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John Edwards Admits to Extramarital Affair; Hillary Clinton Campaigns For Obama
Aired August 8, 2008 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: the breaking news. John Edwards goes public with details about his extramarital affair and how he repeatedly lied about it, the scandal and the secrets playing out right now while he was running for president and while his wife battled cancer.
Also, some Democrats are sensing a deep sense of betrayal by Senator Edwards. This hour, the best political team considers weather Edwards' career in the political arena is now over.
Plus, Hillary Clinton campaigning solo today for Senator Barack Obama. She's speaking out on his behalf amid deep concerns that her supporters might actually throw Obama a curveball at the Democratic Convention.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
John Edwards says he was and is ashamed that he had an extramarital affair and that he was disloyal to his family.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. The former Democratic presidential candidate issued a statement just a short while ago, admitting his affair and apologizing for it. He says no one can beat him up for this anymore than he's already beaten himself up.
CNN's Brian Todd is following the story for us.
Brian, did Edwards have any choice right now but to acknowledge what was going on?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Apparently not, Wolf. We had recently spoken with top Democratic Party leaders who John Edwards really needed to address these reports for his own sake, for his family, for the party.
Well, the former candidate is now coming forth with this startling admission.
TODD (voice-over): Under increasing pressure from a story that had gone beyond the tabloids to serious discussion among Democratic Party chiefs the former presidential candidate admits he had an affair with a woman who had worked on his campaign.
In a statement, John Edwards says he's ashamed and -- quote -- "In 2006, I made a serious error in judgment and conducted myself in a way that was disloyal to my family and to my core beliefs. I recognized my mistake and I told my wife that I had a liaison with another woman, and I asked for her forgiveness."
But Edwards denies he's the father of that woman's child and says he's willing to take a paternity test. During his presidential campaign this year, Edwards repeatedly denied that there was any truth to the story, initially calling it false and ridiculous.
He issued another denial just two weeks ago. Under increasing pressure from a story that had gone beyond the tabloids to serious discussion among Democratic Party chiefs, the former presidential candidate admits to ABC News he had an affair with a woman who had worked on his campaign.
In an interview with ABC, John Edwards denies he's the father of that woman's child, but he says he's not taken a paternity test. During his presidential campaign this year, Edwards repeatedly denied that there was any truth to the story, most recently just two weeks ago.
QUESTION: Senator, I have a question. When you were running for president, you flat-out denied having a relationship with Rielle Hunter. Is -- did you give me a truthful answer? Were you telling me the truth then?
JOHN EDWARDS (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes.
QUESTION: Has you or your campaign provided any financial help to Rielle Hunter or Andrew Young? Has you or anyone affiliated with your presidential campaign provided any financial help to Rielle Hunter or Andrew Young?
EDWARDS: I have no idea what you're asking about. I have responded consistently to these tabloid allegations by saying I don't respond to these lies. And you know that, Raylene. (ph). You've covered me. And I stand by that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: The woman, Rielle Hunter, worked for Edwards as a freelancer, making Web videos. She told the program "Extra" about her travels with Edwards.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "EXTRA")
RIELLE HUNTER, HAD EXTRAMARITAL AFFAIR WITH JOHN EDWARDS: One of the great things about John Edwards is that he's so open and willing to try new things and do things in new ways.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Edwards says his wife, Elizabeth, became aware of the relationship in 2006, not long after it began. Edwards reportedly tells ABC News that his wife's cancer was in remission when he began the affair.
Elizabeth Edwards has since then developed an incurable form of cancer.
TODD: CNN has tried to talk Rielle Hunter for several weeks about these allegations, but without success. Federal Election Commission records show Edwards' political action committee paid a total of about $114,000 to Hunter's production company for Web site and Internet services -- Wolf.
BLITZER: But one of his former campaign workers, he himself came forward and said he's the father of that child.
TODD: That's right. Published reports say a former Edwards staffer named Andrew Young claimed paternity of the child. But some newspapers have posted that birth certificate. And the father's name is not listed on it. So that's fed into a lot of speculation about who is the father.
BLITZER: All right, Brian, thanks very much.
I'm going to read the statement that Senator Edwards released just a little while ago in its entirety for those of you who haven't heard it yet.
Let me begin with this.
He writes: "In 2006, I made a serious error in judgment and conducted myself in a way that was disloyal to my family and to my core beliefs. I recognized my mistake and I told my wife that I had a liaison with another woman, and I asked for her forgiveness. Although I was honest in every painful detail with my family, I did not tell the public. When a supermarket tabloid told a version of the story, I used the fact that the story contained many falsities to deny it. But being 99 percent honest is no longer enough."
Edwards gone on: "I was and am ashamed of my conduct and choices, and I had hoped that it would never become public. With my family, I took responsibility for my actions in 2006 and today I take full responsibility publicly. But that misconduct took place for a short period in 2006. It ended then. I am and have been willing to take any test necessary to establish the fact that I am not the father of any baby, and I am truly hopeful that a test will be done so this fact can be definitively established. I only know that the apparent father has said publicly that he is the father of the baby. I also have not been engaged in any activity of any description that requested, agreed to or supported payments of any kind to the woman or to the apparent father of the baby."
