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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

John Edwards Admits Extra-Marital Affair

Aired August 8, 2008 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, GUEST HOST: Tonight, breaking news -- John Edwards finally admits publicly that he lied about cheating on his wife -- an apparently devoted spouse who battled cancer while standing by her man. He dodged and denied allegations about an affair just two weeks ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN EDWARDS, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I responded to -- consistently to this tabloid allegations by saying I don't respond to these lies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now that he's come clean on that, what about other questions raised by this bombshell?

Did the former presidential candidate father a child with the other woman?

Was his mistress on the campaign payroll?

Shocking charges are out there.

And what does this mean for his political career?

Is it over?

Will a brazen lie about his now admitted bad behavior affect the upcoming election?

John Edwards' sex scandal -- the fallout next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer sitting in tonight for Larry.

What a story. It broke just a little while ago. Earlier today, the statement coming out from John Edwards acknowledging -- finally acknowledging that he did, in fact, have an extra-marital affair with this woman back in 2006. But he said he told his wife about it shortly thereafter.

In an interview that will air later tonight on "Nightline," he says Elizabeth's reaction was: "She was mad, she was angry. I think furious would be a good way to describe it." Elizabeth Edwards has now issued a statement herself, saying her husband's infidelity was a terrible mistake. But she also says she's proud of the courage he's shown in the face of shame.

Let's talk about this with the reporters who broke this story some months ago, two reporters from the "National Enquirer".

Joining us now is Allen Butterfield. He's a senior reporter for the "National Enquirer." He's one of those reporters that confronted John Edwards at a hotel in Beverly Hills last night.

And David Perel is editor-in-chief of the "National Enquirer".

The "National Enquirer" first reported about an alleged affair back in last October.

David, let me start with you.

What got you guys going in this direction to begin with?

DAVID PEREL, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "NATIONAL ENQUIRER," FIRST REPORTED THE AFFAIR: We received what we thought was a credible tip, Wolf, and we started investigating it. A lot of times when we go down this road and the story turns out not to be true, we abandon it. But the more we dug in, the more information "The Enquirer" uncovered that was standing up. And were able to prove that, indeed, John Edwards had a sexual affair with Rielle Hunter. And we first did the story in October without naming her and then we came back with a much tougher story in December of 2007, where we not only named her, but we photographed her pregnant.

BLITZER: And at that time, you didn't report that -- what you reported subsequently, that you thought that he was the father.

PEREL: That's true. And we know that Rielle believes that he is the father. And Mr. Edwards today, in his own statement, said he did not take a paternity test. He's now saying that he will take one. We've asked him for months if he would take one and he's ignored that request.

However, we do know the man that has claimed to be the father, Andrew Young, who worked for Mr. Edwards, our sources -- the same sources that led us to uncover this affair -- say that Rielle says she never had a sexual relationship with him.

BLITZER: He said in his statement today, he said: "I only know that the apparent father has said publicly that he is the father of the baby. I also have not been engaged in any kind of activity of any description that requested, agreed to or supported payments of any kind to the woman or to the apparent father of the baby."

He does say he would be more than happy to go ahead and have this paternity test, which he says would clear him.

Allen, he argues that he had this affair back in 2006. The baby was born just a few weeks ago. He said the affair lasted in 2006, but there was no more affair in 2007. And, as a result, he says he couldn't be the father of this baby.

ALAN BUTTERFIELD, SENIOR REPORTER, "NATIONAL ENQUIRER," CONFRONTED EDWARDS: Right. But why is he -- the question we should all ask him, then, why was he visiting her at 3:00 in the morning at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 21st, then, if he's not the father?

BLITZER: Well, what do you think?

BUTTERFIELD: Come on. He is the father. I mean at least he believes he's the father. Like David Perel said, that Rielle is telling everyone he's the father and he is -- you know, why isn't there a name on the birth certificate?

There are a lot of -- still a lot of questions that Mr. Edwards needs to answer.

BLITZER: And this other Andrew Young, who says he's the father, you don't believe him.

Is that what you're saying?

BUTTERFIELD: No. Not at all. It's -- Andrew Young and his wife Shari (ph) moved out to the Santa Barbara area with Rielle after -- soon after our December story. And I guess they're all living, then, as one big happy family.

And then why is Rielle Hunter coming down to the Beverly Hilton on that day and to meet with John Edwards?

Why wasn't the new baby's father, Andrew Young -- if that is the, father why wasn't he there?

The story just doesn't add up, what Mr. Edwards is leading everyone to believe. And so far, you know, he hasn't been that credible.

