No Matter What, Bunny Mellon Won’t Badmouth John Edwards

RALEIGH, NC - DECEMBER 11: Former North Carolina senator and Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards and his children Emma Claire (L) and Jack leave the funeral services for Elizabeth Edwards at Edenton Street United Methodist Church on December 11, 2010 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Edwards died Tuesday after a six year battle with breast cancer at the age of 61. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images) Photo: Sara D. Davis/2010 Getty Images

The 100-year-old heiress, an intimate of Jackie Kennedy and enthusiastic gardener, made headlines earlier this year when the Department of Justice alleged that the large sums of money she donated to John Edwards were used to help cover up his affair with Rielle Hunter. The role of public dupe didn't exactly cast the reclusive Mellon in the best light, and so she decided to grant Newsweek her first interview in more than 25 years. But instead of railing against Edwards, as might be expected, Mellon gushes, "He would have been a great president," and recalls fondly "He and I were great friends. Every time he’d go on a debate against Hillary, he’d call and we’d talk … I was so surprised when this thing came up." Mellon's lawyer explains on her behalf why the cash she sent Edwards's way might have looked like it was being used for dalliance cover-up: " She was not enamored of his wife and didn’t want his wife to know that he was getting money.”

And why mightn't Mellon have loved Elizabeth? Well, perhaps because her feelings for Edwards were more than political enthusiasm.

“I wish I could have 10 minutes in a room with John Edwards to explain that he’s doing nothing but tarnish her legacy and really taking advantage of her,” says Thomas Lloyd, her grandson, who testified before the grand jury. His view of his grandmother’s relationship with Edwards? “It’s a crush.”

Edwards isn't the first younger man Mellon has enthusiastically befriended: She previously struck up close relationships with "much younger, artistic" men — a floral designer, a decorator. So, how does Edwards fit into that pattern? Con artist? Hair artist? Or maybe — given his promises to Rielle about Dave Matthews Band performing at their wedding — Mellon saw reflected in him a fellow patron of the arts.

The Secret-Keeper [Newsweek]