Remember 2008? It was such a different, exciting, and harrowing time — the global economy was in ruins, George W. Bush was on the way out, and we were about to elect the first black president in American history. Oh, and one other thing: one of Obama's Democratic rivals for president imploded in a prototypical political sex scandal, one that's knocked him completely out of politics, even all these years later. And most people seem to remember his part of the story better than hers: whatever happened to Rielle Hunter?
In the event you weren't consuming much political news back then, maybe that name doesn't ring familiar. But it ended up dominating the news cycle in the summer of 2008, right as the presidential race between then-Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain was entering the home stretch. One of the two other Democratic contenders who Obama had beaten for the nomination, former North Carolina senator John Edwards, became the subject of an explosive sex scandal. Allegations swirled that he'd cheated on his cancer-stricken wife Elizabeth with Hunter, who'd been employed by his campaign to produce videos, and secretly fathered a child with her.
All that turned out to be entirely true, and it had the immediate effect of derailing Edwards' political ambitions, embroiling him in a campaign finance scandal (he was ultimately cleared of charges in 2012), and making Hunter and her baby daughter Francis Quinn matters of national discussion.
So, what ended up happening to Hunter? She landed a book deal about the entire experience, and it ended up embroiling her in even more controversy and criticism. What Really Happened: John Edwards, Our Daughter, And Me was released in 2012, and it reportedly stirred up some tension on Edwards' part — among other things, the book gave the broad strokes of their first night together, discussed a sex tape they recorded while on a trip to Uganda, and contained some very inflammatory statements about his late wife Elizabeth (such as calling her a "witch on wheels"). Edwards ultimately sued Hunter over the sex tape, and successfully had it destroyed in 2012.
She then revisited the book in 2013, updating and revising it with an apology for her past behavior, a stark contrast to the by all accounts unapologetic tone of her first version. In an essay for Huffington Post that went up the same day the new edition of her book hit shelves, Hunter described how many people she'd hurt through the affair, and how she'd done even more wrong through the book's initial publication.
I hurt Elizabeth and her kids. I hurt her family. I hurt John's family. I hurt people that knew Elizabeth. I hurt people who didn't know Elizabeth but loved her from afar. I hurt people who gave their hard earned dollars to a campaign -- a cause they believed in. I hurt people who are married and believe in marriage. Many of these people have let me know that I hurt them. Unfortunately, I was not thinking about anyone but myself. I was selfish. I fell in love with John Edwards and wanted to be with him and that desire trumped everything else. And then instead of apologizing when I should have, I went on to hurt more people by writing a book. I truly did not realize at that time how damaged I was and because of that, when I wrote my book I made more mistakes, ones I feel horrible about.
It probably shouldn't come as much surprise that the two biggest chapters of her public life since the affair have been so tightly related to the scandal, considering how sensationalized the initial coverage was. It's easy to forget nowadays, but the Edwards/Hunter story was actually broken by the National Enquirer, the long-running American tabloid newspaper that's not exactly lauded for its journalistic merit, let's say. Faced with that thirsty media environment Hunter was all lined up to write a tell-all, vaguely salacious book about the experience, and that's exactly what she ended up doing, effectively rolling it out for sale twice in just over a year.