Finally, Senator Edwards says this: "It is inadequate to say to the people who believed in me that I am sorry, as it is inadequate to say to the people who love me that I am sorry. In the course of several campaigns, I started to believe that I was special and became increasingly egocentric and narcissistic. If you want to beat me up, feel free. You cannot beat me up more than I have already beaten up myself. I have been stripped bare and will now work with everything I have to help my family and others who need my help."
He says, "I have given a complete interview on this matter and having done so, will have nothing more to say" -- that statement coming in from John Edwards. He gave that complete interview to ABC News.
Edwards had many opportunities over the course of this presidential campaign to acknowledge his affair, but he did not. Listen to this exchange between CNN's Soledad O'Brien and Senator Edwards during a forum on faith and politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JUNE 6, 2007)
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: What is the biggest sin you've ever committed? Are you willing to say? You can take a pass, sir, as you know.
JOHN EDWARDS (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Just between you and me?
O'BRIEN: Just between you and me, and the 1,300 people in the crowd.
EDWARDS: I would have a very hard time telling you one thing, one specific sin.
EDWARDS: If I have had a day -- I'm about to turn 54 years old this Sunday, and if I have had a day in my 54 years where I haven't sinned multiple times, I would be amazed. I believe I have.
I sin every single day. We are all sinners, we all fall short, which is why we have to ask for forgiveness from the lord. I can't -- to try to identify one particular sin that was worse or more extreme than the others, the list is too long.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Chris Kofinis is the former campaign communications director for the Edwards campaign. He's here with us in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
David Bonior, your campaign manager, says he feels betrayed. How do you feel?
CHRIS KOFINIS, FORMER EDWARDS COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Incredibly disappointed and devastated. I think all the staff and other supporters that are out there that worked tirelessly for Senator Edwards are just heartbroken right now at this.
BLITZER: When did you learn about it? KOFINIS: Literally about a few hours ago, when the story broke.
BLITZER: But you knew "The National Enquirer" had been reporting this for the past few weeks.
KOFINIS: Yes. But in terms of that Senator Edwards came out and admitted that this was true, that the story was accurate in terms of the affair, and then the news exploded, and so did my BlackBerry and phone.
BLITZER: When "The National Enquirer" started reporting it last year, I assume -- you were still working obviously for the campaign. You were denying it left and right.
KOFINIS: It was made clear to us that this was false. And...
BLITZER: Did Edwards personally say that to you?
KOFINIS: Not personally to me, but it was made clear to us in the staff. And we went out there and defended him, as every good staff would do.
And that's the part that I think is really disappointing, that you go out there and you fight. As every staffer does, you fight for your candidate and you don't question it when they tell you that this is not true. Of course, you're going to believe him.
BLITZER: So you never personally went to Senator Edwards and said, you know what the story is, can I look you in the eye, Senator, can you tell me flatly what "The National Enquirer" is reporting is not true?
KOFINIS: No, because when we were told that this was false, you believe it. Why wouldn't you believe it? This was the story that we were told and this was the facts that we were told.
And, unfortunately, as the case is, it's not the case. It's heartbreaking. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and to Elizabeth in what is a clearly very difficult and trying time.
BLITZER: How do you read this statement, because it's sort of vague when he actually told Elizabeth Edwards, his wife, about the affair?
KOFINIS: I don't know. It's really difficult right now I think sometimes to put stuff in perspective.
You know, from my perspective, you know, you go out there and you fight every day for the candidate you believe in, for the cause that you believe in. I know there are people that were on that campaign a lot longer than I was who have been working for him and fighting for him for years. So it's very difficult, I think, you know, to look at what he's saying right now. I feel -- I mean I have a lot of sympathy and compassion for what he and his family are going through, but, you know, it's tough to put the emotion aside. You feel deceived. And, you know, as Congressman Bonior said, who was one of his most zealous supporters...
BLITZER: I remember. He used to come in here.
BLITZER: What are you hearing from other Edwards -- your colleagues who worked so hard on his campaign?
KOFINIS: I think what I'm hearing from folks is everyone I think is just heartbroken and terribly disappointed.
BLITZER: And is there any sense that you're getting that Elizabeth Edwards is going to make a statement of her own?
KOFINIS: I honestly don't know. I honestly don't know.
BLITZER: Because a lot of people are wondering is she going to come to his defense? Is she going to say something that will back him up, back up his version of the way he described it in this lengthy statement he released?
KOFINIS: I don't know. But at the end of the day my sympathies go out to her.
You know, she's dealing already with incredible difficulties with her cancer and his family. And I think at the end of the day when this passes, you know, our thoughts and prayers should go to them and figure out how, you know, they go on from this because it's going to be a very difficult time. That's the unfortunate part.
BLITZER: If you were speaking to him right now, Senator Edwards, and you spoke to him a lot. You were the communications director. What would you say to him?
Well, I would say that I was very disappointed. This is the part of the campaign you don't often see. There are young staffers and older staffers and volunteers and millions of supporters that work tirelessly for you, that believe in the cause and we believed in Senator Edwards. And those were great issues, fighting to address poverty, universal health care. Those are important issues.
And I think no one should diminish the cause and those issues and the greatness of that campaign from this unfortunate incident, but unfortunately that's going to be the case.
BLITZER: Because a lot of people are wondering right now what if he had won the Democratic presidential nomination and on this date, 8/8/08, this story would have exploded, and he was getting ready to go to the convention and accept the nomination? KOFINIS: It's something -- it's a question that I have been thinking a lot the last few hours. And I think it would have been a devastating moment for the party. But unfortunately at the end of the day, you know, these are real people. These are human beings. We all are. We make mistakes. He made a terrible mistake.
And he's going to have to deal with it personally with his family. And I think that's where we have to kind of kind of sometimes put it in a little bit in perspective, that this is a real person and this -- his family are going through a very difficult time right now.
BLITZER: Our heart, my heart goes out to his wife and the kids and the whole family as well.
Chris, thanks for coming in.
KOFINIS: Thank you.
BLITZER: I know this has been very hard on you. And appreciate your sharing some thoughts with us.
KOFINIS: Thank you.
BLITZER: Let's go back to Jack.
He's got "The Cafferty File."
Jack, I take it you're getting swamped with e-mail right now.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: We are indeed and it pretty much runs the gamut. I was just listening to your interview. I think he was more gracious than perhaps I would had been. We were talking earlier how people give up their lives to get involved in these campaigns because they believe so deeply in what these campaigns stand for and the message and yadda, yadda, yadda.
And when it turns out the guy you're following around is a cardboard cutout, not worth the paper he's printed on, then it's tough to be as gracious as he was. Compliments to him.
We're getting all kinds of mail. Some of it says, hey, he's a human being. You know one thing that stands out in the mail, now that you asked about it? Elizabeth Edwards. If his wife doesn't have cancer, this is not the same story, at least based on the e-mails that I'm looking at. That is the issue that makes this not Monica Lewinsky. It makes it not Newt Gingrich. It makes it not some other politician. It's that woman there on the far right of your screen. That's the real tragedy in this. And people understand that.
And that's why his road back from this is going to be a little different.
Going to talk about political commercials now that we're on. I'm starting to get tired of them already. I don't know about you. Barack Obama, the biggest celebrity in the world, mocks a John McCain television ad that features Britney Spears, Paris Hilton. Barack Obama can part the Red Sea, mocks a John McCain ad that compares Obama to Charlton Heston in "The Ten Commandments."
Hillary Clinton says John McCain is qualified to be president, while Barack Obama gave a speech in 2002, a particularly nasty McCain ad featuring Clinton's own words from the primaries. And McCain was the one -- remember, he promised he was going to run an honorable campaign.
Here it is. It is only the beginning of August and political television commercials are becoming an infestation. Want to get away from them all and watch the Olympics for a week or so? Forget it. Obama has bought $5 million worth of ads to run in the Olympics. McCain has bought $6 million worth.
Next come the conventions, and then both sides get really serious. Unfortunately, there is no limit on the amount of punishment these candidates can inflict on us in this country. Other places have restrictions on the amount of time and money the amount of money that can be spent campaigning, but not here.
And when you add in all the commercials that will soon begin to appear for the senators and the congressmen, as well as all the local races, the governors, you get the picture. It's going to get ugly out there.
So, here's the question: Are political TV ads informative or just annoying?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile, post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks, Jack, very much.
The woman at the center of the John Edwards scandal hoped to help Edwards become president of the United States. She made Web documentaries for his campaign. We're going to show you some of them.
Also, our investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin, he has been digging into the story for some time now. He spoke with a "National Enquirer" reporter who says he recently cornered Edwards after a secret meeting with the woman involved.
And other very important news happening today -- Russian tanks rolling into the neighboring Republic of Georgia, threatening U.S. interests, even the war in Iraq. The Bush administration fears all- out war right now.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Just a little while ago, both Senator John McCain and Senator Hillary Clinton were asked to comment on this bombshell involving John Edwards acknowledging that he did in fact have an extramarital affair back in 2006. They didn't want to say much, but I will share with you what they did say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) QUESTION: And I wanted to get your reaction to the news tonight that your former colleague, Senator Edwards, had an affair and then repeatedly denied it while on the campaign trail seeking the Democratic nomination?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't -- I don't have any comment on it.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Well, look, my thoughts and prayers are with the Edwards family today. And that's all I have to say.
Thank you all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Obviously, neither wanting to say much, which is probably the smart thing to say politically.
Gloria Borger is joining us on the phone right now.
I guess everybody concedes, Gloria, this is exactly the way they should hand a situation like this.
But let's talk a little bit about the Edwards campaign, because when he announced he was running for president, he already knew there was something he was hiding.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And I think that speaks to the judgment of John Edwards.
We don't know, Wolf, whether he had told Elizabeth and that this was something they decided to keep to themselves. It's clear. I have been talking to the former staffers who say as far as they know, nobody knew in the campaign. And that's a big risk you're going to take when you're running for the presidency, Wolf, because, as you point out, if you win the nomination, then what happens if it comes out?
BLITZER: Yes. If he would have been the nominee and it would have come out today, you can only imagine, what, about two weeks before the convention, what the uproar would have been.
But I think it's also fair to say that maybe even more than most of these other presidential candidates, the marriage, the marriage that he has to Elizabeth Edwards really was a central component of his campaign.
BORGER: You know, many times during this campaign, Wolf, you would talk to voters who would say that they were giving John Edwards a look because they thought so much about Elizabeth Edwards and that she had such a great story to tell and that she was so passionate about his health care proposal, for example.
And they were really a team and she was a very, very outspoken advocate for him, in much the same way as Bill Clinton was for Hillary Clinton. She would say what was on her mind. And so, the marriage was really central to this campaign.
And I think that's also something that's very sad today.
BLITZER: All right. I think it's very sad indeed. We're going to have more on this. Drew Griffin, our investigative reporter, has been looking into the story behind the story. That's coming up.
Hillary Clinton, by the way, was campaigning solo today for Barack Obama while he goes to Hawaii for a vacation with his family.
Senator Clinton spoke to voters in Nevada just a short while ago. Here's what she had to say about her former opponent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: We had a hard-fought primary campaign, and it was exciting.
It was a bit like the proverbial roller coaster. But we are now unified and ready to go forward together, and it is imperative that each and every one of us think about how we are going to help in this election.
I am proud to be standing with and working for Barack Obama, and I am proud that together he and I brought out more than 36 million voters, many of them first-time voters, and that as a result of our efforts, voter registration among Democrats is up. So, we have got the forces.
We just have to turn folks out. We have to make the case in the next three months. It's less than 100 days to this historic election. We are one party. We share one vision. And we believe, as Democrats, as independents, as repentant Republicans...
CLINTON: ... in the progress we can make together.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Senator Barack Obama's relationship with Hillary and Bill Clinton still is a work in progress. The latest effort to keep them happy, sources say Bill Clinton will speak on that Wednesday night of the Democratic Convention, the night after Hillary Clinton is expected to address the delegates in Denver.
Let's bring in Jessica Yellin. She's covering this story for us.
They're having, the Obama camp, some mixed results, at least so far, in trying to unify the party and bring all of those very passionate, ardent Hillary Clinton supporters on board.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. As you see, Senator Clinton has gotten behind Barack Obama, but some of her die-hard supporters aren't quite ready to follow her lead.
CROWD: Hillary! Hillary!
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: Thank you. Thank you all.
YELLIN (voice-over): Senator Clinton campaigning for Barack Obama in Las Vegas.
CLINTON: He represents the unity that we will have as we move toward victory in November and elect Senator Barack Obama the next president of the United States!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
YELLIN: Before leaving for Hawaii, Obama insisted, there's peace between the Democratic Party's top stars.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She is very enthusiastic about the need for a unified party. I think we're going to have a terrific convention.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want Hillary!
YELLIN: Not if some of Clinton's most ardent supporters have their way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALES AND FEMALES: Yes, we can! Yes, we can!
YELLIN: Some Hillary holdouts, still active through Web sites like this one, say they won't vote for Obama at the convention. And a few are even developing a documentary arguing that the primary was stolen. This trailer is on YouTube.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The people from the Obama group were on the telephone taking down names and addresses.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
YELLIN: These vocal Hillary devotees could pose problems for the party.
ANNE KORNBLUT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think they absolutely matter, in terms of the spirit of the convention. I have heard some Republicans talk about being heartened by the fact that there's still this impression the Democratic Party isn't united.
YELLIN: But a recent poll by the Pew Research Center shows, Obama has actually gained support among Clinton's backers, 72 percent in late July, up 13 points since May. Still, 17 percent of Clinton supporters say they plan to vote for McCain, and 10 percent remain undecided. Obama and the DNC have tried to appease these critics with convention speaking roles for both Clintons and by inserting in the proposed party platform a message that says, "We believe standing up for our country means standing up against sexism."
It is unclear how significant Clinton holdouts' influence will be come November.
KORNBLUT: I don't know that any one demographic could single- handedly sink or win this election for anybody else. I do think it's one of the danger spots for Obama in this election, in states in particular like a Florida.
YELLIN: Now, Wolf, the Obama campaign tells me they feel the influence of these Clinton holdouts is dramatically overplayed by the media. And they say they're not worried about them. Senior Clinton loyalists say the die-hards will eventually get behind Obama. They just need time to feel like they have been heard -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's still about 25 percent of those Hillary Clinton supporters tell pollsters they are either going to vote for McCain or they're still not sure. That's a worrying number if you're an Obama campaign person.
All right, Jessica, thanks very much for that.
We're continuing to follow the developments on the John Edwards bombshell admission. Our Special Investigations Unit talks to the tabloid reporter that first broke the story.
And we will have a background report on how the affair was revealed.
And is Edwards' political career over? The best political team on television is standing by to discuss.
And the U.S. military helping to stop a pirate attack off the coast of Africa. We're getting the pictures from the Navy. You're going to see it as it happens.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, breaking news, the former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards now coming clean, admitting to an affair on the campaign trail after repeated denials. Is it the end of his political career? What impact if any will Edwards' sex scandal have on Barack Obama as he seeks to return to the White House and what impact will it have on Democrats, if any? Plus, the report that finally forced Edwards to confess, but not before he literally ran and a hid in a hotel bathroom.
All of this, plus the best political team on television.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
An explosion rocking the political landscape. The former presidential Democratic candidate John Edwards confirming months of speculation, admitting he did, in fact, have an extramarital affair, a charge he repeatedly denied as recently as only two weeks ago.
Drew Griffin folks CNN's Special Investigations Unit has been working this story for us for a while.
All right, Drew, update our viewers, because I know you have been working on this for at least a few weeks now, what you have discovered.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, very interesting, Wolf. When we look at the statement released by John Edwards just within the hour on your show, it seems to say John Edwards is saying that this was a brief affair, 2006. It was over then.
But as you look at how this story unfolded, it was the continuation of maybe a relationship between Rielle Hunter and John Edwards that eventually broke. It was two weeks ago he was caught in this hotel by "The National Enquirer," coming out of that hotel at 2:40 in the morning.
And he apparently tells ABC News tonight that, indeed, he was meeting Rielle Hunter.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): The Edwards story has been fodder of the "National Enquirer" for more than a year. The headlines show why -- a presidential candidate and former U.S. Senator with a cancer-stricken wife has an affair and, according to the tabloid, fathers a child with this woman -- a campaign consultant named Rielle Hunter.
John Edwards had dismissed the "National Enquirer" allegations. This is what he said last month in New Orleans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN EDWARDS, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have no idea what you're asking me about. I've responded to -- consistently to these tabloid allegations by saying I don't respond to these lies. And you know that, Raylene. You cover me and I stand by that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRIFFIN: The pressure had been mounting on Edwards for several weeks, since new stories appeared about a confrontation with the "National Enquirer" here at the Beverly Hilton Hotel last month.
On July 21st, the former senator was in Los Angeles raising awareness for the homeless. That night, "National Enquirer" reporter Alex Hitchens was waiting for Edwards at the hotel. The paper says it had a tip Edwards, Rielle Hunter and Hunter's baby were meeting in a room. At 2:40 in the morning, Hitchens says he surprised Edwards as he was trying to leave.
ALEX HITCHENS, "NATIONAL ENQUIRER": I say to him, Mr. Edwards, Alexander Hitchens from the "National Enquirer." You know, we know that you've been Rielle Hunter tonight and your child. And then we said to him, don't you think it's about time to actually tell everyone that you are actually the father of this child?
GRIFFIN (on camera): And the reaction again was?
HITCHENS: Sheer panic.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Hitchens says Edwards did not say a word. Instead, he ran down the stairs, into this bathroom and held the door shut. Wednesday, the tabloid published this blurry photograph -- a photo the paper claims was shot in the Beverly Hilton Hotel room on the night of July 21st. The paper says the baby in the picture is Edwards'.
There is no confirmation this baby is Hunter's. And Edwards told ABC News Hunter's child could not be his because of the timing of the birth. But the former senator said he has not taken a paternity test. And this man, Andrew Young, an Edwards campaign staffer, said last year the child is his, not Edwards'.
Still, the child's birth certificate adds to the intrigue. The name of the child's father is left blank.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
GRIFFIN: A lot of unanswered questions yet to be found here, warning. But, apparently, according to a statement released by Edwards, he is willing to take a paternity test and put at least that part of the story to rest. But we still don't know why he continued to see Rielle Hunter after this relationship supposedly ended back in 2006.
BLITZER: Yes. He says in his statement, Drew, he says the statement -- the misconduct took place for a short period in 2006. The child was just recently born. And, as a result of that, he says he could not have been -- because he ended it, he says, in 2006 and that the child could not be his.
GRIFFIN: That's right. And we have tried to find the supposed father of this child, Andrew Young. We've been calling every number we have for him and for weeks now have not been able to get a return phone call from this person, nor from Rielle Hunter, for that matter.
BLITZER: Drew, thanks very much.
Let's discuss this and a little bit more with CNN's Jessica Yellin.
She actually covered the Edwards campaign extensively while he was running for president. And our own Jack Cafferty. And Tara Wall, the deputy editorial page editor for "The Washington Times".
You know, when you covered him, Jessica, did you get any indication -- I mean personally, as a reporter -- you know, reporters sometimes get a sense of what's going on even if they don't have enough to go with it, as we say.
Did you get any indication anything along these lines that anything was going on?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely not. And he brushed off any questions, as you saw in Drew's piece there, very aggressively and then wanted to move on. You know, as we've reported, his staff didn't know. His staff is surprised and disappointed. And he was often with -- almost always, the day I was with him with in Iowa, with his wife, Elizabeth, or talking about her. She was a constant presence in one way or another on the trail.
You know what strikes me about all of this, Wolf, is he was campaigning as a truth-teller, a person who leveled with American people when corporate America wouldn't and as the family man. And he has betrayed Americans on both fronts because he was misleading and he really wasn't true in the way he said he was to his family.
It's a personal disappointment, no doubt, in his family. It's always politically, I think, devastating for him.
BLITZER: Well, on that point, Jack, you know, Americans are very forgiving, as you well know. And there have been other politicians who have acknowledged extra-marital affairs, who've made comebacks. And one in particular, namely Bill Clinton.
So do you believe his political career can make a comeback, assuming he wants that?
CAFFERTY: Well, I would have no way of knowing. I mean, go figure. They tried to impeach Bill Clinton over his little dalliance with Monica Lewinsky and he's probably more popular now than he was when he was being impeached. So there's no way to tell.
The betrayal with -- as far as Edwards is concerned, though, is, I think, different from Bill Clinton's, in this respect. Hillary Clinton had not been diagnosed with cancer at the time and he was -- Bill Clinton was already the president.
John Edwards was trying to become the president of the United States.
How do these guys think they can do this, knowing that this thing is in the background and figuring what, that it's never going to come out?
What if he had been the nominee? What if Barack Obama had lost and Edwards had been the nominee and we're sitting here a couple, three weeks before the convention, and this story breaks?
The whole Democratic Party goes up in smoke because profit the ego of one guy who thinks he can just do whatever the hell he wants and he's not accountable to anybody?
That's -- that's the stunning part of these kinds of stories, I think.
BLITZER: You know, Tara, here's how he explained it in that statement he released. He said: "In the course of several campaigns, I started to believe that I was special and became increasingly egocentric and narcissistic.
If you want to beat me up, feel free."
That's his explanation.
TARA WALL, FORMER SPOKESPERSON, DHS GULF COAST *REBUILDING EFFORTS, FORMER RNC PRESS SECRETARY FOR OUTREACH: You know, in hearing that and reading that, he's even more narcissistic and egocentric. I mean listen to what he's saying. He's talking about me, me, me, I, I, I. It almost sounds like he's feeding back into this victimization mentality.
The victim here, if anything, his wife and his family -- and, yes, the American public, who did trust him, and people who supported him. I think this, you know, adds another notch to the Americans' mistrust of politicians.
BLITZER: Go ahead, Jessica.
You want to weigh in.
YELLIN: Absolutely, Wolf. There's this line here where he says: "You cannot beat me up more than I have already beaten myself up." This sounds like the man who says oh, this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.
YELLIN: I mean it's -- this is almost 101 as a case study what not to do in crisis communications.
WALL: Yes. And we have so much of this recently, it seems like. I mean the ego has definitely gotten out of control, from Eliot Spitzer to Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. I mean it is -- we need a lesson here. I did, you know, a couple of columns on this, Morality 101 and Pride Going Before the Fall. I mean these guys really need a whole new lesson on Morality 101.
It is quite disheartening, I think. And you almost have to read into these -- what they're saying. If you look at what he said when he answered that question, unlike Bill Clinton, who said, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman," Edwards completely -- he didn't even say no, this didn't happen, it never happened, no, no, no. He skirted completely around it by putting it back on the reporter, saying these are just lies and I'm not going to answer lies.
BLITZER: Yes. He said, in his statement, he said -- he said: "When a supermarket tabloid told a version of the story, I used the fact that the story contained many falsities to deny it. But being 99 percent honest is no longer enough." -- Jack, what do you make of that explanation?
CAFFERTY: I think when you run away from a guy in the middle of the night and lock yourself in the bathroom, that's a wrap. Then it's...
WALL: And he never addressed that, either, in his letter.
CAFFERTY: Yes. Then it's over. I mean the day he did that or the night he did that -- by the way, he said the affair was over in 2006.
What's he doing in a hotel room with this lady...
CAFFERTY: ...in the middle of the night in 2008?
Oh, maybe they were just, you know, chatting doing "The New York Times" crossword. I'm not suggesting anything, but that doesn't fit either.
But when he ran away from the guy and locked himself in the bathroom, it's all right then.
YELLIN: And, look, there's every reason to believe, Wolf, that he released this interview tonight because he thought it would get buried in the course of the Olympics coverage and then over a weekend. But it seems that they could have miscalculated here, because with Obama out of town on vacation and only, you know, the Olympics will get only so much coverage, this is going to get a lot of play.
YELLIN: In some ways, his statement raises more questions than it answers. And people are sort of so stunned by this, that it really could backfire on John Edwards. Even the way he's released it seems a little bit self-serving.
WALL: Yes. It is...
CAFFERTY: You know, McCain can't get a break. McCain gets Obama out of the country for a week in Hawaii and Edwards comes along and steals the front page right out from under him.
WALL: Yes. And, actually, it bumps Hillary Clinton somewhat, as well. Today I think we'd be probably covering her a lot more and her speech. And it, quite frankly, bumped her off the pages, as well.
It also, you know, it looks like, obviously, this is not going to bode well for the Democratic Party, at least in the short-term, or for Barack Obama, who likely was going to either utilize him at the convention or for fundraising. That's completely out of the -- you know, off the map at this point, I think.
YELLIN: Oh, I don't know. I think we're going to...
CAFFERTY: I don't think this rubs off on Obama.
YELLIN: I don't agree. Yes.
BLITZER: You know, there's plenty to go around...
WALL: Well, not so much agreed, but I think somewhat...
BLITZER: ...on both sides of the aisle.
WALL: He would have used him. He certainly probably would have used him to raise some money and he's obviously not going to be able do that at this point.
BLITZER: All right, guys...
