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06.29.10

Elizabeth Edwards' Media Hypocrisy

With new high-profile appearances on Today and Larry King, the jilted political spouse is up to her old tricks: blaming the press while ruthlessly courting publicity.

If it’s summer, it must be time for another gut-wrenching, mistress-slamming, bomb-throwing, tear-jerking, good old fashioned ass-kicking Elizabeth Edwards book tour.

Last year brought the publicity barrage for her memoir Resilience, which featured the first round of revelations about then-husband John’s domestic treachery. This time the occasion is the book’s paperback release, including a new (and fulsome) “Afterword” that keeps the tome fresh with updates on the downward spiral of the sad, strange Edwards marriage.

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Resilience Tour 2010 kicks off Wednesday with appearances on Today and Larry King Live, and with the publication of an essay by Edwards’ daughter Cate in People magazine.

Elizabeth Edwards, clearly weakened from her battle with breast cancer, uses these opportunities to discuss her search for inner peace—and to lob a few more grenades at her dolt ex’s former aide Andrew Young and baby mama Rielle Hunter, both of whom have done media blitzes of their own in the past year.

As with last time, Hunter—the Voldemort of mistresses—goes unnamed, even as Edwards dredges up old dirt in this seemingly endless saga. Of the hippie-dippy videographer’s appearance on Oprah Winfrey a few months back, Edwards told Matt Lauer, who notably got the first interview this time, not the Queen of Talk, “I still think this person is so completely unlike me that it’s hard to imagine the same person could marry me and be attracted to that—to that woman as well.”

“I still really feel I need to break free of the media-imposed image,” she told Lauer. “I’m not just a cuckolded wife.”

Her sad-sack ex, currently busy haunting Chapel Hill bars, continues to escape any real blame. “He’s no longer the person who I married,” Elizabeth Edwards told Lauer. “I still admire an enormous number of things about him. The things he cares about are things I think are important.”

Edwards may be the most press-friendly press-hating jilted political spouse in history—a significant achievement in a crowded field. She is unmatched in both the relentlessness and vehemence of her image-rehabilitation campaign. Next to her, Jenny Sanford, author of Staying True, and Dina Matos McGreevey, author of Silent Partner, look like wallflowers. Not even Hillary Clinton can compete, and she almost became president in her own resilient schlep back from the low point of the Lewinsky years.

Whereas last year Edwards bounded on to the talk-show circuit a widely beloved and pitied figure, this year she is contending with several seriously unflattering portrayals, chiefly those in Young’s book, The Politician, and in John Heilemann and Mark Halperin’s Game Change.

In the latter, Edwards is depicted as a craven operator, badgering and berating her husband’s advisers and regarding John with near disdain. “Oh, he doesn’t read books,” she’s quoted as saying at one point. “I’m the one who reads books.”

Which is probably just as well, given the forests that have been destroyed in service of pillorying John Edwards. She is, by all accounts, a voracious reader, not just of books but also of blogs. According to recent reports, she is also a frequent anonymous commenter.

Sources have accused Edwards of commenting on The Huffington Post and elsewhere under the pseudonym “Cherubim,” anonymously attacking Hunter and defending her family. On a June 17 blog post under the headline “BP CEO Tony Hayward Goes to Capitol Hill, Gets Pilloried By Congress,” Cherubim wrote, “I want my government to stop investigating John Edwards’ sex life; and, instead investigate who stole the wealth of America, and who the Hell got the 700 billion plus taxpayer bailout money.”

If they are hers, these notes, plus the Resilience brigade, form a kind of last stand against the onslaught of ugliness that has dragged the once-pristine Edwards family down into the muck. During her Today interview, Edwards empathized with Sandra Bullock, who “won the Academy Award for an incredible performance, and more than that, she took that story and integrated that into her own life in this healthy, happy way. And yet the stories you hear are not about all those great successes, but about the failure of her marriage.”

There may be more apt comparisons out there—we are in a golden era of collapsing political families—but the sentiment rings true. If the paperback release of Resilience doesn’t get the job done, there’s always the Kindle edition.

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Rebecca Dana is a senior correspondent for The Daily Beast. A former editor and reporter for The Wall Street Journal, she has also written for The New York Times, The New York Observer, Rolling Stone, and Slate, among other publications.