John Edwards’s Biggest Scandals

The former presidential candidate can’t seem to keep himself out of the newspapers—in all the wrong ways.

The accusation that John Edwards used the services of "Millionaire Madam" Anna Gristina raised eyebrows. Edwards is the first john publicly linked to the alleged prostitution ring run on the Upper East Side. A lawyer for the former North Carolina senator and presidential candidate issued a statement that “Mr. Edwards categorically denies that he was involved with any prostitute or service.” Regardless of the accuracy of this latest allegation, it’s not the first time John Edwards has been linked to scandal. 

Greg Wolf / AP Photo

Other women

According to Rielle Hunter, Edwards’s mistress and the mother of his illegitimate daughter Frances Quinn Hunter, Edwards may have had affairs in the past. In a 2010 interview with GQ, Hunter alleged that Elizabeth Edwards “was aware of, um, problems [in her marriage] and chose to ignore them.” When pressed for clarification that those problems included other women, Hunter admitted, “in part, yes.”

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“You’re so hot”

When Rielle Hunter met John Edwards for the first time, three words left her mouth as she saw the presidential candidate stroll up to her outside the Regency Hotel: “You’re so hot.” In a 2010 interview with GQ, Hunter said Edwards then exclaimed, “Why, thank you!” and then “almost jumped into my arms.”

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Rooftop wedding

According to Edwards’s close personal aide, Andrew Young, the presidential candidate told Hunter that when they got married after his wife died, it would be on a New York rooftop, serenaded by the Dave Matthews Band. But Edwards never bothered to check first with Dave Matthews, who later said, “I would make a fair bet that I would have said no to such an offer.”

Chuck Olsen / AP Photo

The sex tape

John Edwards and Rielle Hunter made a sex tape. Although it has likely since been destroyed, The Daily Beast was the first to share the intimate details with the world two years ago. It may not be that unusual for a married presidential candidate to cheat, but to videotape that encounter is another matter altogether.

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Trapped in the (water) closet

Edwards’s affair was finally exposed in July 2008 when The National Enquirer  followed Edwards to the Beverly Hills Hilton where he visited Hunter and his daughter, who were staying in the hotel. Edwards fled the Enquirer’s reporters and found refuge by barricading himself in the hotel-lobby men’s room. After 15 minutes, hotel security rescued him and escorted him outside the hotel. Although Edwards avoided answering reporters’ questions, he didn’t avoid having his affair and his paternity exposed to the world.

Jae C. Hong / AP Photo

Ambassador to Zimbabwe?

Prior to the 2008 Iowa caucuses, Edwards had made overtures to the Obama campaign about a deal. If one won Iowa, the other would drop out and take the VP spot on the ticket. Needless to say, Obama was noncommittal. On the night of the Iowa caucuses, Edwards reminded the Obama campaign about his offer. Two weeks later, Edwards reached out again, now saying he was willing to settle for attorney general. His contact on the Obama campaign, Tom Daschle, was incredulous: “This is ridiculous. It’s going to be ambassador to Zimbabwe next.” Obama was apparently even more appalled, being unwilling to engage any sort of political transaction. Edwards eventually endorsed Obama, but at that point, Obama may have preferred an abstention.

Chuck Burton / AP Photo


Edwards was indicted last year on six counts of various violations of campaign-finance laws that prosecutors said he committed in order to hide his affair. Prosecutors said that by finding wealthy donors to pay Rielle Hunter’s expenses and keep out of the public eye, Edwards took illegal campaign donations that far exceeded the legal limits. Edwards’s defense is that hush money to hide an affair is not a campaign contribution. This is new legal ground in campaign-finance law. The trial has not yet begun, but many legal experts believe that the indictment against Edwards won’t stand up in court.

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$400 haircuts

Prior to the revelations of Edwards’ infidelity, one of the biggest knocks on him was associated with his preference for $400 haircuts from Beverly Hills stylist, Joseph Torrenueva. This reinforced his image as an out-of-touch pretty-boy and provided material for countless jokes by late-night comedians. But $400 is a bargain compared with the going rate for a session with Anna Gristina’s prostitutes: $2,000 a session.