John Edwards's Daughter Speaks Out On Dad's Affair

Illustration for article titled John Edwardss Daughter Speaks Out On Dads Affair

John Edwards's daughter Cate has spoken out for the first time about his affair with Rielle Hunter, breaking a mold of silence forged by Chelsea Clinton.

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People quotes 28-year-old federal clerk Cate Edwards on her mother's reaction to her father's infidelity:

There are the things she taught without words, [like] how to continue to live your life on your own terms when it somehow becomes savaged by people you never invited into it.

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Of course, John Edwards was responsible for some of this "savaging," but Rielle "Allow A Man To Be A Man" Hunter certainly hasn't helped with her various public statements. Cate Edwards's decision to make a public statement of her own — a full-length essay by her will run in next week's People — is a little surprising, as it doesn't have much precedent. Chelsea Clinton, another daughter of a famously unfaithful politician, was largely shielded from questions about the Monica Lewinsky scandal until her mom's 2008 presidential campaign. When someone from a Butler University audience asked her about her dad's affair, she responded,

Wow, you're the first person actually that's ever asked me that question in the, I don't know maybe, 70 college campuses I've now been to, and I do not think that is any of your business.

And when she got the question yet again, this time at North Carolina State University, she again said, "It's none of your business." The approach didn't win her mom the nomination, but it probably didn't lose it for her either, and it did help Chelsea insulate herself a bit from a sordid episode that must have caused her a lot of stress as a teen. By choosing to engage, Cate Edwards is taking a different tack — a trail blazed, as she points out, by her mom. Elizabeth Edwards will reportedly be addressing her divorce in a new chapter for the paperback version of her book, and perhaps for her, engagement is more powerful than privacy. More than a decade after the Lewinsky scandal, when the Internet has made privacy for any political family a complete joke, this makes a certain amount of sense. It remains to be seen whether Al Gore's kids will address his "sex poodle" scandal — but unfortunately, some of them have problems of their own.

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John Edwards's Daughter: Our Lives Were 'Savaged' [People]

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DISCUSSION

I think there are two important differences between Chelsea and Cate's situations.

1. Chelsea's mother was running for president, and effectively setting herself (and by proxy Chelsea) for a public life (or at least continued public interest). Edwards political career is pretty much over, at this point, and I reckon it would not be difficult for Cate to remove herself from public speculation, even after this essay - an option that Chelsea certainly would not have had, had she commented on the issue when her father was president, or when her mother was running for president.

2. I think Clintons affair played our *far* less publicly than Edwards. Certainly it was a huge issue, but I for one witnessed less speculation, less sordid coverage, and less mud slinging, in that situation. Cate actually has something to say - I imagine this essay will be a defense/in support of her mother, and a public indicting of Rielle Hunter. I don't think Chelsea (or Hillary) were in a position for her to need or want to engage in a public spat, like the one Elizabeth and Rielle have been engaged in for the past few months.