CBS: Elizabeth Edwards Not Motivated By ‘Craven Ambition’

Maggie Rodriguez, CBS On Thursday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez talked to People magazine correspondent Sandra Westfall, who recently interviewed friends and family of Elizabeth Edwards who: "...wanted to put out there that she wasn't this wind-up doll that went on stage and let the campaign continue out of some sort of craven ambition, but that she really was going through a lot of anguish." That despite the fact that Elizabeth Edwards went along with the cover up of her husband’s affair throughout his presidential campaign.

Rodriguez described Westfall as someone "who has a close relationship with the Edwards’" and asked: "What was the most important thing they wanted to convey on her behalf?" Westfall explained: "I think that she had hoped that her statement on Friday night would be the end of it for her and was surprised and a little taken aback by how many questions already came up." Later, Westfall elaborated: "...she thought her forgiving him should be enough for everybody else and she was unprepared for the amount of disgust and how swiftly everything else he had done in his career would be wiped away. And that she's really reeling from that and afraid for what it will do to their legacy as a couple and what their children will inherit."

In response to Rodriguez asking: "when did she [Elizabeth Edwards] really find out?," Westfall explained: "The campaign had already gone through its official launch. They were in the middle of this tour. And she felt sort of trapped...He was a candidate. And then he drops this bombshell on her. And only in pieces. He told the truth slowly. So she, you know, didn't have all the information to make the decision right away and she was in shock."

Rodriguez later asked: "What does she say to him? ‘You're running -- not only are you cheating on me -- you're running for president and you're cheating on me?’" Westfall replied: "Well, the people that, you know, I spoke to, her brother and her best friend, didn't want to feed any of the voyeuristic aspects of this story, so they were really careful not to get into those kinds of details. Just that she was in pain and that it was a difficult decision." So why have friends and family talk to People magazine if they "didn't want to feed any of the voyeuristic aspects of this story"?

Westfall’s response to Rodriguez’s final question, "Lastly, did he tell her about the baby that he claims is not his?," explained: "...that was really what she wanted most out of him going public, to knock down those reports, so they could get the truth out and get on with her life." Rodriguez reiterated: "Do you think, well she -- you say she believes him about the child unequivocally?" Westfall replied: "That's what I'm told."

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:00AM TEASER:

HARRY SMITH: Elizabeth revealed. Her heartbreaking decision to stand by her man and why she did it.

7:01AM TEASER:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Also ahead this morning, for the first time we are hearing how Elizabeth Edwards feels about her husband's affair. It is front page news all over the country. 'I stayed for my kids.' That's one of the revelations that her friends and family are making in an interview. This is something that she wanted them to do. She wants the world to know when she really found out about the affair and why she decided to stay. So we'll talk about that.

7:14AM TEASER:

RODRIGUEZ: Up next, we're going to talk about the big story making headlines. Elizabeth Edwards, how she feels about the affair. Her friends and family reveal it.

7:30AM TEASER:

RODRIGUEZ: Also, we will talk more about what Elizabeth Edwards is going through these days, now that it's been revealed to the world that her husband had an affair at least just before he made his decision to run for president, maybe even after that. Her friends and family are speaking out this morning on her behalf.

7:33AM SEGMENT:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: This is one of the biggest questions left unanswered when John Edwards admitted to having an affair. What impact did it have on his wife Elizabeth? In the latest edition of People magazine out tomorrow, those closest to Mrs. Edwards are speaking out on her behalf. Joining us is Sandra Westfall, People correspondent, who has a close relationship with the Edwards' and spoke with her best friend and her brother, right?

SANDRA WESTFALL: Yes.

RODRIGUEZ: What was the most important thing they wanted to convey on her behalf?

WESTFALL: I think that she had hoped that her statement on Friday night would be the end of it for her and was surprised and a little taken aback by how many questions already came up. So they wanted to put out there that she wasn't this wind-up doll that went on stage and let the campaign continue out of some sort of craven ambition, but that she really was going through a lot of anguish.

RODRIGUEZ: Let's talk about those unanswered questions. Number one, when did she really find out?

WESTFALL: Well, that's the thing. The campaign had already gone through its official launch. They were in the middle of this tour. And she felt sort of trapped. It was the end of the year 2006, between Christmas and New Year's. They had already done the announcement tour. He was a candidate. And then he drops this bombshell on her. And only in pieces. He told the truth slowly. So she, you know, didn't have all the information to make the decision right away and she was in shock.

RODRIGUEZ: Okay. So he goes on this trip. We've seen pictures of him on the trip with the mistress Rielle Hunter, he's announcing his candidacy to America. Elizabeth Edwards is not on that trip. He comes home and drops this bomb on her. What does she say to him? 'You're running -- not only are you cheating on me -- you're running for president and you're cheating on me?'

WESTFALL: Well, the people that, you know, I spoke to, her brother and her best friend, didn't want to feed any of the voyeuristic aspects of this story, so they were really careful not to get into those kinds of details. Just that she was in pain and that it was a difficult decision. She stepped back from the campaign trail at that point, didn't do very many events in January and February of 2007. And then in March she was knocked back with this cancer diagnosis that-

RODRIGUEZ: Did that bring them closer?

WESTFALL: I was told that what that did was really bring into focus her choice and give an urgency to her choice. That she then didn't have the luxury of saying, 'well, maybe we'll separate, maybe we'll take some time to see if therapy can work.' That really what it said to her is 'I'm going to be gone too soon. I need to keep this family intact so that my children have something after I'm gone.'

RODRIGUEZ: Put things in perspective. Lastly, did he tell her about the baby that he claims is not his?

WESTFALL: He told her it's not his and she believes him. As her best friend said, 'she wants to believe him, she does believe him.' And that that was really what she wanted most out of him going public, to knock down those reports, so they could get the truth out and get on with her life.

RODRIGUEZ: She found out a couple years ago and I'm sure had found out a way to cope and deal with it, but now that it's all being brought back up to the surface, is she still dealing with it? There's so much disgust and anger out there. And I'm sure she knows about it.

WESTFALL: Well, her friend told me, you know, that she thought her forgiving him should be enough for everybody else and she was unprepared for the amount of disgust and how swiftly everything else he had done in his career would be wiped away. And that she's really reeling from that and afraid for what it will do to their legacy as a couple and what their children will inherit.

RODRIGUEZ: Do you think, well she -- you say she believes him about the child unequivocally?

WESTFALL: That's what I'm told.

RODRIGUEZ: Okay. Thank you so much.

WESTFALL: Thank you.

RODRIGUEZ: We'll look for that on stands tomorrow, People magazine, the interview that they gave with Sandra Westfall.

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