John Edwards' Mistress Rielle Hunter: Is She Seeking Sympathy?

After an affair and a child with the politician ruined his career (and marriage), the "other woman" breaks her silence

If you've followed the stunning developments in the saga of disgraced politician John Edwards -- star lawyer, North Carolina senator, 2004 vice-presidential candidate and 2008 presidential candidate with a love child on the side -- then you know that one character in this morality play who hasn't spoken out yet is Edwards' mistress, Rielle Hunter. Until now.

In a nearly 10,000-word interview in the new issue of GQ, Hunter consistently refers to Edwards (father of her 2-year-old daughter Quinn) as "Johnny" -- and that's just one of her many questionable choices. Alluring photos of Hunter accompany a revealing Q&A about, well, you name it: the "toxic" marriage of John and Elizabeth Edwards, the unwavering trust Hunter has in the former senator ("He doesn't lie to me," she says) and the lovers' sex tape (currently the focus of a contentious legal battle involving The Politician author Andrew Young). It's, by far, the most Hunter has ever said about the romance that destroyed Edwards' career and marriage.

Notably, the former actress is -- as GQ interviewer Lisa DePaulo told Matt Lauer on NBC's Today show -- "unapologetic" about all that has transpired. One wonders if Hunter is truly just tired of being talked about (and thus, wants to speak for herself) or if she's angling to humanize how she's being portrayed in the historic scandal (her silence for years actually led to one of the most sympathetic op-ed pieces I'd ever read about her, over on -- so much for "quiet dignity," now.)

As I've talked with friends about the Hunter interview, I realize I have a very difficult time evaluating the Edwards soap opera objectively anymore. I once identified strongly with Elizabeth Edwards (then I heard about nasty voicemails she left for Young while under the impression that he fathered Hunter's child, and I realized that she is a complex woman I don't actually have figured out).

Meanwhile, someone I know once heard from a friend that Hunter is an excellent neighbor and mom -- when I realized that the rumor surprised me, I felt simplistic and hostile. Hearing about married people who cheat, or unmarried people who knowingly sleep with someone else's spouse, my take is rarely complicated -- I feel, frankly, intolerant. Probably because, in my experience, marriage is not an easy road, and seeking relief from the challenges of marriage by cheating strikes me as a tired, lazy, easy choice for those who make it. Not to mention hurtful.

Then there's the toddler who never asked to be involved in this scandal. Many not only project labels onto "the other woman," but a sense of sadness onto the child she bore Edwards in 2008 (a baby whose paternity he denied until 2010). Should we? Her father is reportedly building a relationship with the little girl. For all we know, she'll be raised well and loved well, and perhaps help the Edwards kids -- Cate, 28, Emma Claire, 11, and Jack, 10 -- forgive their dad someday.

The truth is, none of us can say. But now that the vilified mistress is talking, it's fair to wonder why: What's motivating her at this juncture to finally publicize her side of the sordid story? Will the new photos and quotes in GQ improve her image? I'm casting a "no" vote on that one.

PHOTOS: Cheating Hearts: What Makes Famous Men Stray

What's your opinion of Rielle Hunter? Chime in below!


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