Oprah Winfrey had her high-profile interview with John Edwards’ mistress Rielle Hunter this afternoon. It comes as a bit of an anticlimax in the wake of GQ‘s profile of her from last month, if only because a lot of Hunter’s more gossipy bombshells about the endlessly sordid tale of her affair with the one-time presidential candidate have been picked over by now. Still, it made for some compelling TV to watch Oprah walk the line between sympathetic listener and skeptical inquisitor.
As in the GQ interview, Hunter had an endless supply of New-Age nuggets about helping Edwards find “his authentic self” and “live a life of truth.” What struck me as I was watching was how — dare I say — Oprah-esque Hunter often sounded when it came to spirituality. Still, under Oprah’s firm questions, it was not hard to see the limits of Hunter’s brand of mysticism, when anything Edwards did, no matter how unethical or sleazy or dishonest, could be explained away as just another step on a person’s path to enlightenment. I couldn’t help thinking back to a Salon post I’d read post-GQ that defended Hunter, not because the writer thought she was misunderstood or sympathetic, but because Hunter just sounded so dreadfully, terribly naive. Among the Oprah highlights (or, I guess, lowlights, depending on your point of view):
*Hunter revealed that Edwards knew she was pregnant when he renewed his vows with wife Elizabeth Edwards. Oprah asked what she thought about that and Hunter defended him by saying, “I understood where he was in his process.”
*Hunter maintains that Edwards was calm and gracious when she told him that she was pregnant in the middle of his presidential campaign. (Oprah responded with an incredulous “C’mon” to that one.)
*The only thing Hunter regrets is letting Edwards aide Andrew Young temporarily claim he was her baby’s father. (This was the point in the interview when Oprah called her “Miss Spirituality.”)
*Hunter confirms that there was a sex tape that was made in “the heat of the moment.” She also said that she thought she had destroyed the tape by pulling it apart, but that someone had reassembled the remains.
*She won’t confirm if she and Edwards are now together, though she does get financial support and says that she’s still in love with him.
*She really regrets the GQ photo spread that featured her on a bed wearing a white men’s shirt and no pants. (So for the record: Sex tapes and pant-less photo shoots are never a good idea.)
What did you think of the interview? Was Oprah tough enough? Did it change your opinion of Hunter at all?