WASHINGTON---Elizabeth Edwards--on her book tour---is resurrecting for all husband John's affair and possible--we just don't know for sure--love child.
Monday's installment of Elizabeth Edwards has her on NBC's "Today Show" talking to host Matt Lauer. Edwards was willing to ignore her husband cheating on her at first because she thought it was just one episode. Turned out to be a series. She just did not know.
Lauer finally got around to asking, "I know a lot of people have asked me and a lot of people have asked in general why you didn't leave him?"
Edwards replied, "You know, I guess there are all sorts of reasons, but the big reason is that, you know, I promised I was with him for better or for worse. This was a lot worse than I had ever expected, but I thought, you know, that meant something when I said it.
"It still meant something. And, you know, it sounds odd, but except for this very big thing that he had done that was bad, I thought I was married -- believed and believe now that I was married to a magnificent man, you know, somebody who truly cared about other people."
Transcript courtesy Federal News Service
NBC "TODAY" INTERVIEW WITH ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE AND FORMER SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC) INTERVIEWER: MATT LAUER
MR. LAUER: Now to Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of former U.S. Senator and presidential candidate John Edwards.
Elizabeth is telling her story in a new book called "Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life's Adversities." It is a stunningly candid look at how she's dealt with some painful challenges in her own life, including the tragic death of her 16-year- old son Wade, her bout with cancer, and her husband's affair. And Elizabeth Edwards is here for her first live television interview.
Mrs. Edwards, good to see you. And from now on I'm calling you Elizabeth.
MS. EDWARDS: And I can call you Matt.
MR. LAUER: Exactly. It's nice to see you.
MS. EDWARDS: It's great to see you too.
MR. LAUER: I want to start by talking about your health, because I think, in so many ways, it is directly related to every other subject we're going to be talking about this morning. So how are you doing?
MS. EDWARDS: I'm actually doing all right. You know, cancer is not a straight line. It's up and down. So I've gotten worse occasionally and then better. But I'm on a pretty even plateau now, which is where we want to stay.
MR. LAUER: You revealed in March of 2007 that the cancer had metastasized. It had spread to your bones.
MS. EDWARDS: Yes.
MR. LAUER: And in the book you reveal that you've gotten more bad news over time from your doctors.
MS. EDWARDS: Right.
MR. LAUER: What have they told you?
MS. EDWARDS: Well, you know, just sometimes it'll go to new places. So I now have it in my thigh bone as well, whatever bone that is. But my most recent report was that it had stabilized again. So, you know, they change your medicine a little bit and you just hope you're able to keep going.
MR. LAUER: Are you in pain on a daily basis?
MS. EDWARDS: There's parts that are uncomfortable, but it's not -- you know, the side effect you're trying to avoid is dying, you know, so you're willing to put up with some of those aches and pains.
MR. LAUER: You write the following. You say, "I knew that I'd have to get ready to die. There is still no prognosis on which I can rely. If I had a time line, it would make every decision so much easier. I don't want to plan to die. All I know is that it will be at my door more quickly than I want."
MS. EDWARDS: Yeah.
MR. LAUER: You've got three children. Kate is 27.
MS. EDWARDS: Yes.
MR. LAUER: Emma Claire is 11. I think Jack is about to be nine.
MS. EDWARDS: That's right.
MR. LAUER: How have you prepared them for what you seem to be preparing yourself for?
MS. EDWARDS: Well, I don't want them to live every day of the remainder of my life with the thought that I'm dying. So I'm trying to just make sure we give them memories. One of the things Emma Claire wanted for her birthday was a trip with me. And I'm thinking maybe I'd need to do a tour, because carrying all the luggage and, you know, handling an 11-year-old, it might be too much for just me for an extended period. But it's something I desperately want to do, because, you know, the way I prepare her is to give her enough memories of me that they live on.
MR. LAUER: I think a lot of people have said to me openly -- and I guess if they had the chance, they would ask you -- why write this book now, and why go out and do interviews like this one that are meant to promote this book, when you have so many other pressing matters like what you just talked about in your life? Why the need to do this now? Why the desire?
MS. EDWARDS: Well, it's the same reason I go and speak about health care or speak at breast cancer conferences. It's because I don't know, because, you know, if I knew I was only living a year, I might make a different decision. But, you know, I could live 10 years, in which case, you know, I think I have -- I hope I have important things to say, important support to give other people who are going through things, as everybody does, whether it's the kind of experiences I've had, or people are losing their homes and losing their jobs, and just to express that everybody -- the people you hear on the news, everybody goes through exactly the same things, and to say, you know, you can get through these things too. You're going to have a tomorrow, and if you're going to make that tomorrow count, you have to buck up today.
MR. LAUER: I'm sure there were times in your life where you didn't know if you were going to have a tomorrow.
MS. EDWARDS: Yes.
MR. LAUER: And one of the things you write extensively about in the book is your son Wade's death when he was just 16 years old. It's so cliche, but it is every parent's nightmare.
