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In an interview with GQ magazine, Rielle Hunter says of her affair with John Edwards: “We love each other very much, and that hasn’t changed.” But Elizabeth Edwards’ sister says Hunter is “delusional” in that regard.
TODAY contributor
updated 3/18/2010 9:37:46 AM ET 2010-03-18T13:37:46

Elizabeth Edwards’ sister and friends have fired back at John Edwards’ former mistress, calling Rielle Hunter “delusional” and saying Elizabeth was “disgusted” by photos of Hunter that appeared in GQ magazine.

“Honestly, she just sounds delusional,” Elizabeth’s sister, Nancy Anania, says of Hunter in a People magazine article that has just hit the newsstands. “Whatever she thinks she knows [about the marriage], she received secondhand. It was not a broken marriage.”

Anania and other friends of Elizabeth Edwards were reacting to a lengthy interview with Hunter published Monday by GQ. It was the first time Hunter has spoken publicly about the affair that ended John Edwards’ political career and produced a 2-year-old daughter, Frances Quinn.

Among the pictures Hunter posed for were some showing her clad only in a white men’s dress shirt and a string of pearls.

‘Jaw hit the floor’
Sandra Sobieraj Westfall, People magazine’s Washington correspondent, told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira Thursday that Elizabeth Edwards first learned that the GQ article was coming out on Sunday, but didn’t see the article or the pictures until Monday, when it was published.

In a People magazine cover story, Elizabeth Edwards is reported to have been “disgusted” by revealing photos of her husband’s mistress, Rielle Hunter.
“Her sister and people that are in touch with Elizabeth and have some knowledge of her thinking had spoken to her that day, and said that her jaw hit the floor like everybody else’s, but that she moved on pretty quickly,” Westfall told Vieira.

That morning, Elizabeth went to work at her furniture store and updated her Facebook page, but didn’t mention the article on it.

“She was talking about the Republican hypocrisy on health care. She was commenting on her friends’ photo albums and business at the store,” Westfall said. “You wouldn’t know that anything was happening in her life that day other than that business at the store was brisk.”

Westfall said that Elizabeth’s silence didn’t mean she was unaffected — only that two years of tabloid headlines and embarrassing revelations about her husband have taught her to absorb the news and move on.

“After so many years of being pummeled by revelation after revelation, I think she’s learning to tune it out,” Westfall told Vieira.

Rielle Hunter poses with Frances Quinn, her daughter fathered by John Edwards, in GQ magazine.
Hunter had told GQ that she and John Edwards are still in love. “I know he loves me,” she said. “I have never had any doubt at all about that. We love each other very much. And that hasn’t changed, and I believe that will be till death do us part.”

Hunter also said that the Edwardses’ marriage was broken and talked about her fear of the “wrath of Elizabeth.”

Conflicting accounts
Anania told Westfall that Hunter’s perception of the marriage was wrong.

“Nancy was there when the two of them renewed their vows on their 30th wedding anniversary, and she said if Rielle Hunter wants to claim that John Edwards never lied to her, then she wasn’t there to see the love in that relationship. She said it’s always been a marriage that she and those that knew the Edwardses envied,” Westfall said.

Hunter also said that Elizabeth learned of the affair two years ago when she found a cell phone that John used only to talk to Hunter. According to Hunter, Elizabeth dialed the last number called on the phone and Hunter picked up, thinking it was John, and said, “Hi, baby.” She said Elizabeth hung up and then confronted her husband.

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That account is substantially different from Elizabeth’s story of how she learned of her husband’s infidelity.

Video: John Edwards admits fathering Hunter’s child “Elizabeth says that John came to her almost apropos of nothing and just confessed a one-night mistake,” Westfall said. Elizabeth would learn later it was more than one night, and, in January, John finally admitted to being the father of Hunter’s daughter.

The Edwardses have separated, with Elizabeth, who is battling cancer, staying in their home and running her furniture store. They have a grown daughter and share custody of their two younger children. John also regularly sees his daughter by Hunter.

