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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former U.S. Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards admitted on Friday that he had an extramarital affair in 2006 with a woman who produced videos for his campaign, but said he was not the father of her infant daughter.
"I told my wife that I had a liaison with another woman, and I asked for her forgiveness," Edwards said in a statement released after ABC News reported details of the affair.
Edwards, whose wife Elizabeth is suffering from incurable cancer, repeatedly denied during his unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination this year that he had had an affair.
"It is inadequate to say to the people who believed in me that I am sorry, as it is inadequate to say to the people who love me that I am sorry," said the former U.S. senator from North Carolina and failed 2004 vice presidential candidate.
"In the course of several campaigns, I started to believe that I was special and became increasingly egocentric and narcissistic," he said.
Edwards, 55, admitted in an interview with ABC's "Nightline" that he had the affair with 44-year-old Rielle Hunter, whom he met in a New York City bar in 2006.
Hunter subsequently was hired by an Edwards political action committee to produce documentaries, and traveled around the country and to Africa with him, ABC News said.
When asked in the interview if he worried the affair has ended his political career, Edwards said, "I'm not sure I had a political career for the future any way, and I'm not sure politics was what I wanted to spend my life doing."
Edwards denied he was the father of Hunter's baby, but said he had not taken a paternity test. He said he knew he was not the father based on the timing of the baby's birth on February 27, 2008.
A former Edwards campaign aide, Andrew Young, has said he is the baby's father, ABC said. Young did not comment on the interview and Edwards said he did not know if that was true.
The former finance chairman of the Edwards campaign, Fred Baron, told NBC News on Friday he paid for Young's and Hunter's housing without Edwards knowing, and said it was not "hush money."
In his statement, Edwards seemed to support this claim, saying: "I also have not been engaged in any activity of any description that requested, agreed to or supported payments of any kind to the woman or to the apparent father of the baby."
Elizabeth Edwards said on a diary she keeps on the news blog "Daily Kos," that although her husband "believes he should stand alone ... when the door closes behind him, he has his family waiting for him."
While the affair ended in 2006, the couple decided to discuss it publicly after increased press scrutiny, she said.
She and Edwards "began a long and painful process in 2006, a process oddly made somewhat easier with my (cancer) diagnosis in March of 2007."
Before Friday's revelation, there had been speculation Edwards might be a vice presidential running mate for Democratic candidate Barack Obama or be appointed by Obama to attorney general if he won the White House. Edwards told ABC he never thought he would be vice president, but did not address the suggestion of being the top federal lawyer.
Obama, vacationing in Hawaii, told reporters the Edwards family had indicated it would not attend the upcoming Democratic National Convention in Denver.
"I understand that. This is a difficult and painful time to them. And I think they need to work through that process of healing," Obama said.
Additional reporting by Richard Cowan and Jeff Mason in Honolulu, editing by Vicki Allen