John Edwards is hardly the first political figure to admit an illicit romance, and his statement Friday on the affair struck a familiar tone.
Such mea culpas often follow a pattern.
There usually is a heavy dose of contrition, some soul-baring, gratitude for one’s family and a certain amount of sadness for letting supporters down.
When New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey stood by his wife and announced his resignation in August 2004, he called his actions “wrong” and “foolish” and “inexcusable.” He was referring to his affair with another man.
When New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned in March after getting caught up in a prostitution scandal, he said he was sorry he “did not live up to what was expected of me.”
But each scandalized politician’s admission of guilt has its own flourishes.
McGreevey used his resignation to announce his “truth” – “that I am a gay American.”
Idaho Sen. Larry Craig was defiant after being arrested in a police sting in a Minneapolis men’s room, calling his local newspaper’s reporting a “witch hunt.”
Likewise, Edwards’ statement Friday checked off the usual boxes but also was uniquely personal. He bluntly charged himself with a self-obsession that drove him to skirt the kind of moral code he advocated.
“In the course of several campaigns, I started to believe that I was special and became increasingly egocentric and narcissistic,” he said. “If you want to beat me up — feel free. You cannot beat me up more than I have already beaten up myself. I have been stripped bare and will now work with everything I have to help my family and others who need my help.”
See below for a trip down the memory lane of past public-figure admissions: