As tabloid news reports continued to swirl around John Edwards on Wednesday, his former campaign finance chairman said he was unaware that Edwards had an affair with campaign videographer Rielle Hunter when he paid to relocate her to California last year.
In an e-mail, Dallas lawyer Fred Baron wrote, “I will re-state what I have previously stated on one point: I learned of the affair only a few weeks ago and had previously presumed that the ‘tabloid' stuff was all bogus.”
The statement follows several days of questions raised by a former associate of Hunter and her sister, who challenged Edwards' timeline of the relationship.
In an ABC-TV interview Friday, Edwards admitted to having an affair with Hunter but denied being the father of her daughter, born on Feb. 27 in Santa Barbara, Calif.
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Former campaign aide Andrew Young, who also moved to the Santa Barbara area with his wife and three children last year with Baron's assistance, has claimed he was the father.
In his ABC interview, Edwards said the affair did not start until after Edwards' political action committee hired Hunter to film four videos posted online. The first check cut to Hunter's film company, Midline Groove Productions, was written July 5, 2006, for $12,500, according to campaign finance reports.
However, a publicist based near Austin, Texas, who said she was a close friend of Hunter's until they lost contact in June 2006, told ABC News that the affair began almost half a year before Hunter was paid to produce the videos.
On Wednesday, Pigeon O'Brien said by phone that Edwards' affair with Hunter began as early as February 2006 and was still going on in June when she lost contact with Hunter.
According to business records, Midline Groove Productions was not incorporated in Delaware until June 30, 2006.
In an interview with “Entertainment Tonight,” Hunter's sister Roxanne Druck Marshall questioned whether Edwards had been completely truthful.
“The most shocking thing was seeing him on TV give these half-truths, these half-baked answers,” Druck Marshall said in a post on the entertainment news program's Web site. “I wish for the well-being of everybody involved.”
Hunter hasn't made herself available for interviews, and Edwards hasn't commented publicly since Friday's interview.
Baron, a key national fundraiser for Democratic Party causes, said Friday that he had decided independently, without notifying Edwards, to help Hunter and Young “rebuild their lives when harassment by … tabloids made it impossible for them to conduct a normal life,” by paying for their move from Chapel Hill to California.
Baron declined to comment further Wednesday, but in an interview posted online by Texas Lawyer magazine, Baron said he paid for several months of rent for Hunter and the Youngs without informing Edwards. Baron denied media reports that he was paying as much as $15,000 a month.
According to an article published Sunday, Baron told The New York Post that Hunter, Young and Young's family lived together in California until household tension grew.
“They lived in a single house most of the time and split to two houses recently,” Baron told The Post.
As questions grow about the timing of Edwards' affair, some Democrats have questioned why Elizabeth Edwards rallied behind her husband on the campaign trail in 2007 and 2008, knowing of his indiscretion and knowing how risky such a revelation could be had he been the party nominee.
Hargrave McElroy, one of Elizabeth Edwards' closest friends, declined to discuss when Elizabeth Edwards learned of the affair. But McElroy said the terminal cancer diagnosis played a heavy role.
“Her main aim, I think, in any decision she's made is in trying to keep her family whole,” McElroy said of Elizabeth Edwards. “Her health is an overriding decision in that, especially when you've got young children involved. It might be different if all your children were grown. But when you have a third-grader and a fifth-grader, you've got to, above all, prepare for a time when you might not be there.
“Every decision she has made or will make is about the protection of her children.”