“For her to have her credibility questioned was annoying, to say the least,” Westfall said of Elizabeth. “I was told that her only official response was going to be that she stands by her version of how she found out.”

But Hunter is also standing by her version. In a statement to NBC News, she said she regrets posing for the racy photos that ran with her interview and wishes the magazine had chosen other, more “appropriate” pictures.

“I stand by this interview and would give the exact same answers under oath,” Hunter said.

‘Co-parenting relationship’
Westfall said that whatever relationship John and Hunter have, it’s no longer physical.

Relations beween John and Elizabeth Edwards have reportedly grown more cordial in recent days.
“People that see the Edwardses regularly, talk to them regularly, said that there’s absolutely no indication that there’s an ongoing relationship between John and Rielle,” Westfall told Vieira. “They have a functional, co-parenting relationship where he calls and checks on Quinn, and they make arrangements to visit with his daughter. But it’s still always with a third party and not Rielle present.”

John Edwards’ relationship with Elizabeth, Westfall went on, is cordial. Video: Ex-Sen. Edwards and wife Elizabeth split

“I’m told they don’t even fight anymore,” she said. “The temperature has come down, and they’re figuring out a way to co-parent and make it work.”

Finally, Vieira asked about Elizabeth’s ongoing battle with cancer and the general state of her health.

“It seems good,” Westfall replied. “She gets tired, usually around the end of the day, and she needs to take catnaps, but she’s got a lot of energy. She’s planning to travel overseas with her sister and her children. So she’s moving forward. She’s creating a whole new life for herself.”

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Video: Elizabeth Edwards ‘disgusted’ by photos

  1. Closed captioning of: Elizabeth Edwards ‘disgusted’ by photos

    >>> she's taken.

    >>> the fallout from rielle hunter's interview and photo spread with " gq " magazine. what did elizabeth edwards think about it?

    >> reporter: john and elizabeth edwards have been separated since january but friends and family now tell "people" magazine that elizabeth was just beginning to move on with her life when she read "" gq 's"" exclusive interview with rielle hunter this week. the pictures left little to the imagination. john edwards ' former mistress rielle hunter, the mother of their 2-year-old daughter, telling " gq " magazine that "i love johnny and i love my daughter more than anything in the world." and aiming her fire at elizabeth edwards saying "the wrath of elizabeth is a mighty wrath." but now, the new issue of "people" magazine quotes elizabeth edwards ' sister, calling hunter delusional. especially regarding hunter's claims that the edwardses marriage was broken long before she became the other woman. "whatever she thinks she knows about the marriage, she received secondhand. it was not a broken marriage." "people" quotes friends eve liz beth say ing she was disgusted by the racy photographs of rielle posing with her daughter's toys but after reading the interview monday, she still went about her day as usual, stopping by the furniture store she now runs in chapel hill , north carolina , and taking her two youngest children to a soccer game. for her part, hunter told barbara walter she herself found the pictures repulsive.

    >> well, if that was the case, then why did you pose the way you did. she said that she trusted the photographer who she said is a brilliant photographer and she, quote, "i went with the flow." as to hunter's claims to " gq " about edwards that "we love each other very much," people also reports that john edwards and hunter talk on the phone about 2-year-old frances quinn but do not see each other in person. as for john and elizabeth edwards , "people" reports that john has moved out of their chapel hill mansion and that the two have cordial relations. what about former edwards aide andrew young who's publish that best-selling tell-all book bet edwardses and rielle hunter? he's just signed with a top hollywood agent, the brother of white house chief of staff rahm emanuel , who wants to turn his story into a movie. matt?

    >> norah o'donnell, thank you very much.

    >>> last night rielle hunter provided a statement exclusively to nbc about those photographs that accompanied the " gq " article. in it she says, "i understood what photos were being taken. it was my mistake to pose for them given i had no photo control or approval. i also posed for many photos that i thought were more appropriate for the content of the interview. obviously, i really wish they had decided to use those. i stand by this interview and would give the exact same answers under oath." again, that's a statement provided to nbc news by rielle hunter. for more on the story now, here's meredith.

