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John Edwards' attorneys say he's been providing financial support for 2-year-old Quinn for about a year, and just signed a child support agreement with Rielle Hunter. “I am Quinn’s father,” Edwards said in a written statement provided exclusively to NBC News. “I will do everything in my power to provide her with the love and support she deserves.”
By
TODAY
updated 7/8/2013 4:18:37 PM ET 2013-07-08T20:18:37
NBC News exclusive

For the first time, John Edwards is publicly admitting that he is indeed the father of a 2-year-old daughter conceived with Rielle Hunter, a campaign videographer with whom he had an affair.

In a written statement provided exclusively to NBC News, the former North Carolina senator and Democratic presidential candidate says he’s taking responsibility for the child, Frances Quinn Hunter:

“I am Quinn’s father. I will do everything in my power to provide her with the love and support she deserves. I have been able to spend time with her during the past year and trust that future efforts to show her the love and affection she deserves can be done privately and in peace.

It was wrong for me ever to deny she was my daughter and hopefully one day, when she understands, she will forgive me. I have been providing financial support for Quinn and have reached an agreement with her mother to continue providing support in the future.

To all those I have disappointed and hurt these words will never be enough, but I am truly sorry.”

Harrison Hickman, Edwards’ close friend and personal adviser, spoke to NBC’s Lisa Myers on Edwards’ behalf.

“The senator wants to say, first of all, that he is the father of Quinn,” Hickman said.  “Secondly, he wants people to know that he has provided for her and will continue to provide for her, as he should, both financially and emotionally.”

Edwards is not speaking publicly today, at least in part because of an ongoing federal investigation into whether campaign money was used to try to cover up the affair. He has denied wrongdoing. Hickman said that Edwards wanted to be honest about his child, but also wanted to protect his privacy.

“He’s not doing this as a way to try to bring attention to himself,” Hickman said. “He’s doing this as a way … to begin to put this behind, not just him, but everybody else who’s been affected by this.”

Edwards’ attorneys say he’s been seeing Quinn and providing financial support for about a year, and just signed a child support agreement with Hunter. A spokesperson for Elizabeth Edwards says she learned last summer that Quinn is her husband’s child.

Why wait more than two years to publicly admit paternity?

“He has acknowledged it long before now. The reason it has taken so long for it to become public is thatthere were a lot of people involved,” Hickman said. “There are a lot of adults involved, there are a number of families involved, and there are also a lot of kids involved.”

Fall of the man who sought presidency
Today’s announcement marks another chapter in the fall of a man once considered a leading candidate for president. Edwards’ personal and political troubles began after the tabloid National Enquirer began reporting in October 2007 on his affair with Hunter, now 45.

TODAY
In 2007, the National Enquirer began reporting that John Edwards had had an affair with Rielle Hunter. Edwards called the reports “lies.”

Edwards, who has been married to breast cancer survivor Elizabeth for 32 years, denied the affair at first. He called the claims “tabloid trash that’s full of lies.” 

In 2008, after his failed presidential bid, Edwards eventually confirmed to ABC News that he had had an affair with Hunter, but he vehemently denied that he was the father of Hunter’s child.

“I know that it's not possible that this child could be mine because of the timing of events,” Edwards told ABC News at the time.

Now Hickman says, “I do not know if he knew it was his daughter at the time, but I know he lied when he said it was not possible … I think he is certainly regretful of that.”

TODAY
This campaign photo shows John Edwards with both his wife, Elizabeth (far left), and mistress, videographer Rielle Hunter (holding camera at right).
Edwards’ admission today also indicates that his relationship with Hunter continued months after his wife announced that her cancer had returned and that it was incurable.

Elizabeth Edwards is still undergoing cancer treatment and makes occasional appearances about health care. Last summer she opened a furniture shop in Chapel Hill, N.C., not far from the family’s mansion.

“Elizabeth thinks he should acknowledge this,” Hickman said. “It's been a very difficult time for everyone, but for Elizabeth, I think, more than anyone else, it's been a difficult time.”

