John Edwards's denial of baby was final straw, Andrew Young writes

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By Garance Franke-Ruta
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 31, 2010

His marriage was in tatters. His presidential campaign had ended with a primary loss in his birth state of South Carolina. But even with less to lose than he once had, John Edwards had to be hectored into calling his former mistress after the birth of their daughter on Feb. 27, 2008, former aide Andrew Young writes in a political tell-all published Saturday.

"In that moment, I felt as though a switch had turned in my heart," Young writes in "The Politician: An Insider's Account of John Edwards's Pursuit of the Presidency and the Scandal That Brought Him Down."

Young, a married father of three, had claimed paternity of the baby in December 2007, in a bid to preserve Edwards's political fortunes after the National Enquirer reported that Rielle Hunter was pregnant by the married former senator. But after a decade of service that had made him Edwards's longest-serving and most-trusted aide, Young writes that he could no longer ignore the doubts that had come with being part of the "dirty" and "disgusting" world of politics.

"A precious living, breathing human being -- his daughter -- had come into the world, and he wasn't even inclined to call the woman who had given birth to her. . . . My faith in him died almost instantly," Young writes.

Hotly anticipated and preceded by a wave of mind-boggling revelations by Young and others, "The Politician" is a tale of Edwards's betrayal of the hopes and trust of those who believed in him and worked to elect him president. It is also an act of revenge on Edwards by Young, a man who knew of the affair from its earliest days and acted as a confidant for Hunter and Edwards as they pursued their romance across the United States and Africa.

The day before the book's release, Edwards's attorneys urged "extreme caution" in evaluating its claims. "It appears that Andrew Young is primarily motivated by financial gain and media attention," attorneys Wade Smith and James Cooney III said in a statement.

Also last week, Elizabeth Edwards challenged accusations in the book, saying "it is clear it contains many falsehoods and exaggerations."

The financial revelations contained in its 299 pages may also be of keen interest as a federal grand jury in North Carolina explores whether Edwards misused campaign funds to cover up the affair and its aftermath. Young has already testified before the grand jury, a process that he said gave him "some real peace."

Young writes that after he falsely claimed Hunter's baby as his own, he, his wife and Hunter were whisked away on a private jet and supported by some of Edwards's wealthiest donors and friends.

First, Young writes, they stayed at a resort that cost $8,000 for the week, where they received $1,000 in cash sent overnight. Then they stayed in trial lawyer Fred Baron's Aspen vacation home. Another hotel followed, at a cost of $10,000 for the week. Then Aspen again, and later -- until the baby was born -- a house in Santa Barbara that was leased for $20,000 a month.

When the Youngs could no longer take living with Hunter, whom they said was childlike and unwilling to contribute to household chores, Baron "wired several hundred thousand dollars" to the builders of Young's unfinished North Carolina home "as a gift," freeing his family to move elsewhere, Young writes.

Young also says he and Edwards agreed that some of the $6 million provided by banking heiress Bunny Mellon to further the political future of a man she saw as another Kennedy would be used to finance the long-term care of Hunter and the baby, and to establish an anti-poverty foundation that would employ Young and provide his family with health insurance. The foundation job never materialized.

Young writes that after the birth of the child, Frances Quinn Hunter, Edwards asked "if I could get a diaper to send for a DNA test" to assure that he was the baby's father. While packing up belongings in North Carolina, Young found an "intentionally broken" videotape marked "Special" that showed Edwards engaged in a sex act with a woman wearing Hunter's bracelet.

In a North Carolina court, Hunter is seeking the return of a video "that depicted matters of a very private and personal nature" and other records Young has, according to her court filing.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company

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