    >>> matt, thank you. "people" magazine's washington correspondent who collaborated on the new elizabeth edwards article is here. sandra, good morning. you quote sources in the article. i know you talked to her sister.

    >> her sister and people in touch with elizabeth and have some knowledge of her thinking had spoken to her that day and said that her jaw hit the floor like everybody else 's, but that she moved on pretty quickly.

    >> how did she find out about the article?

    >> she was tipped off the night before when the " washington post " obtained a copy and i was told she went to bed early, didn't even wait for the "post" story.

    >> it was really like at midnight.

    >> right. she had already gone to bed. she saw it the next morning when most of us did.

    >> you say sources told you she then went about business pretty much as usual, including making several postings on o her facebook account. in those postings did she reference at all the article?

    >> there wasn't a whiff of the article, nothing. she talked about the republican hypocrisy on health kaye. she was commenting on her friend's photo albums and business at the store.

    >> if it bothered her, nobody knew about it based on what they wrote on facebook again.

    >> not at all. you wouldn't know that anything was happening in her life that day other than business at the store was brisk.

    >> there was one comment in particular by rielle that bothered elizabeth the most, that is how elizabeth found out about the affair.

    >> for her to have her credibility questioned was annoying, to say the least. and i was told that her only official response was going to be that she stands by her version of how she found out.

    >> and what's the discrepancy there between what she says and what rielle says?

    >> elizabeth says that john came to her almost like nothing and just confessed a one-night mistake and rielle hunter says that, no, it was elizabeth finding a cell phone that they had their secret cell phone . she dialed the last number dialed and rielle picked up, said, "hi, baby," and that's how it was found out. then confronted john.

    >> elizabeth says that's totally untrue.

    >> that john came to her and confessed it was just one night.

    >> her sister, nancy, did say that rielle, to her, sounded delusional is the word she used when she said that their marriage was already broken before the affair began. did she tell you anything else about the state of the edwards marriage before the affair?

    >> nancy was there when the two of them renewed their vows on their 30th wedding anniversary . she said if rielle hunter wants to claim that john edwards never lied to her, then she wasn't there to see the love in that relationship. she said it's always been a marriage that she and those who know the edwardses envied.

    >> the fact that rielle talks about the relationship with john, or johnny, as she calls him, in the present tense , she said to " gq ," "i do know that i will love him and that love is until death do us part." according to a friend you interviewed, john and rielle do not see each other and went on to say, sounds like most of that is in her head. is it the implication that she's lying about that as well.

    >> people who see and talk to the edwardses regularly say there is absolutely no indication there is an ongoing relationship between john and rielle. they have a functional co-parenting arrangement where he calls and checks on quinn and they make arrangements for him to visit with his daughter, but it's still always with a third party and not with rielle present.

    >> how hurtful was it to elizabeth to see those photos of rielle in that magazine?

    >> you know, i was told disgusted, like everybody else was. i think was the phrase used. but after so many years of being pummeled with revelation after revelation, i think she's learning to tune it out.

    >> what do they say about elizabeth 's relationship with john at this point? obviously he has moved out of the house, he's living elsewhere.

    >> cordial. i'm told they don't even fight anymore. it's more on the phone, if elizabeth is irked by something, it's more like, hey, this isn't cool. but that the temperature has come down and they are figuring out a way to co-parent and make it work.

    >> did they talk at all about elizabeth 's health at this point?

    >> that is seems, good. yeah. that she gets tired, usually around the end of the day and needs to take little cat naps, but that she's got a lot of energy. she's planning some travel overseas with her sister and her children.

    >> she's moving forward .

    >> she's creating a whole new life for herself.

    >> before i let you go, some sad news people reported about sandra bullock . what can you tell us?

    >> she left the family home in southern california on monday just before the news broke in the tabloid about the rumors of her husband's infidelity. but nobody is saying split or broken up. she's just not currently living in the same place as her husband.

    >> we wish her the best obviously along with elizabeth edwards as well. sandra, thank you so much for your insight this morning.

    >>> now let's get a check


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