What happens, David, if he does take the paternity test and it doesn't match and it shows he is not the father?

PEREL: We'll publish that. I've made the offer to him repeatedly -- take a paternity test, whatever the results are, we'll publish it. He has refused to do that, as he's been calling this story lies and tabloid trash and lying to the American public. Unfortunately, I think the only reason he came forward and admitted the affair is because we did catch him at the hotel meeting on July 21st and we did publish a photograph this week in the "National Enquirer" showing him holding the baby.

We can also reveal that in addition to that meeting, he met at the same hotel a month before with Rielle Hunter and the baby. So his actions are what count. His words have proven not to be credible.

BLITZER: He says this in his statement. And let me read part of it to you and to our viewers: "Back in 2006," he says, "I made a serious error in judgment and conducted myself in a way that was disloyal to my family and to my core beliefs. I recognized my mistake and I told my wife that I had a liaison with another woman and I asked for her forgiveness. Although I was honest in every painful detail with my family, I did not tell the public.

When a supermarket tabloid told a version of the story, I used the fact that the story contained many falsities to deny it. But being 99 percent honest is no longer enough."

He went on to say: "I was and am ashamed of my conduct and choices and I had hoped that it would never become public. With my family, I took responsibility for my actions in 2006. And today I take full responsibility publicly. But that misconduct took place for a short period in 2006. It ended then.

I am and have been willing to take any tests necessary to establish the fact that I'm not the father of any baby and I am truly hopeful that a test will be done so this fact can be definitively established."

That's part of the statement, David, that John Edwards released.

I guess a lot of people question the reporting of the "National Enquirer," in part, David, because you pay sources for information, is that right?

PEREL: Wolf, we do pay sources for information after it checks out as credible and accurate. And I think, in retrospect, nobody can deny the accuracy of these stories. We've been reporting on the affair for about 10 months now. He says his statements were 99 percent truthful and yet he told the American public while running for the highest office in the land that he did not have an affair, that these were lies, lies?

This is a character issue.

And he still insists he's 99 percent truthful?

I think the truest thing that he said today in his statement was when he admitted that he's narcissistic.

BLITZER: He did admit that. And we're going to have more of the statement coming up. Gentlemen, stand by.

One quick final question, David, before I let you go.

The -- did you pay any sources in connection with this particular story involving John Edwards?

PEREL: Wolf, we pay for photographs. We pay for information when it's accurate. We have no problem doing that. And in this story, you know, whether we did or we didn't, I'm not going to say. It doesn't matter. You can assume we did. The thing that counts is the story has proven to be true and there is more to come.

BLITZER: You guys have more, is that what you're saying?

BUTTERFIELD: Absolutely, Wolf. The money trail. I want to know how Rielle Hunter is receiving $15,000 a month. I want to know how Andrew Young, with no visible means of support, is living in a $5 million house. I don't think this story is over by a long shot.

BLITZER: All right. Guys.

Thanks very much.

Stand by, because we have much more to talk about.

We'll get a different perspective right after the break. Jennifer Palmieri -- she used to be the spokeswoman for John Edwards, for his campaign. She's standing by live.

Much more LARRY KING LIVE right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE.

we're talking about the bombshell news today -- John Edwards acknowledging he did, in fact, have an affair -- an extra-marital affair, back in 2006. He denies, though, that he is the father of a baby that was born with this other woman, Rielle Hunter.

Let's get the perspective of someone who used to work very, very closely with John Edwards. Jennifer Palmieri was the spokeswoman for the Edwards campaign. She's down in Raleigh, North Carolina right now.

I take it, Jennifer, you've spent time today with John Edwards and Elizabeth Edwards?

JENNIFER PALMIERI, EDWARDS' SPOKESPERSON: Yes, that's true. I've been with them for most of the day. And, as you can imagine, it's been a very difficult one.

BLITZER: Well, take us as much as you can -- give us a little sense of how -- how both of them reacted to all of this today, because we do have formal statements, public statements from both of them.

PALMIERI: Right. Well, I think that they are relieved that they have that, you know, that Senator Edwards has done this interview, that they've put these statements out, that they feel they've answered the questions that they need to do. And I know that is -- you know, while it's been very difficult, I know that it is a bit of a relief and, you know, taking a burden off of both of them.

BLITZER: In the sense that half of what the "National Enquirer" reported, they acknowledge, is true -- that he had an extra-marital affair. The other half, the other bombshell that the "National Enquirer" has been reporting, that he is the father of this baby who was born just a few weeks ago, that both of them are denying.

PALMIERI: That's true. Yes. Both of them are denying that.

BLITZER: And did you speak to them personally about that?

