Book Report: ‘The Politician’ By Andrew Young
If Washington Wire readers are interested in reading Andrew Young’s forthcoming tell-all on his decade behind the scenes with John Edwards, the story heats up on page 154when Young begins to recount how the 2008 presidential hopeful and former Democratic Party vice presidential nominee was taken down by an extramarital affair and a brazen attempt to hide his daughter’s paternity.
As most readers already know, former Sen. Edwards from North Carolina had an affair with Rielle Hunter while his wife, Elizabeth, was battling cancer and he was plotting a path to the White House. When Hunter, a videographer hired by the Edwards campaign, became pregnant, Edwards persuaded longtime “body man” Young to claim he was the father. Young went into hiding with his wife, their three children — and Hunter. Shortly afterwards, the affair was uncovered by the National Enquirer and eventually the mainstream media.
Young describes his alleged discovery of a compromising videotape of Edwards and a naked, pregnant lover, identified by Young as Hunter. “It was like watching a traffic pileup occur in slow motion — it was repelling but also transfixing,” he writes.
Young, who has severed his ties with the Edwards family, tells his side of the tale in “The Politician: An Insider’s Account of John Edwards’s Pursuit of the Presidency and the Scandal that Brought Him Down.” The book is set for a Feb. 2 release by St. Martin’s Press. Washington Wire purchased a copy Monday at a Washington, D.C.-area book store.
Last Thursday, Edwards publicly owned up to fathering Frances Quinn Hunter, born Feb. 27, 2008.
Edwards spokeswoman Joyce Fitzpatrick said he has not seen the book and would not comment on the allegations. Elizabeth Edwards could not be reached for comment. Hunter’s lawyer did not return multiple calls requesting comment.
Here are some of the highlights, which Young says are all based on eyewitness accounts and conversations he had with the Edwardses and Hunter, and in some cases, he writes that he has voicemails, emails and notes to back up his story.
Donations: “S–t, they love me — they would do anything for me,” John Edwards would say after getting a big donation, Young writes. If refused, he would say, “What the hell — why are they wasting my time? I’m going to be president. I don’t have time for this s–t. Everyone wants to give me advice. I don’t want their advice. I want their money.”
Made in USA: Young says Edwards is an Atkins-dieter who hated making appearances at state fairs where “fat rednecks try to shove food down my face. I know I’m the people’s senator, but do I have to hang out with them?” Before a SEIU candidate forum in Las Vegas, Young says Edwards made him cut out a “made in the USA” label from Young’s own suit to sew in place of Edwards’s “made in Italy” label.
Edwards’ hair: “Naturally thick and lustrous, his hair was a fixation with him. He insisted on using just one kind of shampoo — HairTec Thick & Strong Shampoo for Fine, Fragile Hair,” Young writes. He says that for years he or Edwards personally paid for the expensive haircuts rather than publicly list them as campaign expenses. He blamed the gaffe – Edward’s campaign committee picked up the tab for two $400 haircuts — on “new, inexperienced staff.”
A confrontation: Shortly after John Edwards and Hunter returned from a trip to Uganda in 2006, Elizabeth Edwards answered a cell phone call to hear Hunter who “launched into a romantic monologue,” Young writes. According to Young’s account, Elizabeth confronted her husband who “confessed to having had a one-night stand but didn’t say with whom.” He called Hunter in front of his wife to end it, but later called her back to say he didn’t mean it.
Thoughts of leaving: Young says that Edwards would confide in him about how he thought about leaving “crazy” Elizabeth, but how she plays better with American voters than he. “I cringed when he said this,” Young writes.
Time together: While Elizabeth was on a book tour for “Saving Graces,” Hunter allegedly spent time at the Edwards home. Young writes that Hunter slept in their bed and entertained the children. He also writes that he listened as Edwards told her that one day they would form their own family and have a wedding where the Dave Matthews Band would play.
Hotel reservations: Keeping the affair running throughout the campaign wasn’t easy. “When I knew where the senator was staying, I made reservations in my own name, faxed copies of my credit card and state identification card, and told the hotel staff that my ‘wife’ would be checking in on my account,” Young writes. He said he paid for much of Hunter’s expenses out of his pocket, and Edwards promised reimbursement when they found wealthy campaign donors or when Elizabeth died and he no longer had to cover up such costs. “I’ll take care of you, Andrew,” he quotes Edwards as saying. “You know I’m good for it.”
Incurable cancer: Elizabeth Edwards said publicly that she discovered her cancer had returned shortly after a rib broke from a strong hug from her husband. Young writes that she broke her rib while she was moving boxes and her husband was in Iowa planning a tryst for Hunter’s birthday. Young writes that Edwards got the call and hurried home – and sent flowers to his angry mistress.
Hunter’s pregnancy: According to Young, Hunter called him in May 2007 to say she was pregnant. Young says that when he informed Edwards, the senator told him to “handle it,” to which he replied: “I can’t handle this one.” Young writes that Edward unloaded on Hunter as a “crazy slut,” said they had an “open relationship,” and put his paternity chances at “one in three.” Young says that Edwards asked him for help persuading Hunter to have an abortion. Young writes that Hunter believed the baby to be “some kind of golden child, the reincarnated spirit of a Buddhist monk who was going to help save the world.”
A move: Right before the Iowa debate, Young says Edwards asked him to take his family and Hunter and move away – all on the dime of trial lawyer friend Fred Baron. On Dec. 15, 2007, Young released a statement claiming paternity. Baron died in October 2008.
The decision to hide: Young writes that Edwards promised “He would make sure I had a job in the future,” and told him: “You’re family. A friend like no friend I’ve ever had.” Young goes on to say that Edwards concluded “that if I helped him, I would make Mrs. Edwards’s dying days a bit easier. ‘I know you’re mad at her, Andrew, but I love her. I can’t let her die knowing this.’”
The benefactors: Baron provided a private jet and accommodations for the Youngs and Hunter while they lay low, Young writes. To hide Hunter’s expenses during her pregnancy, Edwards tapped funds from heiress and socialite Bunny Mellon, known as “the Bunny money,” as Young tells it, with payment totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. “She did not know that money was being used in part for Rielle,” Young says.
Mellon’s lawyer, Alex Forger, said that Mellon had sent money to Edwards for his personal use, had paid gift taxes on it, and did not know how Edwards used it. “Good old Andrew Young said it was for a personal need and she responded,” Forger told Washington Wire in an interview.
Antipoverty foundation: Young says he and Edwards made plans to use Bunny Mellon’s money to set up an antipoverty foundation which Young would work for and Edwards would use to circle the globe campaigning. Young set up a nonprofit corporation, and Edwards left him a voicemail telling him, “I really love you, Andrew.”
Forger said Young had approached Mellon asking for money but she had refused to give him any because she did not have enough liquidity to do that. When Young suggested she mortgage her farm, Mellon was upset and complained to Edwards, Forger said.