Posted: Jan 21, 2010 7:06 AM by Lisa Myers and Michael Austin, NBC News
Updated: Jan 21, 2010 7:06 AM
For the first time, John Edwards is publicly admitting that he is indeed the father of a 2-year-old daughter conceived with Rielle Hunter, a campaign videographer with whom he had an affair.
In a written statement provided exclusively to NBC News, the former North Carolina senator and Democratic presidential candidate says he's taking responsibility for the child, Frances Quinn Hunter:
"I am Quinn's father. I will do everything in my power to provide her with the love and support she deserves. I have been able to spend time with her during the past year and trust that future efforts to show her the love and affection she deserves can be done privately and in peace.
It was wrong for me ever to deny she was my daughter and hopefully one day, when she understands, she will forgive me. I have been providing financial support for Quinn and have reached an agreement with her mother to continue providing support in the future.
To all those I have disappointed and hurt these words will never be enough, but I am truly sorry."
Harrison Hickman, Edwards' close friend and personal advisor, spoke to NBC's Lisa Myers on Edwards' behalf.
"The senator wants to say, first of all, that he is the father of Quinn," Hickman said. "Secondly, he wants people to know that he has provided for her and will continue to provide for her, as he should, both financially and emotionally."
Edwards is not speaking publicly today, at least in part because of an ongoing federal investigation into whether campaign money was used to try to cover up the affair. He has denied wrongdoing. Hickman said that Edwards wanted to be honest about his child, but also wanted to protect his privacy.
"He's not doing this as a way to try to bring attention to himself," Hickman said. "He's doing this as a way ... to begin to put this behind, not just him, but everybody else who's been affected by this."
Edwards' attorneys say he's been seeing Quinn and providing financial support for about a year, and just signed a child support agreement with Hunter. A spokesperson for Elizabeth Edwards says she learned last summer that Quinn is her husband's child.
Why wait more than two years to publicly admit paternity?
"He has acknowledged it long before now. The reason it has taken so long for it to become public is that there were a lot of people involved," Hickman said. "There are a lot of adults involved, there are a number of families involved, and there are also a lot of kids involved."
Edwards' admission today also indicates that his relationship with Hunter continued months after his wife announced that her cancer had returned and that it was incurable.
Elizabeth Edwards is still undergoing cancer treatment and makes occasional appearances about health care. Last summer she opened a furniture shop in Chapel Hill, N.C., not far from the family's mansion.
"Elizabeth thinks he should acknowledge this," Hickman said. "It's been a very difficult time for everyone, but for Elizabeth, I think, more than anyone else, it's been a difficult time."
Hickman said Edwards wanted to "do the right thing" and come clean in the summer of 2008, but that he couldn't bring himself to do so.
"It was complicated ... certainly more complicated than I knew," Hickman explained. "He had to be able to talk to Elizabeth about it. He had to be able to talk to Rielle about it. He had to talk to, us (and) his children about it. He had to deal with legal issues involving support for the child."
Once the legal issues were resolved, Hickman said, Edwards "wanted to move forward immediately with letting people know about it."
Hickman said he didn't know that status of Edwards' relationships with Hunter or his wife, but other family friends say John and Elizabeth have separated, at least for now, but still talk on a regular basis.
Edwards bought a house for Quinn and her mother to live in in Charlotte, N.C., more than two hours away from his home in Chapel Hill. Now, Hickman said, the former senator is trying to stay out of the public spotlight and focus his energy on family and doing good deeds like helping the poor.
Hickman says that for Edwards, Quinn has the same status as the three children he has with Elizabeth.