What Was Rielle Hunter's Goal in Opening Up to Oprah?

John Edwards' former lover sits down for her first TV interview, but refuses to admit hurting Elizabeth Edwards. Why now?

For a man who once portrayed himself as a smart, sincere do-gooder, John Edwards clearly didn’t use his best judgment in skipping birth control during his affair with Rielle Hunter. In her first TV interview Thursday, Hunter told Oprah Winfrey that the lovers never used protection -- and although Hunter knew she could get pregnant, she says that was fine with her ("I was in love with him"). 

Surely, Edwards knew that his affair was bad enough -- jeopardizing his presidential campaign -- but not taking steps to prevent the even more fraught crisis of a pregnancy (daughter Frances Quinn was born to Hunter in February 2008) that could only cause more pain to his cancer-stricken wife, Elizabeth Edwards? Unthinkable.

What we can't help thinking is: Why is Hunter opening up to the media at this point, anyway? She never articulates why all the secrecy is over now. Is she thinking -- as many politicians do -- of her legacy as a key player in this historical saga? Or simply what she wants her daughter to learn about the affair when she inevitably researches the media coverage about her mom? 

Hunter did acknowledge that "Johnny" and his family have been hurt by the extramarital affair, but when Winfrey asked Hunter if she feels she specifically hurt Elizabeth Edwards, Hunter refused accountability with a cryptic, “I don’t know.” She must realize she hurt her married boyfriend’s wife! She may not bear 100 percent of the culpability -- but in opening up to an audience of wives and moms across the country, she would've come across better if she'd at least copped to that.

Back when Edwards, 56, and Hunter, 46, first spotted each other in February 2006, she says he “lit up” (she described "mutual staring") and she told him, “You’re so hot.” Hunter explained she wasn’t referring to his looks, but his “energy,” adding, “There was something alive and authentic about him.” They met the next night in his hotel room, and soon, she was his official campaign videographer, trailing the candidate across the country. Even after Elizabeth Edwards, 60, discovered the affair in December 2006, Hunter says the trysts continued.

But she takes umbrage at the “homewrecker” label. “Problems exist before a third person comes into the picture,” she told Oprah. “You can’t steal someone else’s husband,” she said, adding a person is “not property.” (John and Elizabeth Edwards separated in January.)

We have to grant Hunter the point that she is unfairly shouldering the responsibility for the demise of the Edwards’ marriage; John Edwards certainly shares plenty of blame. In fact, Hunter told Winfrey, it was the handsome North Carolina politician who pursued her. “I was not ever ‘after him,’” she said.

And what about the future? Hunter says she still loves Edwards, but wouldn’t confirm whether the two are still romantically involved (she said he sees Quinn regularly and provides financial support for both of them). For all the ways Hunter insists that she is “real,” and “authentic,” her cagey Oprah interview ultimately proved that she still has a way to go before fully claiming those labels.

Plus:
- John Edwards' Mistress: Is She Seeking Sympathy?
- PHOTOS: Cheating Hearts: Why Famous Men Stray

What did you think of Oprah's interview with Rielle Hunter? Chime in below!

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