The Washington Post

‘I behaved badly,’ says Rielle Hunter. Is it ever too late to apologize?

At least it wasn’t one of those “I’m sorry if I offended anyone” apologies. For her big mistakes, John Edwards’s mistress, Rielle Hunter, offered an all-encompassing apology in a column on the Huffington Post Web site. She knows she offended and hurt a lot of people.

“Back in 2006, I did not think about the scope of my actions, how my falling in love with John Edwards, and acting on that love, could hurt so many people,” she wrote. “I hurt Elizabeth and her kids. I hurt her family. I hurt John’s family. I hurt people that knew Elizabeth. I hurt people who didn’t know Elizabeth but loved her from afar.” The “Elizabeth” was, of course, Elizabeth Edwards, who was married to John Edwards at the time of the affair and who died of cancer in 2010.

Rielle Hunter during a 2010 interview. (George Burns/Harpo Productions via AP) Rielle Hunter (George Burns/Harpo Productions/AP)

The occasion of the apology is the publication of Hunter’s new book, “In Hindsight, What Really Happened: The Revised Edition: John Edwards, Our Daughter and Me.” The first book, the one she revisited for this revision, was criticized for, among many others things, insulting judgments about Elizabeth Edwards and the Edwards marriage. Things were barely civil when Hunter appeared on TV’s “The View” to defend herself, make nice and sell copies. The usually contentious hosts were united in their judgment of her.

The new Hunter still hasn’t quite gotten over blaming others — in this case attacks from “the media and the world” that made her feel like a victim and a childhood as a “product of infidelity” that left her damaged.

But Hunter wrote that she wants to change, to take responsibility and take care not to repeat that history in lessons to Frances Quinn, the daughter she and Edwards are raising. Edwards’s oldest daughter, Cate Edwards, has described her younger sister as a sweet little girl and welcome member of the family. I’ve caught glimpses of John Edwards, Hunter and the 5-year-old on an evening out in my Charlotte, N.C., neighborhood. They hardly get a second glance, as memories of Hunter’s revealing, post-pregnancy magazine glamour shots – if not completely forgotten – are in the past.

While some might wish she would fade from view rather than rehash the details of that time, even to add I’m sorrys, Hunter has chosen a more public route. Will Hunter’s apology – part book promotion, part 12-step atonement – heal the hurt she now admits to causing? That’s up to the particular folks she insists this very public gesture is intended to reach.

Mary C. Curtis is an award-winning multimedia journalist in Charlotte, N.C. She has worked at The New York Times, Charlotte Observer and as national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

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