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Edwards Affair: Did Elizabeth Know More?

How much did Elizabeth Edwards, John Edwards’ wife, know about his affair with Rielle Hunter and when did she know it?

Edwards has said that he told his wife about the affair “at the end of 2006” and that everything ended after that.

Indeed, within days of the end of 2006, Web videos produced by Hunter about Edwards disappeared from his campaign Web site and from YouTube.

Sources tell me that it was indeed Elizabeth Edwards who had the videos pulled down when she saw them. The theory among Edwards campaign insiders is that she finally put two and two together. “She realized this blonde woman who was always around and who made these videos, there was something going on,” a source said.

In fact, Hunter and her videos disappeared, only to be replaced by new videos made by a videographer who’d worked for Elizabeth Edwards’ brother, Jay Anania. Peter Cairns had worked for Anania on a project called Commedia and a video called “The Lost Hours.”

In a chapter added to the paperback edition of Edwards’ memoir, “Saving Graces,” the former senator’s wife observes that in 2007: “My brother Jay had a wonderful young man, Peter Cairns, who worked for him, and Peter had begun videotaping the campaign, the events and behind the scenes. We had tried it before but the process of getting the film from the camera to the internet — where I and the public could watch John took much too long.”

(An e-mail and a phone call to Cairns on Monday were each unreturned.)

Of course, that wasn’t the case. When Hunter shot her videos, sources tell me, a dedicated Internet technician was part of the deal, and managed to get all her videos up on Edwards’ campaign site immediately.

Elizabeth Edwards, of course, is the sympathetic character in the Edwards-Hunter saga by virtue of her cancer. John Edwards told ABC’s Bob Woodruff that he only commenced his affair with Hunter when his wife’s cancer was in remission. In the added chapter, Elizabeth recounts the story of her recurrence in late March 2007. The prognosis was dire.

Curiously, it’s also in that added chapter, amid many thank you’s to people who helped her or reached out to her, that Elizabeth adds a surprisingly bitter note. Sources say that at the time, in March 2007, she may not have been aware that her husband’s affair with Hunter had been rekindled. Hunter got pregnant in late May or early June 2007. The “Saving Graces” paperback was published officially on Aug. 14, 2007.

Elizabeth writes:

“It is hard to describe the test of public life, the way people believe — to some degree correctly — that you belong to them. There are awful examples, of course, of those whose motives are selfish or not admirable, who pry their way into the lives of public people in order to exploit a kindness or a generous gesture. They are to be endured and, to some extent I largely chose to ignore, feared. They remind me of a more malicious version of the people who wandered into our house in Annapolis, walking around our living room, putting their hands on our things. It is a sad fact that these people are a threat to anyone with even the smallest amount of celebrity.”

Ouch! “They are to be endured and feared.” When Elizabeth Edwards wrote that, she most certainly knew of her husband’s affair. Was it Rielle Hunter to whom she was referring? It certainly wasn’t the legions of strangers who wrote to Edwards with their cancer stories, all of whom she embraced.

Interestingly, the paperback edition of “Saving Graces” is dedicated not to husband John but to Elizabeth’s four children, including her tragically deceased eldest son. “For Wade, Cate, Emma Claire, and Jack. This is a small offering, for no mother has ever been more blessed.” John Edwards — aside from his mentions in the narrative of the book — gets nothing but an aside in the acknowledgments at the end — “my beloved John,” sandwiched in between Elizabeth’s parents and her daughter “precious Cate.”