TODAY
Harrison Hickman, a close friend and adviser to John Edwards, spoke to NBC News on the former presidential candidate’s behalf.
Hickman said Edwards wanted to “do the right thing” and come clean in the summer of 2008, but that he couldn’t bring himself to do so.

“It was complicated … certainly more complicated than I knew,” Hickman explained. “He had to be able to talk to Elizabeth about it. He had to be able to talk to Rielle about it. He had to talk to us [and] his children about it. He had to deal with legal issues involving support for the child.”

Once the legal issues were resolved, Hickman said, Edwards “wanted to move forward immediately with letting people know about it.”

Hickman said he didn’t know the status of Edwards’ relationships with Hunter or his wife, but other family friends say John and Elizabeth have separated, at least for now, but still talk on a regular basis.

TODAY
In a written statement to NBC News, John Edwards said it was wrong for him ever to deny the daughter he fathered with Rielle Hunter.
Edwards bought a house for Quinn and her mother to live in in Charlotte, N.C., more than two hours away from his home in Chapel Hill. Now, Hickman said, the former senator is trying to stay out of the public spotlight and focus his energy on family and doing good deeds like helping the poor.

Hickman says that for Edwards, Quinn has the same status as the three children he has with Elizabeth.

“He talks about her being a beautiful child and a happy child,” said Hickman. “I think he’s very proud of this child. I think he’s proud of all of his children. I think, you know, today he’s glad to be able to say publicly that he is.”

‘He wants to be a good father’
Edwards’ admission comes on the heels of the political expose “Game Change” by journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, which sent shock waves around Washington, D.C., with its account of the 2008 presidential election. A portion of the book that was excerpted in New York magazine dealt with intimate details of Edwards’ affair and his strained relationship with his wife.

U.S. presidential candidate John Edwards and wife Elizabeth talk to the media regarding Elizabeth's ongoing battle with cancer in Chapel Hill
Ellen Ozier  /  Reuters file
John Edwards and wife Elizabeth talk to the media regarding Elizabeth's ongoing battle with cancer during a news conference in Chapel Hill, N.C., in 2007. Edwards’ announcement today indicates that his relationship with Rielle Hunter continued after his wife announced her cancer had returned.
The admission also comes in advance of a tell-all book by Andrew Young, a former Edwards campaign worker who originally claimed to be the father of Hunter’s child.

But Hickman says that the book had no bearing on Edwards’ decision to go public.

“I don’t know that anything that it says could be any worse than things that have already been written by the marginal press,” he said.

Americans consider Edwards the “most disappointing” public figure, according to Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll results released in December 2009.

When asked about Edwards’ reaction to the poll, Hickman said, “If anybody knows that he’s been a disappointment, it’s John Edwards … He knows saying he’s sorry isn’t enough, but he is incredibly remorseful about the pain he’s caused people … He wants to be a good father and, you know, be a good person again.”

Vidya Rao produced this story for TODAYshow.com

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive.  Reprints

Video: John Edwards admits fathering Hunter’s child

  1. Closed captioning of: John Edwards admits fathering Hunter’s child

    >> they are, for sure.

    >>> let's begin with the "today" exclusive, john edwards admitting he is the father of his former mistress's 22-month-old daughter. nbc senior investigative correspondent lisa myers has the details on this story. lisa, good morning.

    >> reporter: good morning, matt. as you said, senator edwards ' statement had been months in the making, and it confirms what many americans have already concluded, that at the same time he was running for president, john edwards fathered a child . today, he is publicly embracing that child for the first time.

    >> this way, senator.

    >> reporter: after two years of scandal, deception and betrayal --

    >> the story's false.

    >> reporter: -- that destroyed his political career and wrecked his personal life , john edwards this morning is trying to right a wrong. are you speaking for the senator today?

    >> i am speaking for the senator to the extent that anyone can, yes.