PALMIERI: I've spoken -- yes, I have spoken to them personally quite a bit about this in the past couple of days.

BLITZER: And you -- when did you learn about all of this, Jennifer?

PALMIERI: About all of -- could you be more specific?

BLITZER: No, that it's -- that, in fact, the affair was true, because we all saw the "National Enquirer" when it reported back last October, then when it reported in December and then last month, when it reported that he had made this post-midnight visit to that hotel in Beverly Hills.

PALMIERI: I mean, I think that, you know, some degree of my conversations with Edwards' is going to remain private. But they did come to me a couple of days ago to say that they thought that they wanted to move forward with an interview and I helped them do that.

BLITZER: And they gave the interview to Bob Woodruff of ABC News. And that interview will air later.

Was it a joint interview or was it...

PALMIERI: No, I'm sorry. We shouldn't use they. It was just -- it was just Senator Edwards.

BLITZER: It was just Senator Edwards.

PALMIERI: Right.

BLITZER: And he spoke rather candidly about all of this.

How confident are you, Jennifer, that if, in fact, he does take this paternity test, it will show he's not the father?

PALMIERI: I mean he has said that, you know, I can't speak to a lot of this. But he has said that he is not the father. There are -- someone has said that they are the father. I mean so I don't -- I can't really, obviously, add anymore to that.

BLITZER: In a very moving statement, Elizabeth Edwards posted this just a little while ago. She said: "This was our private matter." She said her husband had told her about this in 2006, "And I frankly wanted it to be private because it's painful. As it was, I did not want to have to play it out on a public stage, as well, because of a recent string of hurtful and absurd lies in a tabloid publication. Because of a picture falsely suggesting that John was spending time with a child it wrongly alleged he had fathered outside our marriage, our private matter could no longer be wholly private."

Was that picture that was published in the "National Enquirer" purportedly showing John Edwards holding a little baby, was that picture false?

Was that picture Photoshopped, if you will?

PALMIERI: I mean I... BLITZER: Was it not authentic?

PALMIERI: It apparently was false. I have no idea if it was Photoshopped or, you know, manufactured or if -- I have, you know, I can't speak to that except as they said in their statements.

BLITZER: Did he explain to you and the editors who wrote -- the editor and reporter from the "National Enquirer" made the point, you know, did he explain why last month he went on that midnight visit to that hotel where Rielle Hunter was staying?

Did you ask him?

PALMIERI: That -- that did come up in the interview that you'll see in "Nightline." and what he explained was that it was a further effort to continue to hide the affair. And felt that he was approached by a third party, a friend of Miss. Hunter's, who asked for the meeting. And he agreed to do that and said that it was, as he says in the interview, another big mistake.

BLITZER: Has he been involved, based on everything you know, in actual payments to Rielle Hunter or to this other individual, Andrew Young?

We're not talking about the former United Nations ambassador, the former mayor of Atlanta. It's someone else with the same name...

PALMIERI: No. No.

BLITZER: ...who used to be a staffer on the Edwards campaign.

Has he provided funds directly or indirectly to either of them?

PALMIERI: Right. He addressed that in the interview, as well, and said that he had not provided any funds, directed anyone to do so or knew if anyone had.

BLITZER: Because now it comes out, as you know, late tonight, there's word that the former finance chairman for his campaign did, in fact, provide some funds.

PALMIERI: Right. Yes. There's a statement from Fred Baron, who as you -- I assume you have it there.

BLITZER: Yes, we have that statement, in which he said he did make money available to them.

Did you understand why he decided to do that?

No one -- John Edwards himself didn't ask him to do that.

PALMIERI: John Edwards didn't ask him to do that. I think Mr. Baron explains in the statement why he did that, which was, as I understand it, to help -- to help some colleagues who were in a pretty difficult time, given the circumstances. BLITZER: David Bonior, the former Congressman who was the campaign manager for John Edwards, someone you know quite well -- all of us here in Washington know him quite well. He made a statement that he felt this was a betrayal by John Edwards, not only to his family and to his friends, but all those thousands of supporters who had worked so hard to try to get him elected president of the United States.

PALMIERI: Yes. Senator Edwards would agree with that.

BLITZER: He would agree with that?

PALMIERI: Yes. I think he would agree with that statement. And, as a matter of fact, we did a conference call this afternoon that we put together with a lot of the former staff of the campaign, that he got on to apologize to everyone for, you know, first of all, for misleading everyone, but also, you know, on these particular questions. But also just putting at risk everything that they had worked so hard for. And, you know, fit's one of the many things that he has said he needs to make amends for.

