Surprisingly, the CBS Early Show continued to report on the John Edwards scandal on Tuesday, as co-host Maggie Rodriguez talked to a friend of Edwards’s mistress: "Edwards claims it was a brief liaison, but that's not how a friend of [Rielle] Hunter's remembers it." At one point in the interview, Rodriguez asked that friend, Pigeon O’Brien, about media characterizations of Hunter: "She's been portrayed as this Fatal Attraction-like woman who was semi-stalking him, madly in love, delusional, talking bad about his wife. The woman that you claim to know for 20 years, does that ring true?" Of course "semi-stalking" seemed to be how co-host Harry Smith described Hunter on Monday’s show: "This woman in question has a very interesting history...knowing her as this kind of bar fly who had this kind of crazy past... From reading everything I read it seemed to me that she targeted Edwards."
In response to Rodriguez’s question, O’Brien criticized those portraying Hunter in such a manner:
Not at all. It couldn't be further from the truth. It -- and that's one reason why I'm speaking to people like you. It really bothers me, what they're saying about her. It could not be further from the truth...It does not ring true that she would ever stalk somebody. They were very mutually engaged in this affair. I can't stress that enough. It was a mutual committed relationship and he persuaded her to believe so.
On Monday’s show, Rodriguez asked the National Enquirer’s David Perel about Hunter: "...your impressions of this woman, Rielle Hunter, who's being trashed in New York papers today. On the cover of this one, it says 'Rielle Cruel,' saying that she trashed Elizabeth Edwards. Said she was a woman who had bad karma. What can you tell us about her?"
Earlier in the segment, O’Brien explained that Hunter was in love with Edwards and Rodriguez asked: "So for her this was about love...Not sex...Did she describe this as hot and heavy, frequent visits, intense, passionate?" O’Brien replied: "Yes, yes. And intense intellectually as well. She's a very keenly intellectually engaged woman. She's very insistent upon rigorous dialogue and she's very interested in what makes people tick...So they would've connected, and they do connect, on that level as well. As human beings and as souls. They connected very deeply on that level."
Rodriguez went on to ask about Hunter’s sense of guilt: "Did she describe it as ‘I'm so excited to kick off this affair with this married man’...or was she ever battling her conscience, like 'I met this great guy but he's married'?" Little was made of Edwards’s conscience on Monday by psychologist Robi Ludwig: "I wonder if there was something about his wife's illness that somehow got him to cheat or contributed at least...I think that we get so caught up in good or bad, you know. Is somebody a good person or a bad person. Cheating is wrong."
Later in the segment Rodriguez asked about speculation that Edwards is the father of Hunter’s young daughter: "Do you think that John Edwards is the father of her daughter?" O'Brien replied: "I do...I don't see any other explanation. She would not have a child with someone that she didn't love, and she loves him."
Here is the full transcript of the segment:
HARRY SMITH: Sex, lies, and videotape. When did John Edwards really begin his affair with Rielle Hunter? Hunter's friend joins us in the studio and says Edwards is lying.
MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Also ahead this morning, a long-time friend of John Edwards's mistress is in the studio to set the record straight. She says he is still lying about the affair, just as new pictures are surfacing this morning that show the other woman was still working for the Senator after he says it was over.
MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Just how forthcoming has John Edwards been about his affair with Rielle Hunter, a videographer hired by his campaign? Edwards claims it was a brief liaison, but that's not how a friend of Hunter's remembers it. Joining us this morning is Pigeon O'Brien. Good morning to you, Pigeon.
PIGEON O'BRIEN: Good morning.
RODRIGUEZ: Is John Edwards still lying about his affair with your friend?
O'BRIEN: As of -- as of his statement on Friday evening, he is lying about the time line of the affair and other details about it, yes.
RODRIGUEZ: She told you it started in February or March of 2006.
RODRIGUEZ: He said it started five months later when his campaign hired her.
O'BRIEN: No, that's not true. That's not true. It started in the winter of '06. They became involved at that point, not later in the summer when she was hired for the political action committee.
RODRIGUEZ: It started in the winter of '06?
RODRIGUEZ: Because that's when he was announcing his candidacy and as we see in these pictures she's still working for him at that time, even though he says this is when the affair was winding down.
O'BRIEN: It started at the other end of '06, in February, March-
RODRIGUEZ: Oh at the beginning.
O'BRIEN: Yes, yes.
RODRIGUEZ: Oh, okay.
O'BRIEN: Yes, at the very -- six months earlier than he says that it began.
RODRIGUEZ: So when you looked at those pictures earlier with me you said 'poor thing' about Rielle. Why?
O'BRIEN: I -- she's a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful person in a very ugly position and I really feel for her. I think that I really have never known someone so insistent upon integrity, and honesty, and openness. It's one of the most beautiful things about her. There are many beautiful things about her.
