On Saturday night, April 24, 2010, five days before John Edwards’s mistress Rielle Hunter sat down with Oprah to talk about the by-then-infamous sex tape and other embarrassments that had destroyed his political career, the former presidential candidate showed up at the West End Wine Bar in downtown Durham, North Carolina. It was around ten o’clock, and Edwards wanted a glass of wine after finishing dinner with friends at a nearby restaurant.
When he got to the door, Edwards was disappointed to learn the bar was closed for a private event. A group of Duke public policy grad students had reserved the space to celebrate the end of the semester at a party they call “Prom.” Inside, a DJ mixed dance music, while a scrum of twentysomethings jostled for drinks. Edwards and his friends turned to leave. Matthew Jentgen, a 28-year-old environmental policy student collecting tickets at the door, furiously lobbied them to come inside. “I told him, ‘We’re public policy students, it’d be interesting to have you at the party,’” Jentgen recently recalled. “He was looking as if he was wondering if he wanted to come in or not…. I wore him down, because, eventually, they came in.”
Word that Edwards was at the door coursed through the crowd. Once he was inside, students came up to snap photos with him. One attendee recalled that he wore his wedding ring. Edwards lapped up the attention. “He was graciously taking pictures for thirty minutes,” Jentgen says. Not everyone was thrilled, though. “Some people there had worked on his campaign and were still excited to see him,” Jentgen recalls. “Others, obviously, were not.”
In the aftermath of the 2008 presidential campaign, Edwards was said to be distraught. He lost a precipitous amount of weight, and advisers even told reporters at the time that they worried he might be suicidal. Since then, his circumstances have only gotten worse. A federal grand jury continues to probe whether he illegally funneled campaign contributions to Hunter to keep their affair secret. Hunter’s explosive interviews with GQ and Oprah kept the scandal-mill churning, as did a tell-all memoir by former Edwards aide Andrew Young. A January 2010 poll by Public Policy Polling concluded that Edwards is the “most unpopular person we’ve polled anywhere at any time.”
Full story: After The Fall | The New Republic