Timeline: Rise and fall of John Edwards

May 22, 2012 


Nov. 3: John Edwards, a successful trial lawyer in North Carolina, is elected to his first political office, as a U.S. senator from North Carolina.


Jan. 1: Edwards announces that he is launching a presidential bid.

Feb. 17-18: He visits Iowa for the first time as a candidate and attends a fundraiser in New York.

July 23: He opens his South Carolina campaign headquarters in Columbia.

Sept. 7: Edwards announces he will not seek re-election to the Senate.

December: Edwards (with John Auchard) publishes Four Trials, a biographical book focusing on cases from his legal career.


Jan. 19: Edwards places a surprising second in the Iowa caucuses behind Sen. John Kerry. He finishes fourth in the New Hampshire primary.

Feb. 3: He finishes first in the South Carolina primary and second in Oklahoma.

Feb. 9: Edwards vows to stay in the race “well into March,” even if he fails to win a primary before the end of the month.

Feb. 17: He finishes a strong second in the Wisconsin primary.

March 2: He fails to win any of the 10 Super Tuesday contests.

March 3: Edwards leaves the race.

May 8: Edwards speaks to Ohio Democrats, part of an apparent audition tour for vice president.

July 6: Kerry announces his pick of Edwards as his running mate.

Nov. 2: President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are re-elected. The next day, John and Elizabeth Edwards learn that she has cancer.


February: Edwards is named director of the newly founded Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at UNC-Chapel Hill.


May: Edwards says he will not run for president in 2008 if his wife’s health worsens.

Dec. 28: He begins his second run for president. He makes his announcement from a Katrina-ravaged section of New Orleans.


Jan. 20: Sen. Hillary Clinton announces she will run for president.

July 31: Elizabeth and John Edwards celebrate their 30th anniversary at their local Wendy’s.

Feb. 10: Sen. Barack Obama enters the race.

March 22: John and Elizabeth Edwards announce that her breast cancer has returned. This time, the cancer is in her rib and is an incurable form. They plan to continue with the campaign.

July: Edwards takes flak for paying $400 for haircuts from a Beverly Hills stylist.

Oct. 10: The National Enquirer begins reporting that Edwards is having an affair but does not name Rielle Hunter.

Oct. 11: Edwards denies having an affair to reporters in Summerton, S.C. According to a report from the Associated Press, Edwards told reporters: “The story is false. It’s completely untrue, ridiculous.” He said the story was “made-up. I’ve been in love with the same woman for 30-plus years,” Edwards added, about his wife, Elizabeth, “and as anybody who’s been around us knows, she’s an extraordinary human being, warm, loving, beautiful, sexy and as good a person as I have ever known. So the story’s just false.”


Jan. 3-26: Edwards finishes second in the Iowa caucuses; a distant third in the New Hampshire primary; third by single digits inNevada. He then finishes a distant third in South Carolina primary, his native state. He had carried the state primary in 2004.

Jan. 30: Edwards drops out of the race.

Feb. 17: Barack Obama visits Edwards at his home outside Chapel Hill to ask for his endorsement in the presidential primary race.

Feb. 27: Hunter gives birth to Frances Quinn.

March-April: Edwards denies being the father. Edwards’ political aide, Andrew Young, claimed paternity for a while. A month later, Edwards visits his newborn daughter in Beverly Hills.

July: Edwards visits Hunter and the baby again at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, and he is confronted by a reporter from The Enquirer. Edwards runs into a bathroom to avoid him.

August: Edwards goes on “20/20” to admit his affair with Hunter but lies about the scope of the affair and continues to deny being the father of her child. He says: “In 2006, I made a serious error in judgment and conducted myself in a way that was disloyal to my family and to my core beliefs. I recognized my mistake and I told my wife that I had a liaison with another woman, and I asked for her forgiveness.”

August: Frederick Baron, Edwards’ campaign-finance chairman tells NBC News that he had been providing financial assistance to both Rielle Hunter and Andrew Young without Edwards’ knowledge. He further stated that no campaign funds were used. Young had reportedly also successfully solicited funds from Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, a 99-year-old heiress.

Oct. 30: Fred Baron dies following complications of cancer.

2008: Over the course of the year, Mellon gives $3.48 million to The Alliance for a New America and more to other groups tied to Edwards.


May: Edwards acknowledges a federal investigation into his campaign finances, an investigation seeking to learn whether Edwards and Young orchestrated payments between donors and Hunter.

July: Young testifies before a federal grand jury in Raleigh.

Aug. 6: Hunter is called before a federal grand jury in Raleigh.


January: John Edwards admits that he is the father of Hunter’s daughter; John and Elizabeth Edwards confirm reports that they are separated; an Orange County judge grants a temporary restraining order requiring Young and his wife to turn over a videotape belonging to Hunter which allegedly contains images of Hunter and Edwards having sex.

December: Relatives of Mellon are subpoenaed to appear before the federal grand jury investigating Edwards’ campaign finances.

Dec. 7: Elizabeth Edwards dies of cancer.


April: Superior Court Judge Carl Fox says that John Edwards must testify in the Youngs’ sex tape case but agrees to hold the deposition in private. The date is set for June 20.

June 3: Edwards is indicted by a federal grand jury in North Carolina on six criminal charges of violating federal campaign-finance law.


April 12: Jury selection begins in Greensboro federal courthouse.

April 23: Opening statements.

May 18: Jury begins deliberations.

May 31: Jury finds Edwards not guilty on one charge and announces it cannot agree on the remaining five; judge declares a mistrial.

Compiled by news researcher Denise Jones and staff writer Anne Blythe

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