MS. EDWARDS: It is.
MR. LAUER: And there were times I was reading these sections of the book, I had to put it down, because I'm a father of three. And one of the things you wrote just stopped me in my tracks. You said, "I could not change his room at home in any way at all. His backpack sat on the floor near the chair for years -- not days or weeks, but years."
And my first thought was, "How heartbreaking. And my second thought -- and I hope you'll understand this -- was, "How unhealthy.
" Do you understand that sentiment?
MS. EDWARDS: I do. But people react in different ways. And I actually think the least healthy way would be to sort of eradicate everything. I know, because I know a lot of people who've been through this experience, people who will take every sign of their child out of their house. If you have a friend who's about to do that, do them a favor of taking the things for them and hold them till the day that they do want to, you know, put on a sweater that their child --
MR. LAUER: But days or weeks -- years, though.
MS. EDWARDS: I didn't need the space. And it felt to me like I was moving him out of the family if I took his room apart for no reason. I had no need for the room.
MR. LAUER: In a B movie, there would be someone who would come to you and say -- shake you by the collar and say, "Elizabeth, you must move on."
MS. EDWARDS: People did that. (Laughs.)
MR. LAUER: Yeah. How did you get to the point where it was okay to move that backpack, which becomes almost a metaphor?
MS. EDWARDS: Right. Well, actually, I mean, it was forced on me. The hose on the washing machine split and we had a flood on that part of the floor, and so I moved his backpack in order to save it from mold and other things. So everything got moved out of the room. So circumstances forced me to do something, so I was actually saving his stuff by moving everything out.
MR. LAUER: You write that the loss of Wade changed you as a person. And you write something else in the book that is about a different subject, but I want to end this particular segment with it, also about being changed. You say, "I am a different person now. I was not wounded, not afraid, not uncertain before. And now I always will be."
We're going to talk about what you were referring to in that position when we continue talking to you, Elizabeth.
MS. EDWARDS: Thanks, Matt.
MR. LAUER: We're back right after these messages.
MR. LAUER: We're back now at 7:41 and more with Elizabeth Edwards. Her new book is called "Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life's Adversities."
You know, I read this quote from the book just before we ended our last segment, and you wrote it about being changed by your husband's affair. I want to read it again. "I'm a different person now. I was not wounded, not afraid, not uncertain before. And now I always will be."
You go on to write, "He can try to treat the wound, and he has tried. He can try to make me less afraid, and he has tried. But I am now a different person."
I know a lot of people have asked me and a lot of people have asked in general why you didn't leave him.
MS. EDWARDS: You know, I guess there are all sorts of reasons, but the big reason is that, you know, I promised I was with him for better or for worse. This was a lot worse than I had ever expected, but I thought, you know, that meant something when I said it. It still meant something. And, you know, it sounds odd, but except for this very big thing that he had done that was bad, I thought I was married -- believed and believe now that I was married to a magnificent man, you know, somebody who truly cared about other people.
I mean, as we speak, he's in El Salvador helping to build homes with the Fuller Center and Homes from the Heart. He cares about these issues, things that I care about. He's been a marvelous father. He really cared for me when I was sick, and really for the last 30 years. He made this one mistake. So do I throw out all the good stuff and say, "That doesn't matter; only this matters"?
MR. LAUER: You said recently about how this might impact your kids, "I have to prepare for the possibility, if I die before they're grown, make them able to function without an involved, engaged and admiring parent. So I need to create the picture for them that I want them to have," which makes me think that trying to forgive is one thing, but you're doing this for the kids as much as anything.
MS. EDWARDS: I mean, I am doing it for my children as well, but I wouldn't do it just for my children. I do think it's important for them to have the image that I have of him, without this piece, because I think it's important that we admire our parents, but that we don't see them as flawless. My parents were not flawless either, as I discovered.
MR. LAUER: (You write ?) in the book, yeah. You were asked recently if you love John.
MS. EDWARDS: Yes.
MR. LAUER: And you said, "It's complicated," which was a fascinating --
MS. EDWARDS: Yeah, well --
MR. LAUER: It obviously got taken, just those two words.
MS. EDWARDS: Right. And the way I actually answered, I think, is to say, "I do love him. You know, I wouldn't be making all this effort and certainly undergoing all this scrutiny if I didn't love him." But, you know, when you love somebody but you're really mad at them and somebody asks you in the middle of that, you know, "Do you love him?" he's the last person in the world that I love, you know.
MR. LAUER: So you're living under the same room now as husband and wife --
MS. EDWARDS: Right.
MR. LAUER: -- not because the relationship now performs a function.
MS. EDWARDS: No, no. I need him, and I think -- I really believe he needs me.
MR. LAUER: You write of some moments of great warmth, and this is one. These are your words: "I lie in bed, circles under my eyes, my sparse hair sticking in too many directions, and he looks at me as if I am the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. It matters."
