By Paul Farhi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Elizabeth Edwards has been willing to talk about most anything in interviews about her new memoir that details her husband John's affair, but only under one condition: Interviewers must agree not to mention the name of the other woman in their broadcasts or stories.
The unusual request has been honored by Oprah Winfrey and CNN's Larry King in interviews with Edwards over the past week about her new book. "Resilience" discusses the death of the Edwardses' teenage son, her bout with breast cancer and her husband's affair with a campaign videographer, Rielle Hunter, during his run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2007 and 2008.
No newspaper has agreed to the restriction so far, according to David Drake, Edwards's publicist. The Washington Post, among other newspapers, declined to interview Edwards after learning of the stipulation. Although The Post permits sources to speak anonymously under certain conditions, it doesn't permit subjects of stories to dictate the manner in which a story will be written.
As it is, Hunter's name has been well known since the National Enquirer revealed John Edwards's relationship with her last year. His 2008 campaign is currently under federal investigation for potential misuse of funds, stemming from $114,000 in payments that Edwards's political action committee paid to Hunter's firm in 2006 and 2007 for videos promoting his campaign. Edwards has said he was unaware of the payments.
Elizabeth Edwards never mentions Hunter by name in her book, referring to her instead as "an unwelcome woman," and to the affair as an "indiscretion" and a "betrayal" by her husband.
Drake said Edwards's restriction isn't motivated by "anger" toward Hunter, but by a desire not to see Hunter profit from the affair. Noting that other notorious figures -- such as Ashley Dupré, the call girl who slept with then-New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer -- have cashed in on their media attention, Drake said Edwards "doesn't want to contribute to putting this woman in the spotlight. She feels that, to the extent the media shines attention on people like this, that we encourage this kind of behavior. She doesn't want to reward bad behavior."
Those who have interviewed Edwards about her book have mentioned her desire to keep Hunter's name out of the conversation, but have not disclosed that it was a condition of the interview itself. In his interview Tuesday night, King said, "You do not name the woman who John had the affair with in your book. And you've asked us out of consideration for you not to do so, and we will respect that."
Edwards also appeared on the "Today" show, where host Matt Lauer said he was not naming Hunter "out of consideration." According to the Associated Press, Jim Bell, the show's executive producer, said Edwards requested rather than demanded that Hunter not be named, and did so after the interview was booked. Otherwise, Bell said, the show would not have agreed to the interview.
Celebrities often set conditions on media interviews, such as subjects considered "off-limits" or demands for prior approval of quotes or photographs. Some outlets decline the requests, but many are willing to make deals, said Michael Levine, a Hollywood publicist who represents celebrity clients. "It all depends on how badly" a media outlet wants the interview, he said.
Levine called Edwards's condition "unusual and unfair," but added, "When you've been traumatized, you act in all kinds of ways that those of us who have not experienced the same trauma can't understand."