Edwards acknowledges difficult public image
Disgraced former Democratic candidate throws himself into charity work to salvage his reputation.
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One legacy still stands: a poverty think tank that he created in 2005 at the University in North Carolina. It is now led by law professor Gene Nichol, who puts on occasional events and oversees student fellowships. The center is funded by a $2 million pledge by a Chapel Hill couple who were strong Edwards supporters. But his name has all but disappeared from the center's website.Skip to next paragraph
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It bothers Nichol that Edwards's many skeptics have used his troubles to justify their cynicism. It is a sentiment shared by Edwards's former advisers, many of whom have found jobs in the Obama administration and on Capitol Hill. "People say in effect, `Well, John Edwards fell off a cliff so poverty obviously isn't a question for American politics,' " Nichol said. "How that can be, I don't understand."
Edwards rejected the notion that questions about his credibility would hurt future efforts to combat poverty. "Helping the poor was never about me, and never should have been and isn't today," he said. "Whether I did extraordinarily super-human things or had frailties has nothing to do with people living in the dark every day of their lives."
Other Edwards initiatives have fallen by the wayside. One week before confirming the affair, he pulled the plug on College for Everyone, a program he started in 2005 at Greene Central High School in Snow Hill, N.C., which paid the first-year college tuition of any graduate who stayed out of trouble and worked 10 hours per week, at a total cost of about $300,000 per year. Edwards touted the program often on the campaign trail, calling it the first step toward a nationwide financial aid initiative.
But assistant superintendent Patricia McNeill said many had been bracing for the program's end once Edwards dropped out of the presidential contest. "Our children today are very astute and they are cognizant of what goes on in the political world," she said. Among those who were taken by surprise was Lavania Edwards, no relation, a pre-kindergarten teacher who is still looking for help to cover the college costs of her son Malik, who graduated from high school last week. "We were really planning on that helping," she said. "I was disappointed and I wondered what happened in that they couldn't continue with the program - or why no one came out to us with a definite answer."
Edwards said he had to pull the plug because campaign supporters were less likely to give money to the program once he was out of the race. "But it served its purpose," he said. "A lot of kids benefited."
Meanwhile, in New Orleans, residents who had been foreclosed on after Hurricane Katrina by subprime lenders owned by Fortress Investment Group, a hedge fund that Edwards worked for and invested with, have not received the special assistance that Edwards promised after their troubles were reported by The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal in 2007.