MS. EDWARDS: It does. It does, because, you know, I see in the way that he looks for me and cares for me that this relationship, you know, is the essential relationship of his life, as my relationship with him is the essential relationship of mine.
MR. LAUER: There has been some backlash against you.
MS. EDWARDS: Yes.
MR. LAUER: And you're shaking your head.
MS. EDWARDS: (I have no doubt ?).
MR. LAUER: I guess you've read it. Let me read you a couple of comments from people.
MS. EDWARDS: Oh, thank you. (Laughs.)
MR. LAUER: Well, but it's -- I'd like your opinion on this. Sally Quinn writes, "She let him do it. She not only agreed to his run for the presidency. She encouraged him to do it, knowing the toll it would take on the family, given her health problems."
Maureen Dowd wrote this, and this is harsh.
"John Edwards' political career is over. Now St. Elizabeth has dragged him back into the public square for a flogging on Oprah and in Time and at bookstores near you." She goes on to write, "The book is just a gratuitous peek into their lives, and one that exposes their kids by exposing more dregs about their personal family life."
They're very different critiques.
MS. EDWARDS: They are very different, yeah. And so, in terms of responding, first of all, I agreed to write this book long before there was any stories about John's indiscretion. And I intended to write just a book about my experiences prior to that.
When I found out, and for a large part of writing the book, I only knew about a single night, a single moment of weakness. And that, though it was difficult to accept, you know, I could -- I certainly knew that most everybody who seeks to lead us, and most everybody who just seeks to be led, have weaknesses, moments of weakness in their lives. And I didn't think that that was a fatal flaw. But I was wrong.
MR. LAUER: So you're telling me that, had you known the whole truth, you might have decided not to write the book?
MS. EDWARDS: No, but I probably would have been more adamant about his not running than I was. His running -- the whole time he ran, I only knew of this one thing.
MR. LAUER: The story continues to make news. There are reports that John is now under investigation. They're looking into the possible funneling of some campaign funds to this woman. And I want to clear something up. You've asked, out of consideration, that we not use the woman's name. You've not made any demands of us; we're a news show. And out of consideration, I won't use the name --
MS. EDWARDS: Thank you.
MR. LAUER: -- but that possibly funneled some campaign funds to her. Are you confident no wrongdoing will be found? Have you talked to John about it?
MS. EDWARDS: I'm confident. I mean, honestly, the way campaign funds are distributed is all a matter of record. Anybody who wants to see can go on the Internet, as the U.S. attorney's office could do, go on the Internet or look at the books themselves and determine where the money went. And it's just not possible.
MR. LAUER: And this woman has a child, and it's been reported that because she's angered over some of the comments you've made, she might ask for a paternity test to determine whether John is, in fact, the father. Is that an outcome you'd like to know? Would you like to know the results of that?
MS. EDWARDS: You know, the book really is about my personal experience. And in my personal experience, the, you know, betrayal happened whether or not -- whatever the consequences were. I wish for it to never be an issue, but if it becomes an issue, that's just another thing to deal with. But it's not -- that's not like a further betrayal that I need to deal with.
MR. LAUER: And then there have been questions about whether this is about revenge, whether you've written some of the things you've written in this book out of revenge. I think one writer turned a phrase by saying, "Revenge is a dish best served in public."
MS. EDWARDS: (Laughs.) Well, I guess I agree with that statement, probably. I try not to make much reference -- because it's my story and not anyone else's, I try not to make much reference to this woman or to anybody who's been sort of the victimizer as opposed to -- or, you know, one of the -- except for John, which I do cover John, who was a victimizer in a sense, a real sense.
And the words people choose to pick out -- I said at some point that I thought my life, you know, in this respect might be tragic, but that the lives of people who seek, almost as parasites, to get on to someone else's life and seek the life that way, that that's pathetic. I didn't mean that this person was pathetic. It's a lifestyle for which I have -- it makes me feel sorry for those people. I was using "pathetic" in that sense.
MR. LAUER: Right.
MS. EDWARDS: I wasn't trying to be derogatory. I would certainly have the opportunity to be derogatory if I wanted. I certainly read things that are derogatory. But that was never my purpose.
MR. LAUER: Let me end the interview with what is the last paragraph in your book, because I think it's stirring.
Quote: "I have said before that I do not know what the most important lesson is that I will ever teach my children, Kate, Emma Claire and Jack. I do know that when they're older and telling their own children about their grandmother, they will be able to say that she stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her away -- and it surely has not -- she adjusted her sails."
That's what you want them to know?
MS. EDWARDS: It is. I don't -- as I said, I don't know what the most important lesson is, but I hope it is that when bad things happen -- it's easy to get through the good days -- when bad things happen, you have the strength to face them.
MR. LAUER: Elizabeth Edwards, it's nice to have you here.
MS. EDWARDS: It's great to see you, Matt.
MR. LAUER: Thanks. You too.