By Lisa Myers and Michael Austin

For the first time, John Edwards is publicly admitting that he is indeed the father of a 2-year-old daughter conceived with Rielle Hunter, a campaign videographer with whom he had an affair.

In a written statement provided exclusively to NBC News, the former North Carolina senator and Democratic presidential candidate says he’s taking responsibility for the child, Frances Quinn Hunter:

“I am Quinn’s father. I will do everything in my power to provide her with the love and support she deserves. I have been able to spend time with her during the past year and trust that future efforts to show her the love and affection she deserves can be done privately and in peace.

It was wrong for me ever to deny she was my daughter and hopefully one day, when she understands, she will forgive me. I have been providing financial support for Quinn and have reached an agreement with her mother to continue providing support in the future.

To all those I have disappointed and hurt these words will never be enough, but I am truly sorry.”

Harrison Hickman, Edwards’ close friend and personal advisor, spoke to NBC’s Lisa Myers on Edwards’ behalf.

“The senator wants to say, first of all, that he is the father of Quinn,” Hickman said.  “Secondly, he wants people to know that he has provided for her and will continue to provide for her, as he should, both financially and emotionally.”

Edwards is not speaking publicly today, at least in part because of an ongoing federal investigation into whether campaign money was used to try to cover up the affair.  He has denied wrongdoing. Hickman said that Edwards wanted to be honest about his child, but also wanted to protect his privacy.

“He’s not doing this as a way to try to bring attention to himself,” Hickman said. “He’s doing this as a way … to begin to put this behind, not just him, but everybody else who’s been affected by this.”

Edwards’ attorneys say he’s been seeing Quinn and providing financial support for about a year, and just signed a child support agreement with Hunter. A spokesperson for Elizabeth Edwards says she learned last summer that Quinn is her husband’s child.

Why wait more than two years to publicly admit paternity?

“He has acknowledged it long before now. The reason it has taken so long for it to become public is that there were a lot of people involved,” Hickman said. “There are a lot of adults involved, there are a number of families involved, and there are also a lot of kids involved.”

 Fall of the man who sought presidency

Today’s announcement marks another chapter in the fall of a man once considered a leading candidate for president. Edwards’ personal and political troubles began after the tabloid National Enquirer began reporting in October 2007 on his affair with Hunter, now 45.


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