Elizabeth’s Legacy

Elizabeth & John Edwards

John & Elizabeth Edwards http://womenonthefence.wordpress.com

Elizabeth Edwards, the now ex-wife of former United States senator and vice-presidential candidate, John Edwards,  has recently come out about her side of the story regarding her husband’s highly publicized affair. She did a live one-on-one interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer on the Today Show last week where she discussed her battle with cancer, her husband’s affair, her children, and her book, Resilience.                               

Edwards recently added a new chapter to the paperback version, which was recently released. In the previous version, Edwards explains why she stayed with her husband after his affair, for which she was publicly criticized, but has now spoken out about why she has finally left her husband. She writes that this was a very difficult and scary decision to make but knew that she couldn’t live the rest of her life being a “reactive” character. More and more information kept coming out about her husband and his affair, which made her finally put an end to their thirty-three year marriage.

Edwards explains in the interview and in her book that she does not feel that she has wasted her time or has thrown away this portion of her life by staying with her husband for as long as she did because there were many good things that came out of her marriage. Lauer discussed with Edwards how she dealt with learning that her husband had more than just a one-night stand with his mistress, freelance videographer, Rielle Hunter, like she had previously thought, but rather that he was engaging in a real relationship with another woman and even had a child with her.

Facing criticism as “the boss’s wife”

They also addressed the criticism that Edwards has faced from writers such as Andrew Young, who worked as John Edwards’ aide, and who tried to cover up the affair by saying that the child Edwards had fathered with Hunter was his. He described Elizabeth as “intrusive” and “manipulative” and that she had distorted facts about her marriage and husband. 

In the recently published political book, Game Change, Elizabeth is described by political insiders as being a “harsh,” “condescending,” even “crazy” individual. Some even criticize Elizabeth saying she put her husband’s affair in the media spotlight by writing a book in the first place, which portrays her as a “martyr” and also condemns her doing interviews.

Elizabeth defends herself in the interview, saying that she gave her opinion on policies or decisions and that these individuals did not perceive her as being an equal, rather just “the boss’s wife.” She goes on to explain that she does care about what people think about her and this is why she wrote the additional chapter to her book and that she wants to be remembered for the good things that she has done, not for her marriage.

Elizabeth Edwards

Elizabeth Edwards Source: http://babble.com

Two sides to every story

Elizabeth, who seems like an extremely forgiving and strong woman is being treated not as a victim in the criticism she faces, but as a perpetrator by many people. In my opinion, she is not acting like a “martyr” or being “condescending” by voicing her opinion and feelings, although she has every right to do so. She was cheated on by her husband publicly, and then lied to, all while suffering from terminal cancer.

In terms of public relations, I think it was a great move for Elizabeth to write a book and do interviews about the issues she faced being married to her husband and being thrown into the public eye. Elizabeth needed to tell her side of the story, not only for herself and letting the public understand the scandal from her perspective, but also for her family and her young children. If I was her PR rep I would encourage her to keep voicing her feelings and her side of the situation and shape her legacy the way she chooses. She should continue writing and promoting her book, because this is potentially molding her image in the world of politics.

However, in the long run will it even matter that Elizabeth shared her perspective, or will the public continue to believe the political “insiders” who were close to her husband? I sure hope for the former, but only time will tell.


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