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