March 30, 2013 at 11:33 AM ET
In her first interview since her father's extramarital affair and trial for campaign finance fraud derailed his political career, Cate Edwards told Savannah Guthrie that she still considers John Edwards “an incredible father.’’
Cate, 31, is the oldest of John Edwards’ three children with Elizabeth Edwards, the beloved author and healthcare activist who died from breast cancer in 2010.
John Edwards also has a 5-year-old daughter, Frances Quinn, from his relationship with former staffer Rielle Hunter, which led to charges of him using campaign contributions to cover up the affair. Cate said she remains close to him despite his public tribulations.
“He’s been an incredible father,’’ she told Guthrie, in an interview that aired on TODAY Saturday. “Incredibly loving and supportive. Sometimes he’ll just call me up to ask how my law career's going, and that's still who he is. He really is passionate about helping people, and in spite of his mistakes, trying to do something really positive with his life.”
Cate, who has started her own law practice in Washington, D.C., refuses to dwell on her father’s mistakes and speaks with him regularly.
“I don't think I really process it or reflect on it so much,’’ she said. “I've had a very happy life despite all of the challenges and the obstacles. I feel very lucky in a lot of ways, so I try not to question the good things so much, and I try not to question the bad things too much because there's life going on.”
She chose to stay by her father’s side during his trial despite her conflicting loyalties to each of her parents in the wake of the affair.
“It came up occasionally, there was some conflict,’’ she told Guthrie. “But I love both of my parents very much, and I'm close with them in different ways. They're different people. It just wasn't mutually exclusive for me.”
With the help of family and friends, Cate Edwards has remained strong throughout a series of challenges, from the death of her brother when she was 14, to her mother’s cancer diagnosis and the scandal involving her father.
“Everyone can be strong when they need to, and I’ve certainly had some tests,’’ she said. “But I've had lots of moments where I didn't feel so strong. My mother taught me this more than anything- it's the people around you who sort of pick you up and keep carrying you when you can't do it yourself.”
Her parents also preached a dedication to public service that she continues with her work helping disadvantaged students for the Elizabeth Edwards Foundation, named after her mother.
“The entire program is really structured around who she was,’’ Cate said. “One of the main components is mentorship, because my mother was a mentor to so many people, both formally and informally. She was certainly a mentor to me throughout my life.
“Both of my parents, independently and together, instilled in me the importance of service. Not just public service, but service to the people who need it most. Part of the foundation and part of the law firm are helping people who can be lifted up and who I think I can help. That’s all I really want to do.”