BLITZER: He said in his statement -- and I'll read this little part -- he said: "In the course of several campaigns, I started to believe that I was special and became increasingly egocentric and narcissistic.

If you want to beat me up, feel free. You cannot beat me up more than I've already beaten up myself."

PALMIERI: Right.

BLITZER: What did you think of that comment?

PALMIERI: He wrote it and certainly from what I've seen today, I think that's -- that's a pretty accurate statement of how he's feeling today.

BLITZER: When did you, Jennifer, first learn about, you know, that, in fact, he did have a -- I asked the question, did you know when Mrs. Edwards...

PALMIERI: I think we already covered this territory -- Wolf.

BLITZER: No, no, no. When Mrs. Edwards knew in 2006, did the family bring you in and share that with you?

PALMIERI: I am not going to get into my personal discussions with the family. But I think that -- the only thing I will say is that I think that that information, it's my impression it stayed within the family for -- personal within the family for quite a while.

BLITZER: Will she -- and we're talking about Mrs. Edwards right now -- speak at the Democratic National Convention?

PALMIERI: She certainly doesn't have any plans to. I expect that both of them are going to be staying home that week. You know, it's been a difficult -- a difficult time and I think that they want to have some time, you know, to be with their family and to help each other get through this.

BLITZER: It's a very painful period.

PALMIERI: Yes.

BLITZER: And we all remember last year she was diagnosed with inoperable cancer.

How is Elizabeth Edwards doing?

PALMIERI: Well, you know Elizabeth, Wolf. And this is -- I mean while this is really -- this is obviously very painful for her, she has been living with this for a year-and-a-half. And -- which, I think, you know, gives people a window into how strong she really is. And that we all knew about the cancer, but not about -- about this more, you know, private anguish that she had.

And she has been living with it a long time, so she's relieved that these questions have been answered. You know, she feels it's been sort of cleansing for her, I think.

But, obviously, it's been a very difficult day. The press attention is very -- you know, that's upsetting to her. It would be upsetting to anyone. But she is relieved that John has done this statement. And I believe that she said in her statement that she's proud of him for doing so.

BLITZER: Jennifer Palmieri has worked with the Edwards family via campaigns for a long time. She used to work in the Clinton White House, as well. Jennifer, thanks very much.

PALMIERI: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: And coming up, we're going to continue our coverage of this breaking news.

Our own Drew Griffin has been investigating.

He's standing by live, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "EXTRA")

RIELLE HUNTER: It was a random meeting. He was in a business meeting in New York and I was in the same place.

I'm pretty courageous by nature. And I really felt that I could help in some way.

I traveled for six months. It was great. We went to Africa, which was an amazing experience, going to Uganda. The whole experience was life-altering for me.

One of the great things about John Edwards is that he's so open and willing to try new things and do things in new ways.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. Those are excerpts from an interview that "Extra" ran last year, "Extra," the TV show, with Rielle Hunter, the so-called other woman involved in this affair with the former U.S. senator, John Edwards, the former Democratic presidential candidate.

Joining us now is Jerry Penacoli. He's a correspondent for "Extra".

Also joining us is Drew Griffin, our CNN correspondent with the CNN Investigative -- Special Investigations Unit. He's been pursuing this story for some time, as well.

Jerry, what motivated you guys to interview Rielle Hunter last year?

You didn't talk about any affair or anything. You spoke about the work she was doing for the John Edwards campaign as a videographer, if you will.

JERRY PENACOLI, CORRESPONDENT, "EXTRA," SHOW INTERVIEWED HUNTER IN 2007: Exactly. And to be quite honest, Wolf, this was actually just a random, ho-hum interview, if you will. Just a run of the mill interview with a woman who had just spent a very long time with a man who was running for president. So it was interesting to get her perspective on John Edwards.

At the time, you know, everyone thought, perhaps, he might be the guy or a guy that certainly would have a shot at the White House.

And so when we interviewed her, you know, she told us the story about how they met. They met in a bar, actually. And she said he was having a business meeting with someone and that she and her producing partner -- interestingly enough, she had just formed this production company, Midline Groove, about, I think, five days before she met John Edwards. And just on a whim, she told us, she approached him saying, I think I can help change your image because you have too much of a Ken doll like image.

So I'm meeting a guy who is real, who is authentic and I think the American people should see this and the Internet is a good place to have people see this image change in John Edwards. And he paid her, as we all know now, $114,000 to produce four very short webisodes over a period of six months.

And as you heard her say, part of that time was spent in Africa.

BLITZER: His campaign paid her that money for those Web videos.

