CBS’s Smith: John Edwards ‘Targeted’ By Mistress

Harry Smith, CBS Monday’s CBS Early Show, came up with a list of excuses for John Edwards cheating on his wife, including co-host Harry Smith suggesting that the woman Edwards had the affair with, Rielle Hunter, targeted the former Senator: "This woman in question has a very interesting history...knowing her as this kind of bar fly who had this kind of crazy past... From reading everything I read it seemed to me that she targeted Edwards."

The bashing of Hunter began during a segment in the 7am half hour of the show when co-host Maggie Rodriguez talked to David Perel, the editor-in-chief of the National Enquirer, which broke the story, and asked: "...your impressions of this woman, Rielle Hunter, who's being trashed in New York papers today. On the cover of this one, it says 'Rielle Cruel,' saying that she trashed Elizabeth Edwards. Said she was a woman who had bad karma. What can you tell us about her?"

In the later segment, during the 7:30am half hour, Smith talked to psychologists Robi Ludwig, from Cookie magazine, and Frank Farley, from Temple University. Smith began by posing the question: "Why do politicians like John Edwards risk their careers by having extramarital affairs?" Ludwig decided to blame Elizabeth Edwards’s cancer: "What was the trigger? So I wonder if there was something about his wife's illness that somehow got him to cheat or contributed at least." When a skeptical Smith asked: "You're cutting him a break then it sounds like?" Ludwig replied: "Well, you know, I think that we get so caught up in good or bad, you know. Is somebody a good person or a bad person. Cheating is wrong...But I think that there are multiple factors. Was he doing it because he had a fear of losing his wife? I mean, there are lots of different reasons." Smith then conceded: "No, I hear that...there may be legitimacy to that."

Later, after Smith suggested that Hunter "targeted" Edwards, Ludwig agreed: "Well that could certainly be. And there are many politicians who are targeted. They're powerful. Sometimes they're good looking. So they are going to be in a situation that other, quote, unquote, 'normal' men may not be in."

Smith then turned to Farley and asked: "...what's going on in his brain? He has everything at risk. He's running for president again. There's no question about that. As this is going on, as his wife is suffering from this horrible disease, he decides, well, it's okay." Like Ludwig, Farley did not hold Edwards personally responsible: "It's possible he couldn't stop himself, in the sense. You know? The career of politics involves all sorts of change, variety, novelty, risk, uncertainty. They tend to be natural rule-breakers, these -- the folks who go in there, you know. If they followed the strict rules, they'd have a 9:00 to 5:00 ordinary job." So our lawmakers are "natural rule-breakers" who have loose morals and simply can’t stop themselves.

Turning to Elizabeth Edwards, Smith observed: "Elizabeth Edwards has been amazing. She said 'I'm sticking with this guy.' This is, you know, part of what life is about." Ludwig then added: "I mean, a lot of these women must know that their men are going to be targeted. And maybe they make a decision, 'listen, my relationship is more important than some woman, I'm not going to allow some fling to interfere with my relationship.' And also it's a business relationship for a lot of these people, in addition to being an emotional relationship."

Farley summed up the scandal by again suggesting that Edwards couldn’t help himself: "Politicians aren't like the rest of us, you understand. And neither are their spouses. And so they're attracted to certain things in these guys and sometimes there are consequences."

Here is the full transcript of the 7am half hour segment:

7:00AM TEASER:

JULIE CHEN: The Edwards scandal. New details about who fathered the baby and why Elizabeth is standing by her man.

7:14AM TEASER:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Coming up next here on the Early Show, John Edwards's bombshell admission that he cheated on his wife. We'll find out the latest details from the people who broke the story.

7:17AM SEGMENT:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards will not address the Democratic National Convention later this month. Instead, he's dealing with the fallout from his bombshell revelation that he had an extramarital affair. John Edwards, the favorite son of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is favored no more. At least by some of his former supporters.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I was disappointed. Very disappointed.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN B: You know, you want to trust him, to believe him. And it just makes it kind of hard to believe anything that he says.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I mean, I'm disgusted, I'm disappointed, I'm just dog gone angry.

RODRIGUEZ: Their anger stems, not just from Edwards' admitted affair, but from months of repeated denials.

JOHN EDWARDS: I have no idea what you're asking about.

RODRIGUEZ: Edwards finally owned up to the affair last week in a televised interview.

EDWARDS: I made a very serious mistake. A mistake that I am responsible for and no one else. I, in 2006, told Elizabeth about the mistake, asked her for her forgiveness, asked God for his forgiveness.

RODRIGUEZ: But there are lingering questions. Did the affair really end in 2006? How did the other woman, Rielle Hunter, end up in a $3 million California home? And if her child, born in February, was not fathered by Edwards, what's behind the tabloid photograph of Edwards allegedly holding Hunter's child?

EDWARDS: I don't know anything about that photograph, don't know who that baby is. I don't know if the picture has been altered, manufactured. If it's a picture that was taken of me some other time holding another baby. I have no idea.

RODRIGUEZ: Despite it all, Elizabeth Edwards continues to stand by her husband saying, quote, 'I am proud of the courage John showed by his honesty in the face of shame.' The National Enquirer broke the story of Edwards' affair last year. Joining us now from Boca Raton, Florida is editor-in-chief, David Perel. Good morning, David.

DAVID PEREL: Good morning.

RODRIGUEZ: Back then, no one believed you. I bet you're feeling pretty vindicated right now.

PEREL: Well, we certainly do. It's been a long, hard road to break this story and get it out into the mainstream.

RODRIGUEZ: He's still denying a claim that you make, that he is the father of Hunter's daughter. Do you have evidence to prove otherwise?