YELLIN: Well, he hasn't
BLITZER: Stand by. Stand by, because we're going to continue this conversation, including a discussion at the woman at the center of the John Edwards affair. She's a documentary filmmaker. We found some of her work on the Web.
Plus, bombs falling on the Georgian capital -- new details of the fighting. There's a war going on and Washington fears it will boil over.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have to make the case in the next three months. It's less than a hundred days to this historic election. We are one party. We share one vision. And we believe, as Democrats, as Independents, as repentant Republicans, in the progress we can make together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Senator Hillary Clinton in Las Vegas today, making her first solo campaign on behalf of Senator Barack Obama.
We're back with the best political team on television -- Jack, I listened to her whole speech in Nevada. I didn't hear about another roll call or a catharsis. I just heard strong words from her saying Democrats have to unite behind Barack Obama and win this election.
CAFFERTY: She was -- I thought she was good today. And I thought that speech, that was the real deal. You know, sometimes in the past, it seemed like Hillary would be just going through the motions and just sort of like well, they told me to come out here and say this stuff, so I've got to say it.
But I thought today she was, you know, kind of speaking from the heart and meant what she said. It seemed genuine and legit. And if I was Barack Obama, that would be a good thing for me to see before I went off on vacation for a week.
BLITZER: I think he was happy, Tara.
What do you think?
WALL: Oh, you know, she's doing the best she can. She really is trying. She is. She is. But to a point, you know. I mean it's one thing to try and be unified. But to say, you know, that her supporters need a catharsis and deserve this floor vote, I think that's a little disingenuous if you're going to say those things and if you're going to say, you know, it takes some time. It just -- you can't turn it off that easily.
So -- and certainly Bill Clinton hasn't helped her this week, hasn't helped, either. I think, certainly, her supporters -- some of her supporters are having a harder time. She, to the most -- for the most part, is trying to be unifying.
BLITZER: All right.
YELLIN: In public, she has been as forcefully supportive of Obama, I think, as she can be. I mean I think she's really given the same kind of passion to this unity movement that she once gave to her campaign at the end in recent weeks.
I do think she has this one core group of diehards, dead-enders, whatever you want to call them, about 25 percent of her former backers who...
CAFFERTY: I hear from a lot of them every day.
YELLIN: They're you're pizza (ph).
CAFFERTY: Angry pizza.
YELLIN: And, you know, they are really committed -- they believe that she has been cheated and that she needs this opportunity at the convention to have a roll call...
BLITZER: All right...
YELLIN: And to some extent, what she said in private was acknowledging that this is an issue.
When is the Democratic Party ever truly united?
I mean this isn't so unusual, is it?
BLITZER: Tara, earlier in the week, there was a lot of speculation that the vice president of United States would not even be invited to speak at the Republican convention in St. Paul. There was anger among a lot of the base out there. "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page saying: "If the senator gives the impression that he agrees that Mr. Cheney is not fit for decent company, he'll demoralize his friends and encourage his opponents."
Now comes word after that "Wall Street Journal" editorial, among others, guess what, that Monday night at the Republican convention, the vice president will be there.
YELLIN: That's right.
WALL: Well, he should be. I mean, look, regardless of what -- how the media and liberals demonize him, he is still very popular with the party faithful, the loyals. I've been to fundraisers and receptions where Dick Cheney was the keynote, if you will, the man of the hour. And he is very, very popular. And, quite frankly, John McCain continues to gain support among more and more conservatives within the party. This will help to solidify that.
BLITZER: You know, Jack, one other point. You discussed it earlier in THE SITUATION ROOM. Barack Obama is starting a vacation in Hawaii. God knows, he deserves a little time off. He's been working nonstop for about 17 months.
But remember in 2004 when John Kerry went on vacation during the Republican Convention in New York...
BLITZER: I remember sitting with Charlie Rangel at that diner we had then. And we saw that picture of him wind surfing out there off the coast of Massachusetts.
BLITZER: There he is. I said to myself, and Charlie Rangel seemed to agree, you know what, this could be the end of this campaign. CAFFERTY: Oh, yes. I mean that's just awful. From what I understand, Mr. Obama and his family are going to be at a private beach house and so the paparazzi will have to look (INAUDIBLE) -- but I don't think he'd be dumb enough to get on one of those wind surfing things anyway. I mean, you just give the thing away doing that.
But there is -- I'm sure there's some angst in the Democratic leadership ranks. Please, you know, please don't get the wrong photograph taken of you while you're over there in Hawaii.
BLITZER: All right.
CAFFERTY: We don't want to see you in a grass skirt or, you know.
WALL: And remember, this is...
BLITZER: Stand by, guys.
WALL: This is a...
BLITZER: All right, Tara, hold your thought, because we don't have any more time.
But, thanks, guys.
Have a great weekend.
WALL: You bet.
BLITZER: Jack, don't leave.
She made short documentaries for John Edwards. Now she's at the center of his affair. We found her videos on the Internet.
Plus, your answers to this hour's question -- are political TV ads informative or simply annoying?
Jack and your e-mail and a lot more coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Carol Costello is off today.
Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
What's going on -- Fred?
WHITFIELD: Hello to you, Wolf.
