OK. I wasn’t going to say anything else about the John Edwards mess. It’s gotten sordid past the point of rubbernecking, even. I just want to look away. But after reading this piece about the “quiet dignity of Rielle Hunter,” I do have something to say.
A small sampling of some of the things other people have said about Rielle Hunter in the two years since allegations first emerged that she was sleeping with married presidential candidate John Edwards.
John Edwards, as described by former aide Andrew Young in Young’s book The Politician: “Since she was ‘a crazy slut’ and they had an ‘open’ relationship, he thought there was only a ‘one-in-three chance’ that he could be the father of her baby.”
Elizabeth Edwards, wife of John Edwards, in her book Resilience: “I have come to understand his liaison with this woman … Those with any fame or notoriety or power attract people for good reasons and bad … They flatter and entreat, and it is engaging, even addictive. They look at our lives, which from the outside in particular are pictures of joy and plenty, and they want it for themselves.”
Andrew Young in The Politician: “Rielle was a very demanding and self-absorbed person who focused intently on her social life and fashion. If we prepared a salad for dinner and set it on the counter, she’d come in and start eating it with her hands.”
Now a sampling of the things that Rielle Hunter has said publicly in those two years, outside of prepared statements from her attorneys and court affidavits:
OK. I kept going back to the excerpt from Andrew Young’s book, about Hunter making herself at home in the Edwards’ home, while Elizabeth was out on a book tour.
That evening, we ate take-out ribs from a place called Nantucket Grill and sat on the senator’s back porch, a huge space covered by a sturdy roof. The group included me, the nanny, Heather, and her husband, Jed, the senator, his kids, and Rielle, who talked excitedly about everything from national politics to astrology. She said she had been a spiritual teacher and that she believed the future was foretold by the stars. Rielle took great pleasure in noting that John Edwards’s future was limitless, and every once in a while she punctuated her observations about him with a laugh and the line “It’s good to be king.”
As the wine flowed and Heather put the kids to bed, the senator and Rielle became more comfortable touching each other and dropped the pretense that they weren’t involved. At one point, they started musing about how the house seemed like a happy place with Elizabeth and her “negative energy” removed. Rielle talked about living in the mansion once Mrs. Edwards was out of the way. A new family would be formed, the senator said, after he and Rielle married on some rooftop in Manhattan with a celebration that would include music from Dave Matthews. As Rielle listened to the senator spin this fantasy, she smiled like a little kid who had gotten her way.
As the night wore on, clouds rolled in, followed by thunder and lightning and the heaviest rain I had ever seen. Protected and dry under the roof, we watched the water come down in sheets, and in a quiet moment the senator said, “This is the way it should be — no stress, no fighting.”
“It’s good to be king,” said Rielle.
…The next time I spoke to Rielle, she happily told me that she had spent that night in the Edwardses’ bed and slept in while the senator made breakfast for the kids and then drove them to school. She said that when he returned, he got into bed and they “made love.”
In his new tell-all book, The Politician, Andrew Young claims to have discovered a sex tape recorded by John Edwards and his mistress, Rielle Hunter, in a box of trash. Although Hunter apparently tried to dismantle the video by pulling the tape out of the cassette, Young was able to restore it and view the footage with his wife. How do you destroy a sex tape so that it actually stays destroyed?
Burn it, crush it, or shred it. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, there are three levels of media sanitization: clearing, purging, and destroying. “Clearing” refers to any technique that protects against retrieval via simple data recovery programs—like overwriting. “Purging” guards against a laboratory attack by trained professionals with sophisticated equipment. “Degaussing” (more on that below) is an example of “purging.” Actual physical destruction of the device is the most secure approach. Options include incineration, shredding, disintegrating, and pulverizing—any tactic that reduces the data storage device to tiny, unreadable pieces. Burning is the simplest method.
Hunter documented her encounter with Edwards on a MiniDV cassette—a fairly outdated magnetic-tape technology. To remove all digital evidence of her dalliance, she should have burned it, preferably in a licensed incineration facility. If she wanted to keep it as a memento, Hunter should have wiped out all the footage with a “degausser”—an instrument that disrupts and realigns the tape’s magnetic domains, scrambling the encoded information and rendering it permanently unreadable. This method isn’t cheap, though: A government-certified degausser costs thousands of dollars, and bargain-basement versions are unreliable.
If any of that is true, any of it at all, I can’t blame Hunter for keeping quiet. Keeping her mouth shut might well be the smartest move she could make. After all, whether Edwards actually marries her or not she stands to get at least child support out of the bargain, especially if she makes no waves.
Plus, to borrow a phrase, it’s better to be silent and have people question your motives, morals, and mental state than to speak and remove all doubt.
So, Rielle Hunter has been quiet. Good for her. Possibly her smartest move yet.
Say what you will about Elizabeth Edwards. Having endured this slo-mo public humiliation, and probably having endured years of similar private humiliations in the course of her marriage — in which she’d invested 30+ years, and which had endured the loss of a child and the first cancer diagnosis — I’ll cut her some slack if she was angry, emotional, etc.
Who wouldn’t raise unholy hell under the circumstances? Who would be able to maintain a serene, saint-like composure at all times, with their dignity under public assault?
But starting an affair with a married man? Continuing the affair when his wife is diagnosed with terminal cancer? Having a baby with the same married man? Screwing him in home and bed he still shares with his dying wife?
There’s no dignity in that. None at all. And if I’d done all the above, I hope at least I’d have the sense to keep quiet about it.
So, Rielle Hunter has been quiet in the aftermath of the affair with Edwards. Good for her. If nothing else, I’m grateful she’s not adding to the steady stream of mind-numbing disclosures.
But dignity? It’s a little late for that.