RODRIGUEZ: But someone who has an affair with a married man you say has integrity and honesty?
O'BRIEN: I think she thought that he had quite a bit of integrity and I think that appealed to her about him. Sometimes we make mistakes, sometimes we pick people to fall in love with that maybe aren't the greatest choice at the time. I can't judge her in that, I can't fault her in that. She fell in love and she felt loved back by this man. So unfortunately that doesn't reflect the kind of integrity that everybody might think reflects integrity. But I'm sure she was able to deal with it and really be persuaded by her feelings of love for this man.
RODRIGUEZ: So for her this was about love-
O'BRIEN: Yes, very much-
RODRIGUEZ: Not sex.
O'BRIEN: No, no, no, no, no.
RODRIGUEZ: Did she describe this as hot and heavy, frequent visits, intense, passionate?
O'BRIEN: Yes, yes. And intense intellectually as well. She's a very keenly intellectually engaged woman. She's very insistent upon rigorous dialogue and she's very interested in what makes people tick. She very -- digs very deeply about those things. So they would've connected, and they do connect, on that level as well. As human beings and as souls. They connected very deeply on that level.
RODRIGUEZ: You say that she told you about the night that she met him at a bar. Did she describe it as 'I'm so excited to kick off this affair with this married man'-
RODRIGUEZ: -or was she ever battling her conscience, like 'I met this great guy but he's married'?
O'BRIEN: I don't suppose we ever went into things on a conscience level. It wasn't for me to judge and she didn't want to put me in a position to judge her. We were girlfriends, we trusted one another's decisions.
RODRIGUEZ: But as she embarked on this affair did she even think twice about it?
O'BRIEN: She may have. I don't recall a conversation where that came up with us specifically. There were difficulties. And she was very conflicted as the affair went on about aspects of it. We didn't really drill too deeply into those. I supported her. And-
RODRIGUEZ: But you say that you guys lost touch when the affair got hot and heavy. Why?
O'BRIEN: Yes. Well, she was very involved then and I think beginning to work for his campaign. We lost touch in about May or June of '06, right before she began work on the webisodes . I think she was gearing up to really engage in the big piece of work that she was doing for him, so her head was in a different space from the things we had been doing together. And I think she was transitioning her friendship and focusing more on him as the central person in her life and maybe putting some of her other relationships on the sideline.
RODRIGUEZ: She's been portrayed as this Fatal Attraction-like woman who was semi-stalking him, madly in love, delusional, talking bad about his wife. The woman that you claim to know for 20 years, does that ring true?
O'BRIEN: Not at all. It couldn't be further from the truth. It -- and that's one reason why I'm speaking to people like you. It really bothers me, what they're saying about her. It could not be further from the truth. She's a person of tremendous integrity. More so than anyone else I've ever known. Insistent upon honesty and very open. It does not ring true that she would ever stalk somebody. They were very mutually engaged in this affair. I can't stress that enough. It was a mutual committed relationship and he persuaded her to believe so. In retrospect, I'm not sure how sincere he was about that. I don't feel that he's completely sincere about things, knowing what I know, just in terms of what he says. But, no she never would have-
RODRIGUEZ: Have you ever reached out to her since this started?
O'BRIEN: Yes I have. I have, I have.
O'BRIEN: I don't think my contact is particularly welcome at this point. She's in a very difficult place and I feel that she knows friends like me are out here thinking about her. I hope she understands that we all care for her so incredibly much and really want the best for her.
RODRIGUEZ: Do you think that John Edwards is the father of her daughter?
O'BRIEN: I do.
O'BRIEN: I don't see any other explanation. She would not have a child with someone that she didn't love, and she loves him.
RODRIGUEZ: She's still in love with him. Does she think this is going to work out?
O'BRIEN: I believe she hopes it will. I believe she hopes it will.
RODRIGUEZ: Do you think she will continue to pursue it?
O'BRIEN: I'm not sure that she has pursued it. I think it's been mutual. I can't stress that enough. I think she will continue to have love for this person and feel that she is in a relationship with him as he has led her to believe.
RODRIGUEZ: Despite the fact that he has a wife, has she ever mentioned Elizabeth Edwards?
RODRIGUEZ: What are her feelings when she thinks of Elizabeth Edwards?
O'BRIEN: Well, she knows how committed -- it's hard to miss how committed -- the Edwards' are to one another and how central the role Elizabeth plays in Mr. Edwards's life. So she's aware of him as a married man and as a partner in this very profound relationship and she talked, sometimes, about those things. She's very aware of it. There are other circumstances, their affair, their connection, their love, that seemed to make it okay and comfortable for her to pursue the relationship with him. From the outside, it doesn't look like we would make those same choices. She was comfortable making those choices and confident in those choices.
RODRIGUEZ: Alright, Pigeon O'Brien, thank you.
O'BRIEN: Thank you.
RODRIGUEZ: Appreciate your time.