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John Edwards' eldest daughter: I was mad, 'devastated' about affair

By Rick Schindler and Laura T. Coffey
TODAY

Cate Edwards, the eldest daughter of former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards and author and health-care activist Elizabeth Edwards, speaks to Savannah Guthrie in an exclusive interview that will air Friday on TODAY and “Rock Center with Brian Williams.” 

In the interview — her first since her father's trial for alleged violations of campaign laws — Edwards opens up about her family, her late mother's legacy and Rielle Hunter. She reveals that her father first broke the news to her that he was having an affair with Hunter.

"He told me," the 31-year-old attorney and author said. "I guess he and my mom decided that that was, you know, how it needed to be done. So yeah, I was devastated. And I was disappointed. I mean, these are my parents. I had grown up with a lot of love in my family. And it was hard to see them go through this."

Amy Sancetta / AP

Cate Edwards (left) with her father, John Edwards, and mother, the late Elizabeth Edwards, in November 2004.

"Were you mad (about the affair)?" Guthrie asked.

"Yeah, yeah, of course," Edwards replied. 

John Edwards was elected a U.S. senator from North Carolina in 1998 and served one term. In 2004 he became Sen. John Kerry's White House running mate in the unsuccessful Democratic presidential campaign. He also made an unsuccessful bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

In 2011, he was indicted on six felony charges of violating federal campaign contribution laws to conceal an extramarital affair. He was found not guilty on one count, and a mistrial was declared on the other five charges. 


Cate Edwards' mother, Elizabeth Edwards, was thrust into the public spotlight in the final years of her life because of the revelation of her husband's affair and because she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She became a health activist and wrote two books, "Saving Graces" and "Resilience."

"I miss her in sort of big ways and small ways," Cate Edwards told Guthrie. "You know, it's big things that go by, like my wedding. She wasn't able to be there. But we got to talk about it. And I felt incredibly lucky that I got the chance to even have that conversation with her.

"And I sort of carried out some of her vision which was great to sort of feel her presence there even though she wasn't actually there. And then there are small things. I mean, I get away with bad grammar. I never used to get away with bad grammar."

Edwards told Guthrie that she met film producer Rielle Hunter a long time ago, early in her father's campaign. In the interview, Guthrie asked Edwards about a book Hunter wrote that "said some pretty unpleasant things" about Elizabeth Edwards.

"I just thought it was — I thought it was a poor choice, I guess, is all I can say," Cate Edwards said.

Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards has faced public and private challenges throughout his life and career.