on the up-and-up and it was a gift. I had no idea where it was coming from," she said. She describes it as a "gift," rather than hush money.
Hunter takes aim at Young, who wrote in his book that he was pushed by Edwards to falsely claim paternity once the National Enquirer began sniffing around the story. Instead, Hunter insists to DePaulo, Young suggested the coverup himself. "I believe he loved Johnny more than he loved [his wife] Cheri," she says -- but also suggests that the Young family profited from the situation.
In a response to The Washington Post, Andrew Young expressed "empathy" for Hunter but also raised an eyebrow at her naivete about the donor funds.
Hunter recently sued him for the return of an alleged Edwards-Hunter sex tape the Youngs claim to have found. Judging from "the army of lawyers that represent her in her suit against me," Young said, "it is obvious to me that her attacks on me are orchestrated and paid for by the wealthy and powerful individuals most affected by this."
Hunter goes on to dispute many things that have been written about
her: The business card she handed to Edwards when first meeting didn't
say "Truth Seeker," it said "Rielle Hunter. Being Is Free." She wasn't
dressed for a Grateful Dead concert, as one staffer told journalists,
but in "a black Tse cashmere sweater, a Kenneth Cole suede jacket, and
jeans." John never promised her a rooftop wedding featuring Dave
There's a lot of New Agey talk -- John hasn't "fallen from grace... he's fallen to grace," and astrology told her he shouldn't run for president anyway. There's a lot of rationalizing -- John lied about her because "he was traumatized." There's some "Men are from Mars, women are from Venus" -- she couldn't go public sooner because she didn't want to "emasculate" her ex-lover.
And are they exes? Hunter says their relationship "evolved into something different" after the Enquirer ambushed him at their meeting at the Beverly Hilton in July 2008. Today, she says, she receives child support from Edwards but lives in a rental home. The Edwardses bought a home they thought would be ideal for her and Quinn in Charlotte, she said, but she cannot afford to live there.