Here's another clip of the interview.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HUNTER: I have never really been interested in politics. I voted twice in my life. Right. It's just not something that has been interesting to me at all. And meeting John Edwards was interesting because he -- in person, when I met him, he was very real and authentic, from my perception. And his public persona, what I knew of him in 2004, wasn't really that, in my opinion.

And so I came up with this idea to help him because he was inspirational to me to be involved in politics and to be so real.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Jerry, it sort of cries out. You guys had no idea -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- that this woman was having an affair back in 2006 -- and you interviewed her last year in 2007 -- was having an affair with John Edwards. You were just simply talking to her because she worked on the campaign.

PENACOLI: Yes, but interestingly enough, Wolf, here's a couple of quotes that you haven't heard yet. They kind of are very telling now that we know all that we know. And she was asked a question about Elizabeth Edwards and her breast cancer and if she felt that Elizabeth would be able to keep up in the campaign. And she said I have no idea, no idea. She kind of brushed it off.

And then she went into a little bit of a diatribe about the political system and about families. And I just want to read this really quickly for you. She said: "I think that helps to create an image that's not real. I think politics is a job and a service that you do. Do you bring your family to work? Do I bring my family to work?"

She goes on to say that, "Politics has this shiny little 1950s family image for reasons I believe were to appeal to the masses. Everything is perfect. Everything is rosy. And it's gotten far from that, that no one can relate to. That's not who these people are. And that's not who we are."

Again, I think extraordinarily telling now.

BLITZER: Here's a little clip. I want to play this, Jerry, for you and for our viewers -- of one of those Web videos she did for the campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDWARDS: That is the correct speed.

(LAUGHTER)

HUNTER: I'm so glad you like it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like it. Wait until you hear me get it live. So the way his shoes are shaped, are those cool?

EDWARDS: I have no idea what's cool. I asked a woman selling me shoes in the store what was cool. (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And that's just one of those little videos that were posted on the Edwards' Web site.

All right, we've got to leave it there, Jerry.

We're going to continue this conversation, though, with our own Drew Griffin. He's standing by. He's been investigating this story for some time, as well.

Jerry Penacoli is a correspondent for "Extra".

PENACOLI: Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jerry.

We'll take another quick break.

More LARRY KING LIVE right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. I'm filling in tonight. I'm Wolf Blitzer for Larry. Drew Griffin is a CNN special investigative reporter, who has been working this story now for some weeks. Drew, I want to play a little clip, one of the interviews you did with one of the reporters from the "National Enquirer," which broke this story. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEXANDER HITCHIN, "NATIONAL ENQUIRER": I say to him, Mr. Edwards, Alexander Hitchin from the "National Enquirer." You know, we know that you have been with Rielle Hunter tonight and your child, and then we said to him, don't you think it's about time to actually tell everyone that you are actually the father of this child?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: And the reaction again was?

HITCHIN: Sheer panic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. There's no doubt now that he was, in fact, back in 2006, having an affair. He admits it. His wife, Elizabeth, says she was told about it. The only question I guess, the major question right now is: is he, in fact, as the "National Enquirer" says, the father of her child that was born just a few weeks ago or not? I know you have been looking into that, Drew. What are you picking up?

GRIFFIN: John Edwards, in his statement himself, Wolf, says he's willing to take a paternity test. I think that is what is going to be needed in this case to stop the "National Enquirer" from asking questions and probably to stop reporters from continuing to dog John Edwards. Also, I think, Wolf, he has to answer the question a little more accurately, what was he doing in that hotel three weeks ago at 2:40 in the morning?

That interview that took place at the Beverly Hilton, that you just saw, that was a day after this so-called encounter, and now John Edwards admits he was there at that hotel that night.

BLITZER: You heard Jennifer Palmieri, who is close to the Edwards family, a former press secretary for the Edwards campaign, saying he was there to try to cover it up, to try to speak to this woman and end it so that this scandal would go away.

GRIFFIN: Yes, and I don't understand why you'd do that at 2:40 in the morning. You know, basically that's -- I just don't put that together, and then he's sneaking in, sneaking out of the hotel. I don't get it.

BLITZER: Let's put that question to Jonathan Prince. He was the deputy campaign manager for the Edwards campaign, while it was running this year. Jonathan Prince is here with us. What's the answer?

JONATHAN PRINCE, FMR. EDWARDS DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I think as Jennifer said on your show just a few minutes ago, I think John addresses this in the interview tonight that's on "Nightline." My understanding is that he was there to meet with a third party, I think a guy named Bob McGovern, who was a friend of Rielles. It was a meeting at Bob's request and it went on for some time. It was -- I think John says in the interview tonight --

BLITZER: In the interview that will air later tonight with ABC News, you're talking about John Edwards.

