After sailing through interviews with ABC News’s Chris Cuomo and George Stephanopoulos, John Edwards’s mistress, Rielle Hunter, got the scorching that some people thought she so richly deserved on Tuesday’s “The View” — demonstrating why ABC should never send men to do women’s work.
Barbara Walters, “The View’s” Den Mom, kicked things off by repeating the story “broken” by Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America” earlier in the day: The couple had just broken up.
Raise your hand if you actually thought they were a “couple” on Friday, when Rielle was seen breaking her silence and talking about her relationship with Edwards, to Cuomo, on ABC’s “20/20.”
Yeah, me neither.
“Today, we hear you’ve broken up,” Babs began.
“Yes,” said Rielle, wearing black slacks, a ruffled pink blouse (with the cleavage modestly pinned shut) and her Sad Face as she sat on the couch with The Ladies of “The View.”
“It’s very painful, and I have mixed emotions,” she added.
Babs wondered — hopefully, we think — if anything Rielle said in that “20/20” interview caused the “breakup.”
But Rielle, determined that this interview would be all about her, explained that she had decided that she does not want to “hide” any more.
All this media attention was “very hard” on a woman trying to have an affair with a married man who was running for president of the United States while his wife was slowly expiring of terminal cancer, Rielle explained.
“For me, it’s taken a toll,” she said piteously. “I’m not a mistress — I’m a mom.”
Elisabeth Hasselbeck explained to Rielle that, according to the commonly accepted definition of “mistress,” Rielle is one.
Hasselbeck went on to ask her whether she felt bad for having described Edwards’s wife as “crazy,” “venomous” and “in denial” now that she’s, you know, dead. Hasselbeck also wondered whether Rielle still thought Elizabeth Edwards’s “behavior pushed him out the door.”
“I believe that their problems in their marriage . . . helped him to find another way,” Rielle answered carefully. Sensing hostility on the couch, Rielle threw in, “I don’t think it’s right to do that.”
“What’s not right?” Joy Behar interrupted.
“Infidelity,” Rielle said. “I’m not a big believer in infidelity.”
“I fell in love with him, which was a surprise to me, and I became that [his mistress], in order to be with him,” Rielle explained, thinking that would go over well with the show’s female crowd.
Whoopi Goldberg was having none of it.
“I got to say this . . . in your book, you trash a dead lady whose husband you had an affair, and a baby, with. Did it not occur to you that maybe that might not be the right tone to take, particularly if you’re trying to get people to see you as part of this sort of new couple? I mean, it’s kind of a [lousy] thing to do!”
“I wrote the book to tell the truth,” responded the well-rehearsed Rielle.
Horseradish, Whoopi responded. Like this: “Yeah, but you could have the truth and know it, but to then put it out there, it makes you look bad. It makes you look schemey and kind of heartless.”
Rielle explained that Elizabeth Edwards being dead gave John Edwards’s late wife an unfair advantage. Turns out, the book needed to be written, she said, to level the playing field.
“Right now, the persona of Elizabeth being a saint and John Edwards being a demon . . . and me as a home wrecker — those aren’t true personas,” Rielle said — still piteously in pink.
Sherri Shepherd, who apparently drew the short straw and had to play Good Cop, noted that Rielle’s book provides some important “pointers about how to make a marriage better.”
“One thing you said: A woman is naive if she thinks — she’s married to her husband and not giving him sex — he’s not having sex with somebody else,” Sherri observed. She also noted that Rielle taught her the importance of making her husband feel like “he could walk on the moon,” which is something that Sherri noted the book suggests Elizabeth Edwards failed to do.
“So as a wife, I’m sitting here going, ‘Did we forget to do that sometimes in our marriage?’ We forget to validate our husbands,” Sherri said. “Is that what you’re saying?”
Sure, why not, Rielle said. Or words to that effect. “You know, most men are annoying — let’s face it,” she added.
Babs wondered how Rielle felt when John Edwards went on national TV and denied he was Quinn’s father.
“The most devastating moment of my life,” Rielle said.
Babs continued, recounting that Andrew Young said the baby was his. John Edwards played along and got Rielle to do so, too.
“Wow! I mean, that’s pretty crazy stuff that you’re . . . agreeing to,” Babs said.
“Insane. It’s the only time in my life I have gone down a road that I knew was the wrong road to go on before I went down it,” Rielle said.
There was good stuff with The Ladies of “The View.” It’s entirely to their credit that they did not keel over in hysterics as Rielle delivered that statement. Instead, they remained politely and composedly seated, though Hasselbeck did crack, “That was the first time?!”
But Babs wasn’t finished .
“In your book, you say I wanted to do an interview with you, which, of course, was true,” Babs said.
“And then you say that when you decided to do the interview with Oprah, which you told me was for spiritual reasons, that I screamed at you and I bullied you.
“In 30 years of doing interviews, I’ve never screamed at anyone,” Babs said severely.
“I make people cry, but I don’t scream and I didn’t — I had no idea what you mean by bullying, so that’s my objection. . . . You want to answer that?”
“This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that two people remember an event differently,” Rielle responded patronizingly, putting her hand on Bab’s arm.
They’d run out of time. Babs announced that members of their audience were going home with a copy of Rielle’s book, and we mulled over what they’d ever done to her to deserve that.
To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, go to washingtonpost.com/