    >> reporter: harrison hickman is edwards ' longtime close friend and trusted political adviser, coming forward to help deliver a message about francis quinn hunter, the child born to rielle hunter, with whom edwards had an affair.

    >> the senator wants to say that, first of all, he is the father of quinn . secondly, he wants everybody to know that he has provided for her and will continue to provide for her, as he should, both financially and emotionally.

    >> reporter: in a written statement provided exclusively to nbc news, edwards says, "i am quinn 's father. i will do everything in my power to provide her with the love and support she deserves. it was wrong for me ever to deny she was my daughter, and hopefully, one day, when she understands, she will forgive me." when he talks about the child , what does he tell you? how does he feel about this child ?

    >> he talks about her being a beautiful child and a happy child . like any father, he talks about how it makes him feel when he's around quinn , which is, you know, very happy. i think he's very proud of this child .

    >> reporter: this child is almost 2 years old. why did it take so long for the senator to acknowledge that he is her father?

    >> it was a lot more complicated, i think, than most people think. there are a lot of adults involved, and i think they wanted to handle this the right way for jack and emma clair and kate as well as for quinn .

    >> reporter: edwards ' attorneys say he's been seeing quinn and providing financial support for about a year and just signed a child support agreement with hunter. a spokesperson for elizabeth edwards says she learned last summer that quinn is her husband's child . today's announcement marks another chapter in the fall of a man once considered a leading candidate for president.

    >> we're going to start changing this country now.

    >> reporter: a man whose hubris and recklessness brought personal destruction. in this photo, edwards is seen with both his wife and his mistress the night before he first confided to his wife he'd been unfaithful, but when tabloid headlines forced a public admission of the affair with hunter, his campaign volunteeri videographer in august 2008 , he denied hunter's child was his.

    >> i know that it's not possible that this child could be mine because of the timing of events. so, i know it's not possible.

    >> reporter: did he know at the time that this was his daughter?

    >> i don't know if he knew it was his daughter at the time, but i know he lied when he said it was not possible, and he knows he lied. you know, i think he is certainly regretful for that.

    >> reporter: the senator also has said that the affair with rielle hunter occurred when elizabeth 's cancer was in remission. however, this child was conceived three months after elizabeth announced that her cancer was back and it was incurable.

    >> you're right. i mean, there -- as he has said, he's been deceitful about it. he's lied about it.

    >> reporter: elizabeth edwards is still undergoing cancer treatment and makes occasional public appearances about health care . she opened a furniture shop last summer in chapel hill , north carolina , not far from the family's mansion. how is elizabeth feeling with this new member of the family?

    >> elizabeth thinks that he should acknowledge this. it's been a very difficult time for everyone, but for elizabeth i think more than anyone else . it's been a difficult time.

    >> reporter: friends say john and elizabeth edwards have separated, at least for now, but still talk on a regular basis. edwards bought this house for quinn and her mother to live in in charlotte, more than two hours away from his home in chapel hill , which set the neighborhood abuzz.

    >> i haven't heard anybody say, "oh, no!" but it's been like, oh, gosh. and then very we thought, oh, dear, the press will be here a lot.

    >> reporter: john edwards now tries to stay out of the public spotlight. he spends time at his beach house and went to el salvador three times last year to help build houses for the poor.

    >> he's done good, old-fashioned work. i mean, he's helped build hospitals, schools.

    >> reporter: in his statement, edwards said, "to all those i have disappointed and hurt, these words will never be enough, but i am truly sorry."

    >> he knows that saying he's sorry isn't enough, but he is incredibly remorseful about the pain he's caused people. he wants to be a good father, and you know, be a good person again.

    >> reporter: edwards is not speaking publicly today, at least in part because of an ongoing federal investigation into whether campaign money was used to try to cover up the affair. he has denied wrongdoing. tomorrow we'll take a look at that investigation, matt, and at the former aide who now claims to have been at the center of that cover-up.

    >> all right, nbc 's lisa myers . lisa, an extraordinary story. thank you very much.

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