PRINCE: Yes. I think he says very directly that he was there to meet with this fellow at his request, and it was part of his on-going effort to keep the affair from gaining public play.

BLITZER: It was part of the effort to keep -- continue the cover-up.

PRINCE: Correct.

BLITZER: So he was not there for a sexual liaison with this woman. That's what you --

PRINCE: That's my understanding and that's what he says tonight.

BLITZER: -- in the interview. But you know people are going to be suspicious.

PRINCE: Obviously people are going to be suspicious.

BLITZER: He was caught lying on this one issue.

PRINCE: He wasn't telling the truth about the affair. Of course, people are going to be suspicious.

BLITZER: He says he's ready and anxious to have a paternity test. Where does that stand based on what you know?

PRINCE: I don't have any inside information about that. My understanding is that I guess that's up to him and obviously up to Rielle, because it's her baby. So you need both parties, I suppose, to have a paternity test.

BLITZER: They would both have to agree. It wouldn't necessarily take all that long to clarify that one specific issue.

PRINCE: Not my understanding of it.

BLITZER: If both of them agree to provide DNA and saliva and all that kind of stuff. David Gergen, you've been around Washington for a long time. You've been around politics for a long time. You served four American presidents. Give us a little perspective on this bombshell of a story that really broke today when John Edwards himself confirmed that he did, in fact, have a sexual affair.

GERGEN: Well, I think I speak for all of us, Wolf, behind all this story is an enormous sense of sympathy on our part for Elizabeth Edwards, because she has been such a brave woman, not only fighting cancer, but now we know had a double burden. I think tonight a lot of people's hearts go out to her. I also think, Wolf, as a society, we're beginning to mature to a point where we're less judgmental about people's private lives, about being judgmental about their marriages or perhaps their extramarital affairs.

But where I think we need to be very tough is about what they do in public, and here -- and I think this is the problem that John Edwards now has and he has not solved it with his statement today, nor with this interview. This story has many, many legs that we're going to be playing out over the next few days. But here is a situation where a man who was vice presidential nominee of his party, essentially in running for president lied to the public, lied to his own staff in telling them this never happened, put them in an awkward situation, put his party in the situation that had he been the nominee tonight and this story broke in the way it did, it would have blown up his candidacy and cost the Democratic party its chance for regaining the White House.

In that sense I think it's that public side of this which is going to bring such outrage from so many people. It's not about the private side so much. But one other thing about this, it's the sense of the love story we saw unfold between John Edwards and his wife over the cancer struggle. It was one of the more poignant stories of this whole campaign. And now to realize what was behind it, I think, also is deeply discouraging.

BLITZER: It's very sad all around. Guys, stand by. We're just getting in tape from Senator Obama. He's now reacting to word that John Edwards, his confirmation he did have an extramarital affair. We'll get to the tape from Senator Obama right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Barack Obama is already in Hawaii now. He's on vacation, but he just issued a statement on the John Edwards scandal. We're getting in the videotape. We're going to play that for you momentarily. Let's get some reaction from John Edwards' home state, North Carolina. Joining us now, two guests; Tim Boyum is an actor and senior political report for News 14 Carolina, and Mark Johnson is a reporter for the "Charlotte Observer."

Tim, how this has this been played out over the past few days in North Carolina?

TIM BOYUM, NEWS 14 CAROLINAS: Delicate would be the best word. Over the past few days, it's been very cautious, from our standpoint, about how to cover this. People just kind of hush-hush, what's going on? Today, it's really been shock. You have pundits in the state, Democratic strategists that have worked with John Edwards speechless really, didn't know what to say, didn't have a lot of comments.

On the Republican side, they didn't have anything to say either. They said they weren't going to have any comment. In fact, one of the leading Republican strategists in this state really laughed at us on the phone and said he wasn't going to have any comment. As far as like the delegates, for example, it's really sort of interesting, because in 2004 they were rock stars. They were sitting front row at the convention in Boston, looking up at John Edwards, John Kerry, even Barack Obama, really getting a lot of attention and first class treatment.

This year, who knows where they will sit, and they have this on their shoulders as they head over to Denver.

BLITZER: Mark Johnson, you guys did do some reporting over the past few days, and I know it was a very delicate subject, but the "National Enquirer" reported this way back last October. Then they had another story in December. Last month, they had the big story about the visit to the hotel and the baby and all of that. I know it's not an easy issue journalistically to go ahead and report on this story when you don't have the evidence, when you don't know for sure that he did have an affair, let alone father a child.

MARK JOHNSON, "THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER": That's right. Basically, we approached it -- we took the "National Enquirer" story as we would any news tip. You have to verify it. We tried to do that last fall. We had folks going to New York. More recently, we had somebody out in California trying to track this down. So doing a lot of work on it, but basically last fall what did you have? You had an allegation by the tabloid and you had some pretty firm rebuttals of it.

But more recently, with this last story, again, we treated it as a tip. We started pursuing it. And when we pursued this time, the responses that we were getting were quite different. The folks who had batted the story down last time now didn't want to talk about it. And that was a pretty clear signal that there was something going on. BLITZER: Arianna Huffington is the co-founder and editor of HuffingtonPost.com. Arianna, what kind of standard did you have at HuffingtonPost.com to go ahead and post this information from the "National Enquirer?"

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: Well actually Sam Stein, our reporter, posted back in September, before the "National Enquirer" wrote about it, the mystery surrounding the webisodes, these short documentaries that Rielle Hunter had filmed, which had disappeared. We could not find them anywhere. When he talked to the Edwards campaign, Tom Edsall (ph), our political editor talked to the Edwards campaign, I did, they told us they had no access to them. After repeated requests, finally Jonathan Prince said you could see the webisodes, which you can now see on the Huffington Post, but only in the presence of Jonathan Prince.

So it was clear there was something there, something fishy. Sam Stein continued to follow the story. It was after his second story that the "National Enquirer" wrote about. He got more information, more circumstantial evidence, more calls from friends of Rielle Hunter that made it clear to us that the story was true. But we did not have the smoking gun that would have permitted us to write about it.

BLITZER: Jonathan Prince, you were the deputy campaign manager. I assume you knew or you know Rielle Hunter.

PRINCE: I met Rielle Hunter a couple times towards the end of 2006.

BLITZER: That's when she was working for the campaign as this --

PRINCE: I met her -- I think the first time I met her, she was filming some events around the book tour, the book that John did called "Home," that I worked on with him and then --

BLITZER: Did you have any clue about this affair?

PRINCE: No. I mean, she was, you know -- like a lot of people in a campaign, the environment wasn't quite a campaign yet. She was actually paid for by our PAC. But she was like a lot of people, kind of infatuated with the candidate. It happens to guys, girls, everybody. There's a cult of personality around the candidate. She was like a lot of people who seemed to be certainly taken with him. But, no, I didn't have any particular inkling of anything untoward.

BLITZER: Stand by. We're going to continue this conversation. We're also standing by to get the videotape in from Hawaii. Senator Barack Obama has just spoken out on the John Edwards scandal that's been breaking over this day. As soon as we get the videotape, we'll share it with you. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: I want to bring in Lars Larson. He's a syndicated radio talk show host of the "Lars Larson Show." He's described as being right on the left coast. When you heard about all this, Lars, what did you think?

LARS LARSON, "THE LARS LARSON SHOW": The first time we heard about it was the little videos that she had produced quite some time ago. In fact, those disappeared from the web. Then we heard about the rumors of the affair. And then, in June of this year, when the Enquirer did it's confrontation in the hotel, I thought it didn't surprise me much. Frankly, Wolf, despite all the talk by your previous guests about the love story between John Edwards and his wife -- look, I don't know the inner workings of their relationship, but this guy has always struck me as kind of a sleazy trial lawyer, who has used some sleazy tricks in front of juries to make himself a big pile of money.

I don't have much respect for him, quite honestly, and now I have less. I wonder why was he on the left coast meeting with this woman and her child if he didn't have some kind of connection to her? He says he didn't love her, just had sex with her, as apparently some other members of his staff had sex with her. Somebody produced a child. I find it really sad that a man who has a wife this sick is out running around, cheating on her, lying to the country about it and, by the way, saying, would you make me president? It's all pretty tawdry.

BLITZER: Strong words, Jonathan Prince. You worked for him. You were the deputy campaign manager for John Edwards.

PRINCE: I worked for him and I am proud that I worked for him. He's obviously made a mistake. He's obviously like millions of other people out there in the world, men and women, politicians and doctors and lawyers and police officers and waiters and waitresses, everybody else, who is like all the rest of us, is human and has made a mistake.

But he brought some issues to the table that I think would not have been present in this campaign, the focus on poverty on the front cover of "The New York Times" magazine, broadcast news, going into homes in Appalachia that people hadn't seen since Bobby Kennedy's poverty tour. I'm proud that those issues were brought to the fore in this campaign. He made a mistake, there's no question about it. He wasn't honest about it. That's not good. Those are wrong.

