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Henry Blodget

Henry Blodget

Posted: May 7, 2009 11:39 AM

The Business Of Revenge: How John Edwards' Rielle Hunter Should Respond

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Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and no woman is more scorned right now than John Edwards' mistress and likely baby-mommy Rielle Hunter.

In her new book, Elizabeth Edwards blasts Hunter as "pathetic." She slaps her with the famous Clinton diss, "this woman." She delusionally chalks up her husband's attraction to her to the fact that Hunter is "different" than the good old-fashioned Edwardses, and tells a preposterous tale of the stalking and seduction:

"[T]his woman spotted him in the hotel in which he was staying. He was meeting someone in the restaurant bar area and she verified with someone who he worked with that it was John," she said.


"John went to dinner at a nearby restaurant and when he walked back to the hotel she was standing in front of the hotel. She said to him, 'You are so hot.'"

The point of Edwards' book, presumably, is not just to get her digs in at Hunter, but to twist the knife in what's left of her husband's reputation. And she's doing the latter quite effectively.

But if you're Rielle Hunter and you have to sit there and listen to all this, and the friend of John Edwards who was paying you to keep your mouth shut has died and now you're a forty-something single Mom holed up in a friend's house in New Jersey with a young daughter and no means of support, you're probably thinking, "enough already."

So what are Rielle Hunter's options?

From an economic perspective, she has several:

Sell her story. A New York literary agent we spoke to estimates that Hunter could get $750,000 to $1 million for a tell-all book about the affair. When you have no money, $750,000-$1 million is a lot. But it will also come at a big cost Right now, Hunter is actually admired for her discretion: The fabulous all-powerful candidate seduced her and knocked her up and then groveled to the nation for forgiveness for his appalling lapse of judgment--and she has never even complained. If Hunter sells her story, this admiration will vaporize: She'll be seen as a money-grubbing slut trashing a terminally ill national hero (Elizabeth). Selling her story will be a one-time deal. And, after taxes, the $750,000 probably won't last that long.

Wait and hope that John Edwards will do the right thing for his daughter. Hunter has actually been quite clever about refusing to subject her daughter Frances Quinn to a paternity test. Most people think Edwards is her father, and, the older she gets, the more the pressure will increase on Edwards to take responsibility for her. If Edwards is not Frances' father, meanwhile, Hunter's leverage (and public support) will disappear, so it's not in her interest to establish this. Edwards still has tens of millions of dollars from his career as a litigator, so if he is the dad he can certainly afford to spare a million or two to support his daughter over the next couple of decades. And now that the secret's out and Edwards' career as a politician is done, he has nothing left to lose by doing this. In fact, over time, it would actually be good for his reputation.

Sue Edwards for paternity payments. An ugly, risky choice that would force Hunter into accepting a paternity test. If she knows Edwards is the father, this route is riskless but still painful and expensive. If Hunter merely wants to believe that Edwards is the father, then it's very risky. If the test reveals that Edwards isn't the father, he's off the hook, and Hunter just looks like the woman Elizabeth Edwards is trying to make her out to be. She also will no longer have a claim to any of the Edwards millions. If Hunter knows Edwards is NOT the father, meanwhile, this course of action is suicide. (Hunter could always threaten to sue John Edwards for paternity, which might shake some dollars loose--but only if he really believes he's the father. If he calls her bluff and turns out not to be the father, it's game over.)

Wait and hope that the Edwards' marriage breaks up and John admits he still loves her and returns. This is the fairy-tale choice and the one that would offer the most money and satisfaction. In this scenario, Hunter would get the man, the father, and most of the Edwards' dough, which would be 20+X as much as she could get for selling her story or collecting child-support payments. The Edwards' marriage may well end soon, either because Elizabeth will realize that she's still being lied to or, more tragically, because she's dying. Given the position Edwards has taken with respect to the affair, even if the marriage ends. Hunter would probably have to wait many years for John to return, and it would be a long-shot. But John Edwards is a persuasive fellow, and it's possible he has persuaded Hunter that this has always been the plan.

So what's Hunter's best choice? To continue to grit her teeth, avoid the media, and take the punches. Elizabeth Edwards is untouchable right now, and no matter what happens, she's going to win this round.

If Hunter stays patient, however, she'll almost certainly do better for herself and her daughter if she forgoes the easy money and bides her time.

UPDATE: It seems Hunter has made her decision. Proceed with the paternity test...

 

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