PEREL: We certainly have evidence that points in that direction. We know Rielle is saying she -- that he is the father. We also know that the affair continued long after he said he broke it off. So we hope that he would take a paternity test. We've asked him for months to take a paternity test but he has always refused our request. Now surprisingly he says he'll take one and she says she won't. But let's not forget, she's still being paid.

RODRIGUEZ: Did anyone from the Edwards campaign ever contact you to squash the story?

PEREL: Oh absolutely. When we went to press with our story in December, naming Rielle and great details about the affair, we had long discussions with his attorneys. At one point, Edwards offered to supply an affidavit saying that he never had an affair. We said okay and the affidavit never materialized. I made an offer to his people, that if you take a lie detector test that says you didn't have the affair, you pass it, I'll kill the story. They didn't take us up on that.

RODRIGUEZ: Lastly, your impressions of this woman, Rielle Hunter, who's being trashed in New York papers today. On the cover of this one, it says 'Rielle Cruel,' saying that she trashed Elizabeth Edwards. Said she was a woman who had bad karma. What can you tell us about her?

PEREL: She's an interesting character. She went from being kind of the quintessential party girl in New York to changing her lifestyle and becoming involved in new age spiritualism. But I think the one thing that's very significant is that she was and remains in love with John Edwards and she's still in contact with John Edwards. She thought during this affair that they would end up together and that they would end up married. And she still thinks that they're going to end up together.

RODRIGUEZ: David Perel, we shall see. Thank you so much.

 

Here is the full transcript of the 7:30am half hour:

7:30AM TEASER:

HARRY SMITH: Also coming up, John Edwards, the let not -- well he is the latest politician, and probably not the last politician, to risk his career with an extramarital affair. We'll ask the question, why?

7:36AM TEASER:

SMITH: Coming up next, with another high-profile scandal in the news, we'll take a look at what makes men risk everything.

7:39AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: Why do politicians like John Edwards risk their careers by having extramarital affairs? We're joined by two psychologists, Dr. Robi Ludwig, contributing editor of Cookie magazine and Dr. Frank Farley of Temple University. Good morning to you both.

ROBI LUDWIG: Good morning.

FRANK FARLEY: Good morning.

SMITH: Since the second you heard this headline and you heard that he was going to make his confession, what did you think?

LUDWIG: My first question was, was this the first time that it happened? Because that would mean something different if he was somebody who had-

SMITH: A serial philanderer-

LUDWIG: -a pattern of affairs-

SMITH: Yeah, right-

LUDWIG: -or if there was -- you want to know, what was the trigger? So I wonder if there was something about his wife's illness that somehow got him to cheat or contributed at least.

SMITH: You're cutting him a break then it sounds like?

LUDWIG: Well, you know, I think that we get so caught up in good or bad, you know. Is somebody a good person or a bad person. Cheating is wrong.

SMITH: Right.

LUDWIG: But I think that there are multiple factors. Was he doing it because he had a fear of losing his wife? I mean, there are lots of different reasons.

SMITH: Mmm, Okay.

LUDWIG: Wouldn't be the only reason-

SMITH: No, I hear that-

LUDWIG: But it could be a contributing-

SMITH: -there may be legitimacy to that. Dr. Farley?

FARLEY: Here we go again.

SMITH: Right.

FARLEY: And is this similar or different to all the others? And that was my question about the whole thing.

SMITH: Yeah. This woman in question has a very interesting history. Jay McInerny is writing in one of the papers this weekend about knowing her as this kind of bar fly who had this kind of crazy past, has this epiphany, 'I'm going to turn into something else.' From reading everything I read it seemed to me that she targeted Edwards. Did you not have the same impression?

LUDWIG: Well that could certainly be. And there are many politicians who are targeted. They're powerful. Sometimes they're good looking. So they are going to be in a situation that other, quote, unquote, 'normal' men may not be in.

SMITH: Here's my question, here's -- what's going on in his brain? He has everything at risk. He's running for president again. There's no question about that. As this is going on, as his wife is suffering from this horrible disease, he decides, well, it's okay.

FARLEY: It's possible he couldn't stop himself, in the sense. You know? The career of politics involves all sorts of change, variety, novelty, risk, uncertainty. They tend to be natural rule breakers, these -- the folks who go in there, you know. If they followed the strict rules, they'd have a 9:00 to 5:00 ordinary job.

SMITH: Right.

FARLEY: It's not an ordinary job. And there's all the admirers, the opportunities. And so this is why it happens so frequently. It attracts a certain kind of person into that lifestyle. If you walk down the streets of New York, ask how many people who want to run for president. Almost none. Almost none.

SMITH: [Laughter] They may want to be president, but nobody wants to run for it. Nobody wants to go through this stuff.

FARLEY: Right. The job description is not acceptable for most people.

SMITH: Elizabeth Edwards has been amazing. She said 'I'm sticking with this guy.' This is, you know, part of what life is about. Surprised? Not surprised?

LUDWIG: Not surprised. I mean, a lot of these women must know that their men are going to be targeted. And maybe they make a decision, 'listen, my relationship is more important than some woman, I'm not going to allow some fling to interfere with my relationship.' And also it's a business relationship for a lot of these people, in addition to being an emotional relationship-

SMITH: It's a family enterprise-

LUDWIG: -that's right.

SMITH: Real quickly.

FARLEY: Politicians aren't like the rest of us, you understand. And neither are their spouses. And so they're attracted to certain things in these guys and sometimes there are consequences.

SMITH: Willing to pay the prices-

FARLEY: FDR, JFK, Clinton-

SMITH: And on, and on, and on. Thank you both for being with us.

LUDWIG: Thank you.

SMITH: Robi Ludwig and Frank Farley. If you'd like to see a time line of the rise and fall of John Edwards just go to our website, that's earlyshow.cbsnews.com.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC