Elizabeth Edwards On 'Facing Life's Adversities'
Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, has survived campaigns, cancer, the death of a child and her husband's infidelity. In her new book, Resilience, Edwards discusses the adversities she has faced — and her efforts to move on.
The decision to reveal herself in print wasn't an easy one. As Edwards tells Michele Norris, she agreed to write the book before "all of my struggles [had] appeared on the horizon."
After she learned of her husband's affair, Edwards debated whether it was a story she wanted to tell. But, she says, "I decided that if you are going to write a book about resilience, if you have any qualifications ... you do go ahead and do some of the things you want to do in your life and not let those obstacles get in the way."
Edwards says she first learned of her husband's infidelity in December 2006, right after he returned from a tour announcing his presidency.
"John started out by not telling the whole story," Edwards says. "He told me a very abbreviated story, which allowed me to move through my life."
At that point, Edwards asked her husband not to run for president, but he argued that pulling out of the race immediately after joining would raise a lot of questions. So they agreed to go ahead with the campaign.
"I was hesitant about how I was supposed to go out and talk about him, but honestly, the policies he talked about were, in my view, so far superior to what other people were talking about," Edwards says.
John Edwards continued on the presidential campaign trail, appearing at events with his wife beside him. Elizabeth Edwards explains that she felt her husband's political persona "was really on the right track about our responsibilities to one another. He just failed in his responsibilities to me."
Since the revelation of John Edwards' affair, some people have expressed anger at both John and Elizabeth Edwards for pursing the presidency in spite of his infidelities. Some Hillary Clinton supporters believe that Edwards' role in the primary might have had an impact on the election.
But Elizabeth Edwards argues that her husband's failure to get the nomination was not due to any of the things he had done privately. She adds that at the time of the campaign, she knew of only a single incident of infidelity — it was only a year and some months after their first conversation that her husband told her the whole story of his ongoing affair.
"One day we sat down in the living room and we went through it. ... It was really, really hard to hear, but we couldn't have moved forward in any way" without discussing it, Edwards says.
As she recounts in her book, the affair began when the other woman tracked down her husband at a hotel: "Without my knowing, a woman who spotted my husband one afternoon in the restaurant bar of the hotel in which he was staying hung around outside the hotel for a couple of hours until he returned from a dinner and introduced herself by saying, 'You are so hot,' " she writes.
The woman John Edwards had an affair with eventually gave birth to a child, but Elizabeth Edwards says she is not aware of any facts concerning the child's paternity: "I'm sorry that this child will have to undergo with whatever stigma is associated with the notoriety of these circumstances, but I don't have any information that this child is related to my children."
Edwards does not name the other woman in her book because, she says, her name is not relevant. She'd rather focus on putting her family back together and her own health issues.
As for her ongoing battle with cancer, Edwards puts voice to her own resilience when she says, "I've had reports that have encouraged me, and reports that have discouraged me, but the most recent reports have been encouraging, so I'll just hang on to those."
Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.