RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards has finally come forward to admit that he is the father of a child born to a videographer he hired before his second White House bid. "It was wrong for me to ever deny she was my daughter," he said Thursday.
Edwards released a statement to The Associated Press after long denying that he'd fathered a child during an affair with Rielle Hunter. The admission comes shortly before a book on the scandal is due out from a former campaign aide who was expected to describe how Edwards worked to hide his paternity.
"I am Quinn's father," the former senator declared in his statement, as the second birthday of Frances Quinn Hunter approaches.
A lawyer for Hunter did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It is not clear where she is living.
Frances was born Feb. 27, 2008, indicating that the child was conceived in the middle of 2007, several months after Hunter stopped working for Edwards. John and Elizabeth Edwards renewed their wedding vows in July of 2007 to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary.
A former Edwards aide, Andrew Young, initially claimed paternity of the child shortly before the 2008 presidential primary contests began. Young is scheduled to release a book on Feb. 2 that details the scandal.
Elizabeth Edwards, whose cancer returned in an incurable form in March 2007, has stood by her husband despite the affair. She has said that it does not matter to her whether her husband fathered a child with Hunter, saying, "that would be a part of John's life, but not a part of mine."
Since admitting the affair in August 2008, John Edwards has largely gone into seclusion. He has acknowledged a federal investigation into his campaign finances while both Young and Hunter - with her child - have made appearances at a federal courthouse in Raleigh.
In the statement Edwards released Thursday, he said, "I will do everything in my power to provide her (Frances) 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."
Edwards also said, "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," the statement said. "To all those I have disappointed and hurt, these words will never be enough, but I am truly sorry."
Edwards' attorney, Wade Smith, said in an interview that Edwards wrestled with the decision to come forward but took so long to do it because "he's not the only person involved in this."
"It's a complex family situation, and he had to keep in mind that other people have concerns and worries about it," Smith said.
Smith said there would never be a logical explanation for why Edwards initially denied being the father. But he added that Edwards was "very pleased" to finally set the record straight.
"To say that life has been hard for John Edwards for the past year would be an enormous understatement," Smith said. "His life has totally fallen apart. It's been a very difficult time for him. He recognizes that he has been at fault."
Edwards, a former U.S. senator representing North Carolina from 1998 until his vice presidential bid in 2004, acknowledged in May that federal investigators were looking into how he used campaign funds. Grand jury proceedings are secret, and the U.S. Attorney's office in Raleigh has declined to confirm or deny an investigation. Smith declined to comment Thursday about the probe.
Edwards adamantly denied during an interview with ABC News last summer that he had fathered a child with Hunter, and he welcomed a paternity test. He said then that the affair had ended in 2006. That year, Edwards' political action committee had paid Hunter's video production firm $100,000 for work.
Fred Baron, who was Edwards' national finance chairman and a wealthy Dallas-based trial attorney, said in 2008 he quietly sent money to Hunter and to resettle Young's family. Baron died later that year.
Harrison Hickman, a longtime friend who worked as Edwards' political pollster, said Edwards had to work through a number of issues before coming forward - addressing the matter with Hunter, his wife, his children and legal matters.
"That was the last piece of it - coming to an agreement on child support," Hickman said.
He said Elizabeth Edwards was supportive of the decision of her husband to come forward.
"She's hoping, like a lot of people are hoping, that it’s the beginning of the end of the public part of this," Hickman said.
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