Russian forces are now bombing the capital of the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, Tbilisi. Fighting has spilled over from the disputed region of South Ossetia, which wants to join Russia. Moscow launched a land and air offensive there in response to a Georgian military crackdown. Georgia's president is asking the U.S. to airlift 2,000 Georgian troops in Iraq home to help end this fighting.
And in waters near Somalia, pirates attack a ship and the U.S. Navy stops it. That's according to the Navy. It says it responded to a call for help from a merchant vessel after the ship said it was under attack from armed pirates. The Navy says the pirates fled once the Americans arrived. There are no reported injuries.
Pomp and pageantry, pride and patriotism -- all of it on display as the entire world watches the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in China. The world's most populous nation hosts what could be the most popular games by attendance ever. More than 90,000 people attended a dazzling ceremony at the National Stadium also called The Bird's Nest.
And he is the first openly gay governor. And former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey's eight year marriage to his wife is now officially over. A judge grants their divorce. McGreevey must pay about $1,000 a month in child support for the couple's one child, but he won't have to pay alimony to his ex-wife -- Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: Thanks, Fred.
Have a great weekend.
WHITFIELD: Same to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's go back to Jack.
He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: That was -- that was an interesting situation, that McGreevey situation.
CAFFERTY: Did you follow any of that?
BLITZER: Of course.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour -- are political TV ads informative or just annoying?
Tony in Waipahu, Hawaii: "They are annoying. If they were required to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, they could be informative. I don't believe any of the commercials. They are, after all, politicians."
David in Orlando: "Show me an ad that explains what a candidate will do when in office instead of only how bad his opponent is and I'll vote for that guy. So the answer is annoying."
Chris writes: "They're both. We get informed about how low the competition will go in order to smear their way into office, which is also annoying to people who actually care about politics."
P. in Rhode Island writes: "That would depend on whose ads you're referring to. McCain's political ads are childish, annoying, misleading and an insult to the average person's intelligence, to say the least. Obama's political ads are informative, enlightening, above the fray and straight to the point. You can obviously tell which man is getting more and more desperate."
Ann in Maryland says: "I don't mind the positive ads. Sometimes they're inspiring. I hate the negative ads. They are completely annoying."
Lucas: "Annoying? God forbid Americans are made to think about voting for anything other than "American Idol" when they're parked in front of the TV set. Bring on the thinking."
Tom in Wisconsin: "The ads, as of late, are proof positive neither man is anywhere close to being qualified to be the president the country needs. But they're both certainly capable of being a replacement for Bush."
And Don in Baltimore writes: "Annoying. Political ads are the reason that the mute button was invented."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, too bad.
CAFFERTY: That's just too bad. No. You can go to the Web site and spend the weekend looking for yours there. And if you do, that's sad.
BLITZER: Well, there are a lot of clever people out there. I love your e-mail.
BLITZER: All right, Jack.
Have a great weekend.
CAFFERTY: You, too.
BLITZER: See you next week.
BLITZER: The woman at the center of this scandal hoped to help John Edwards become president of the United States. She made Web documentaries. We're going to show you some of them.
And in New York, a special welcome for a football great. You'll want to see this.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: On our Political Ticker today, Rielle Hunter, the woman at the center of the John Edwards affair, was once paid by the Edwards One America Committee. She produced a series of Web documentaries.
Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.
All right, what about these Web videos?
What were they all about?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, they were called webisodes and they were released in late 2006. And they've been subject to rumor and speculation online for about a year now.
Take a look at the one of them, shot and directed by Rielle Hunter. She told the program "Extra" that she traveled with Edwards for about six months to make these. She's behind the camera right here. They take a behind-the-scenes look at Edwards' travels in 2006. And he's trying to portray himself in them as an authentic candidate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN EDWARDS, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For me, personally, I'd rather be successful or unsuccessful based on who I really am, not based on some plastic Ken doll that you put up in front of audiences.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TATTON: Those videos then released at the end of 2006. But then in 2007, at some point, they disappeared. The YouTube links seemed to be taken down. The links to the One America Committee Web site no longer had them.
And that had bloggers asking, what's happening here?
Sam Stein at the Huffington Post writing online last September: "Innocuous videos suddenly shrouded in secrecy."
And people started digging around. And this is where Rielle Hunter's name started cropping up online. Of course, on the Internet's nothing's really been taken down. Nothing is really lost. And these videos are now being posted again, right now getting a lot more hits -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I'm sure they are.
All right. Thanks very much for that, Abbi.
Let's take a look at some of the Hot Shots coming in from our friends over at the Associated Press -- pictures likely to be in your newspapers tomorrow.
In Russia, Kremlin backed activists demonstrate against Georgian military action in front of the Georgian embassy.
In Beijing, a police officer and residents gather to watch the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.
In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg hands Jet's newcomer, the quarterback, Brett Favre, a Broadway street sign.
And in Afghanistan, a boy gives his thirsty dog a drink.
Some of this hour's Hot Shots.
Sunday on "LATE EDITION," among my guests, the mayor, Michael Bloomberg, and the Pennsylvania governor, Ed Rendell. "LATE EDITION" airs 11:00 a.m. Eastern on Sunday.
That's it for me.
Let's go to "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT."
Kitty Pilgrim sitting in -- Kitty.