The proximate cause of John Edwards’ political unraveling has a few scores to settle.
Hunter occupied the center of the oddest sideshow of the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign: That summer, reports emerged that she had a child with the North Carolina senator, sparking months of denials (including a campaign staffer’s false claim that he was the father). Hunter’s clumsily written memoir is an extended exercise in blame assignment: Edwards’ friends and campaign aides for being greedy, careerist, and manipulative; Edwards’ wife for being a bully; and Edwards himself for being, as she told him at their first fateful meeting, “so hot!” To avoid furtive trysts as their affair deepened, she was hired to film Edwards’ travels for online “webisodes.” Hunter expresses an almost total disinterest in the politics she covered, and on the road, she rained contempt on nearly everybody surrounding the candidate. (In one instance, she recalls “some poverty woman who was really snotty to me.”) Hunter reserves her deepest fury for Edwards’ wife, Elizabeth, who’s portrayed cartoonishly, forever screaming at her cowering husband. That Elizabeth’s outrage might be justified by her husband’s philandering seems to entirely escape Hunter, who rationalizes her status as a mistress by claiming that the Edwards’ marriage was loveless and sexless. (Elizabeth’s death from cancer in 2010 hardly softens her tone.) The flimsy prose, peppered with all-caps exclamations and high school-age sarcasm, grows even more tedious in the later chapters, as the author chronicles legalistic parrying over who paid how much to whom out of which accounts. The mood is lightened by photos of Hunter and Edwards with their daughter, Quinn, but a seething sense of superiority and entitlement persists.
An object lesson in misguided tell-all writing: A woman hounded by the media while raising an infant fathered by a cheating man manages to render herself unsympathetic.