RALEIGH - Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards admitted yesterday that he fathered a child during an affair before his second White House bid, dropping denials just ahead of a book by a former campaign aide who initially took the fall.
Mr. Edwards released a statement admitting paternity of the girl, Frances Quinn Hunter, who was born in 2008 to videographer Rielle Hunter as the result of an affair Mr. Edwards already admitted.
"It was wrong for me to ever deny she was my daughter," Mr. Edwards said, adding he is providing financial support for the child and mother. "I am Quinn's father."
Elizabeth Edwards, who has been battling an incurable return of cancer since 2007, said, "The whole family is relieved."
She declined to discuss the couple's marital status and said she didn't know where things will go from here.
"If somebody has a crystal ball, they can let me know," she said when asked what was next for her and Mr. Edwards.
The admission was made ahead of the Feb. 2 release of a book by former Edwards aide Andrew Young that is expected to describe how Mr. Edwards worked to hide his paternity with Mr. Young's help.
Mr. Young initially claimed he was the child's father shortly before the 2008 presidential primary contests began.
Word that Mr. Young was naming Mr. Edwards as the father first came when details of his book proposal were reported by the New York Times in September.
The child was born Feb. 27, 2008, indicating that she was conceived in the middle of 2007, several months after Ms. Hunter stopped working for Mr. Edwards.
John and Elizabeth Edwards renewed their wedding vows in July, 2007, to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary.
Ms. Hunter's lawyer, Michael Critchley, said the admission is "good for everyone."
Mr. Critchley said Mr. Edwards' statement amounted to a public acknowledgment of something that was known privately.
He said Ms. Hunter did not have an immediate comment. It is not clear where she and the child are living.
In an excerpt of an ABC News interview released yesterday, Mr. Young said that Mr. Edwards asked him to arrange a fake paternity test.
"Get a doctor to fake the DNA results," Mr. Young said Mr. Edwards told him. "And he asked me ... to steal a diaper from the baby so he could secretly do a DNA test to find out if this [was] indeed his child."
An Edwards spokesman declined to comment on the ABC interview.
Mrs. Edwards said her cancer got worse for a period but has recently been improving, with some signs of tumors shrinking.
She said she's on an "upward path" and hopes that her husband's admission will end news stories about the family's matters.
"My marriage shouldn't be on anybody's radar screen except mine," she said.
Since admitting the affair in August, 2008, Mr. Edwards largely has gone into seclusion.
He has acknowledged a federal investigation into his campaign finances while both Mr. Young and Ms. Hunter - with her child - have made appearances at a federal courthouse in Raleigh.
"I will do everything in my power to provide her [the child] with the love and support she deserves," Mr. Edwards said in his statement.
"I have been able to spend time with her during the past year and trust that future efforts to show her the love and affection she deserves can be done privately and in peace.
"I have been providing financial support for Quinn and have reached an agreement with her mother to continue providing support in the future," the statement said. "To all those I have disappointed and hurt, these words will never be enough, but I am truly sorry."
Mr. Edwards' attorney, Wade Smith, said Mr. Edwards wrestled with the decision to come forward but took so long to do it because "he's not the only person involved in this."
Harrison Hickman, a longtime friend who worked as Mr. Edwards' political pollster, said Mr. Edwards also had to reach an agreement on child support before coming forward.
Mr. Smith said there never would be a logical explanation for why Mr. Edwards initially denied being the father. But he added that Mr. Edwards was "very pleased" to finally set the record straight.