He's got work to do, that he said he's got to do, that he recognizes he's got to do. And, frankly, I'm proud of him for standing up there by himself, taking responsibility for it.

BLITZER: We got the initial feed of the Senator Barack Obama reaction to all of this. He's on vacation now in Hawaii, but he did speak -- I'm told the audio quality is not necessarily all that great. But let's listen in, listen carefully to Senator Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If I'm not mistaken, I think they already indicated there was -- the family indicated that they probably wouldn't be attending the convention. I understand that. But this is a difficult and painful time for them. I think they need to work through that process of healing. But that's going to be their top priority.

John Edwards was a great champion of working people during the course of this campaign. Many of his themes are ones that Democrats as a whole share. Those will be amplified at the convention. And I wish them all well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Arianna Huffington, what do you think about that reaction from Senator Obama?

HUFFINGTON: Well, very appropriate, Wolf. He basically honors him for the issues he brought to the table, and said that they will be amplified at the convention. But, clearly, it was pretty confident that they would not be going to the convention. This is what Jennifer Palmieri said to you.

It's really interesting to hear Jonathan, as a member of John Edwards' staff, basically talk about the way that he himself was misled. That is for me what is so interesting, that his own staff, the people most loyal to him, as David Bonyer said, were also lied to. And Jonathan repeated those lies to reporters like Sam Stein of the Huffington Post.

BLITZER: Stand by, guys. I want to take another quick break. We have more to discuss, obviously, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Dr. Gail Saltz is a noted psychiatrist, best selling author, the author of "Anatomy of a Secret Life, the Psychology of Living a Lie." He said in his statement, Gale, "I started to believe that I was special and became increasingly egocentric and narcissistic." Give us your professional analysis of what was going on.

DR. GAIL SALTZ, PSYCHIATRIST: Well, certainly his statement is a preemptive strike against what people will -- is fairly obvious. You know, power, politics, celebrity, it does create the feeling that you're the center of the world, that the rules potentially don't apply to you, and therefore you can break them. Unfortunately, you're seeing this over and over again with politicians, who tend to be high risk taking kinds of people. That's what draws them to the profession in the first place. But it sets them up for taking just that, those risks.

Of course, we also see it in politicians who are out there the most, stating that the very thing they unfortunately end up doing is exactly what they're fighting against, if you will. He's fighting for family values. Of course, this is the antithesis of that. Earlier, it was stated, you know, lots of people do this. Unfortunately, that's true. Infidelity is not uncommon these days. That's very sad.

But there is a difference, I think, when you see it in a politician who is specifically supposed to be holding a platform for the country in these certain areas of moral value, if you will. The fallout, unfortunately, is the national psyche, which is that we're starting to really not trust our politicians. The feeling that they don't follow the rules. They're breaking them blatantly. They're being very dishonest. And, unfortunately, it's making it hard for us as a nation to trust who we're going to put in office.

BLITZER: We just heard Senator Obama's reaction. Earlier, Senator McCain and Senator Hillary Clinton reacted, although they didn't want to say much. I'll play these little clips.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to get your reaction to the news tonight that your former colleague, Senator Edwards, had an affair and then denied it while on the campaign trail, seeking the Democratic nomination.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL COMMENT: I don't have any comment on it.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: My thoughts and prayers are with the Edwards family today. That's all I have to say.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Jonathan Prince, you worked for Senator Edwards. Personally, how disappointed are you?

PRINCE: Look, I'm obviously disappointed. My heart goes out to them. My heart goes out to the whole family. It's a sad day. It's a tough situation. I'm glad to know, frankly, they've actually had some time this outside of the public spotlight to work on this, as they've been doing now, as you heard Jennifer say earlier, for a year and a half. But, you know, I hope he brings his voice back.

BLITZER: When you told reporters the "National Enquirer" was wrong, you honestly believed that.

PRINCE: Totally.

BLITZER: You didn't know the truth?

PRINCE: Of course not.

BLITZER: So you were just saying --

PRINCE: I asked him and he told me it wasn't true. I went and did my job.

BLITZER: You asked him personally.

PRINCE: Yes.

BLITZER: So he lied directly to you.

PRINCE: Which, let's be honest, Wolf, is not all that surprising. When you've done something like this in your life, you don't want to advertise it. I don't feel, to be honest with you, a personal sense of betrayal.

BLITZER: We have to leave it right there. I'm Wolf Blitzer, sitting in tonight for Larry King. Larry King will be back next week. Let's go to "Anderson Cooper 360" right now. Anderson?

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