WASHINGTON Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards on Friday admitted to an extramarital affair while his wife was battling cancer. He denied fathering the woman's daughter.
Edwards told ABC News that he lied repeatedly about the affair with 42-year-old Rielle Hunter but said that he didn't love her. He said he has not taken a paternity test but knows he isn't the father because of the timing of the affair and the birth.
A former Edwards campaign staffer claims he is the father, not Edwards.
Hunter's daughter, Frances Quinn Hunter, was born on Feb. 27, 2008, and no father's name is given on the birth certificate filed in California.
The National Enquirer first reported on the affair in October 2007, and Edwards denied it.
"The story is false," he told reporters. "It's completely untrue, ridiculous." He professed his love for his wife, Elizabeth, who had an incurable form of cancer, saying, "I've been in love with the same woman for 30-plus years and as anybody who's been around us knows, she's an extraordinary human being, warm, loving, beautiful, sexy and as good a person as I have ever known. So the story's just false."
Last month, the Enquirer carried another story stating that its reporters had accosted Edwards in a Los Angeles hotel where he had met with Hunter after her child's birth. Edwards called it "tabloid trash," but he generally avoided reporters' inquiries, as did his former top aides.
In the interview, scheduled to air on ABC News' "Nightline," Edwards said the tabloid was correct when it reported on his meeting with Hunter at the Beverly Hills Hotel last month.
Most mainstream news organizations refrained from reporting the story, but newspapers in Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C., recounted the Enquirer's allegations in prominent articles on Thursday. Edwards acknowledged the affair on Friday afternoon, traditionally a slow-news period even when the Olympic Games' opening ceremonies are not preoccupying millions of Americans.
Edwards was a top contender for the Democratic nomination for president, pursuing his party's nod even after announcing that his wife's cancer had returned.
He placed second in the Iowa caucuses last January but dropped out of the race a few weeks later. He has been mentioned as a possible vice presidential choice for Barack Obama. The former North Carolina senator was the Democratic nominee for vice president in 2004.
The Edwardses have three children Cate, Jack and Emma Claire. Another son, Wade, died at age 16 in a 1996 car accident.
David Bonior, Edwards' campaign manager for his 2008 presidential bid, said Friday he was disappointed and angry after hearing about Edwards' confession.
"Thousands of friends of the senators and his supporters have put their faith and confidence in him and he's let them down," said Bonior, a former congressman from Michigan. "They've been betrayed by his action."
Asked whether the affair would damage Edwards' future aspirations in public service, Bonior replied: "You can't lie in politics and expect to have people's confidence."
In 2006, Edwards' political action committee paid $100,000 in a four-month span to a newly formed firm run by Hunter, who directed the production of just four Web videos, one a mere 2 1/2 minutes long.
The payments from Edwards' One America Committee to Midline Groove Productions LLC started on July 5, 2006, five days after Hunter incorporated the firm in Delaware.
Midline provided "Website/Internet services," according to reports that Edwards' PAC filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Midline's work product consists of four YouTube videos showing Edwards in informal settings as he prepares to make speeches in Storm Lake, Iowa, and Pittsburgh, as he prepares for an appearance on "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" and travels in Uganda in 2006.
Edwards' PAC followed the six-figure payment with two smaller payments totaling $14,461, the last on April 1, 2007.
At the time Hunter was compiling the videos in 2006, Edwards was preparing a run for president.
Episode One of the four videos captures a conversation between Edwards and an unseen woman as the two chat aboard a plane about an upcoming speech in Storm Lake, Iowa.
Cutting between clips of the speech and the conversation with the woman, Edwards touches on his standard political themes, declaring that government must do a better job of addressing the great issues of the day, from poverty and education to jobs and the war in Iraq.
"I want to see our party lead on the great moral issues yes, me a Democrat using that word the great moral issues that face our country," Edwards tells the crowd. "If we want to live in a moral, honest just America and if we want to live in a moral and just world, we can't wait for somebody else to do it. We have to do it."
The sound track for the six-minute video is the song "True Reflections" which begins with these words: "When you look into a mirror, do you like what's looking at you? Now that you've seen your true reflections, what on earth are you gonna do?"
The video entitled "Plane Truths," opens with Edwards relaxing in his seat on the plane, telling the unseen woman that "I actually walked the country to see who I am, who I really am, but I don't know what the result of that will be.Edwards adds: "But for me personally, I'd rather be successful or unsuccessful based on who I really am, not based on some plastic Ken doll that you put up in front of audiences, that's not me, you know?"
Associated Press Writers Michael R. Baker and Gary Robertson in Raleigh, N.C., and Michael Blood in Los Angeles contributed to this report.