By Lois Romano and Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Rielle Hunter, the former presidential campaign aide who had an affair with John Edwards, said yesterday that she will not pursue DNA testing to establish the paternity of her 5-month-old daughter, despite the former senator's offer to participate in such a test.
In a statement provided to The Washington Post, Hunter said through her attorney that she will not be party to such a test "now or in the future."
The attorney, Robert Gordon, called Hunter a "private" person who is "not running for public office" and would not comment further.
"She wishes to maintain her privacy and her daughter's privacy," he said in the statement. "Furthermore, Rielle will not participate in DNA testing or any other invasion of her or her daughter's privacy now or in the future."
If Hunter sticks to that position, it will ease the pressure on Edwards, who on Friday dropped his earlier denials and admitted to having an affair with Hunter in 2006 but denied being the father of the child.
Edwards, a Democrat who represented North Carolina, maintained in a statement that the affair ended too soon for him to have fathered her baby, Frances Quinn Hunter, who was born Feb. 27. Hunter and a former Edwards fundraiser, Andrew Young, have maintained that Young is the father.
"I would welcome participating in a paternity test," Edwards told ABC's Bob Woodruff on Friday. "Be happy to participate in one. I know that it's not possible that this child could be mine because of the timing of events. . . . Happy to take a paternity test and would love to see it happen."
ABC News reported on its Web site yesterday that Hunter's younger sister Melissa said that Edwards should immediately follow through on his pledge to take a paternity test. "I would challenge him to do so," the sister said. The network did not use a last name for Melissa.
"Somebody must stand up and defend my sister," she said. "I wish that those involved would refrain from bad-mouthing my sister."
Hunter's sister said Rielle was being falsely portrayed as a "promiscuous person" and was not involved in "setting up" Edwards last month at a Beverly Hills hotel, where he was confronted by reporters from the National Enquirer.
"She is a good and honest person, the sweetest and most caring woman one could ever hope to meet," Melissa said. "Do you think it's easy for us to just sit back and let everyone rip her to shreds and not defend her honor?"
Meanwhile, the editor of the Enquirer, which broke the story of the affair and Hunter's pregnancy, took issue with Edwards's statement distancing himself from photos purporting to be him holding Hunter's baby. Edwards admitted to ABC that he met secretly with Hunter at the Beverly Hilton to try to "keep this from becoming public."
Last week, the Enquirer published a blurry photo of a man who looks like Edwards holding a baby. The tabloid said the photo was taken at the hotel.
"I don't know if that picture is me," Edwards said. "It could well be. It looks like me. I don't know who that baby is. I have no idea what the picture is."
When pressed by Woodruff, Edwards continued: "I mean, do you know how many pictures have been taken of me holding children in the last three years? I mean, it happens all the time."
David Perel, the Enquirer's editor in chief, insisted the photo is authentic. "I think it's amazing, even as the man's coming clean, that he's continuing to lie," he said of Edwards. "Just as I've been saying for 10 months that he had an affair with Rielle Hunter, we know for a fact that is Rielle Hunter's baby and that is him holding the baby in the Beverly Hilton. He's not only hiding things from the public, he's hiding things from his wife."
Perel said the Enquirer has confirmed that Edwards has stayed in regular touch with Hunter and that he met her in the same hotel a month earlier. Referring to last month's late-night meeting, Perel said that "we couldn't have been there at 3 in the morning if we didn't have a good pipeline into the whole situation."
Fred Baron, a friend of Edwards and a campaign fundraiser, acknowledged yesterday that he had helped Hunter financially so that she could move to what ABC described as a $3 million home in Santa Barbara.