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Is Rielle Hunter forcing John Edwards to claim paternity? [Updated]

September 21, 2009 |  9:29 am

Rielle

Just when it seemed the John Edwards saga couldn't get any more sordid, new revelations come that the 2004 Democratic vice presidential candidate and former North Carolina senator wants to acknowledge he is the father of a child born to a mistress, but that his wife, Elizabeth Edwards, has "yet to be brought around."

According to the New York Times, Mrs. Edwards, struggling with cancer, has been resisting her husband's instinct that it's time to step up in the case involving Rielle Hunter and her toddler daughter.

Maybe past time, since his once-loyal aide Andrew Young is writing a book and someone leaked the book proposal to the New York Times, with a lot of unsavory details. Among them: The onetime darling of the populist set asked the aide to cover for the senator and claim he was the father of the baby. Oh and the senator promised to marry Hunter as soon as Elizabeth Edwards died -- in a rooftop ceremony, accompanied by the Dave Matthews Band.

If that weren't enough, a federal grand jury is looking into the unique question of whether payments that Hunter got from two Edwards supporters -- Fred Baron, a wealthy Dallas trial lawyer, now deceased, and Bunny Mellon, the 99-year-old heiress to the Mellon fortune -- constitute a crime.

[Updated 2:41 p.m.: The New York Times also reports that Ms. Hunter may soon move to the Wilmington area, where the Edwards family has a secluded island estate.]

Aside from the question of how close this man came to being one heartbeat away from the presidency comes an inquiry about why Edwards' mistress keeps using her 19-month-old daughter like an shield -- even bringing her, as seen above, before a federal grand jury investigating campaign finance laws. We wonder if she is trying to remind the former senator of his affair.

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo credit: Jim R. Bounds / Associated Press

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