I really want to like Rielle Hunter, but she makes it so difficult for me. While promoting her tell-all book, “What Really Happened: John Edwards, Our Daughter, and Me,” on shows including “20/20” and “The Talk,” Hunter claims no feelings of remorse or shame for being the other woman. Rather, she defends her actions and perceives both herself and Edwards to be victims of love.
Her defense would be justifiable — if she was 15 years old. During interviews Hunter seems likable, articulate, collected and confident. She embodies everything an adult her age should be. But she is not behaving like one.
As much as I, and surely the rest of the nation, would love to forgive her for her transgressions with Edwards, the new poster child for concubines makes it difficult on herself when she blames her very conscious and not-so-wise decisions on love and writes a memoir about those poor decisions.
Though she keeps her composure during television appearances, Rielle, similar to a teen indulging in her first crush, desperately pleads her case that she is not to blame for her faults.
In fact, during her appearance on CBS’ “The Talk,” Hunter explained that when she first met Edwards she believed that she could help him. She agreed that her help backfired in regards to his political career, but still justified her assistance as a blessing because it resulted in true romance and their daughter Quinn.
As determined as Rielle Hunter is to convince the public that all she ever did with and for John Edwards was in the name of love, she cannot and should not expect us to give in to her perception of reality.
Love at its best is liberating. On the other hand, love is not considerate. At its worst, it is indulgent, weak, uncompromising and selfish — and these same attributes on display in Hunter and Edwards ultimately led to his political demise. They both made mindful decisions to surrender to their desires.
Perhaps they chose to ignore the possible consequences of an extramarital affair, but that is not to suggest that they did not consider the possibilities. Love is capable of changing lives in extraordinary ways, but it does not alter anyone’s sense of moral code or ethics. For Rielle Hunter to assume that this logic will prove effective on those who watch her promotional interviews or read her book is beyond disappointing.
Perhaps what makes her 15 minutes of fame even more deplorable is her commentary on the late Elizabeth Edwards in her memoir and how, in some respect, she saved Edwards from a failing marriage and from being a woman who was failing in her duties as a wife. Playing the role of uncredited hero puts Hunter in an even worse light, considering it requires her to portray Mrs. Edwards as the villain, and not herself.
Saving face after any public scandal can be a daunting task, particularly in a society that demands perfection, but love is an ongoing scandal. Perhaps Rielle Hunter did save John Edwards from a loveless marriage, and maybe for him it was worth the loss of his career. Maybe she is the hero he needed.
At this point, whether Hunter portrays herself as the victim or the Princess Charming, it’s going to be a while before her nightmare of a fairytale is over and the public forgets her name. In the meantime, she should do what most people do around age 12 — stop believing in fairy tales, but always believe in their messages of honesty, accountability and self-respect.