Former Friend of Edwards' Mistress Says Hunter Is Being Demonized

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As the story of John Edwards' affair with Rielle Hunter unravels, a former close friend of the aspiring actress-turned-videographer said media characterizations of Hunter as an impetuous philanderer who may be using Edwards as a meal ticket are completely false.

"She doesn't have it in her soul. She can't be bought," Pigeon O'Brien told "She said he was in love with her and she was in love with him."

During the affair, O'Brien said she and Hunter, who knew each other from their New York partying days, would "spend hours and hours" on the phone talking about the relationship, she in the Midwest, and Hunter in New York and Colorado.

Hunter, who by then had become a devotee of New Age spiritualism, described her relationship with Edwards as "solid" and would regularly take trips to see other, O'Brien said.

O'Brien said she is concerned that Edwards, who last week admitted to a relationship with Hunter, is not being truthful about the affair.

She said the relationship began shortly after the two met in a New York City hotel in late February or early March 2006, contrary to Edwards' claim that the affair began only after Hunter was hired in July 2006 to film a series of campaign-related documentaries for the Internet. She said that inconsistency prompted her to come forward with her story.

Although O'Brien hasn't talked to Hunter in months, she said she is in constant communication with mutual friends who are talking with Hunter and is concerned her former friend got involved in something bigger than she realized.

"I am having trouble reconciling with the Rielle I know as anything but an unflinching character," O'Brien said.

O'Brien met Hunter in New York City in the mid-1980s when they "ran in the same crowd," frequenting such velvet-roped nightclubs as Nell's and the now-closed MK Bar. They spent many late nights hob-knobbing with the high-powered media and literary crowd.

Both were close friends with author Jay McInerney, who wrote "Story of My Life," narrated by a promiscuous, aspiring actress who McInerney has said was inspired by Hunter — then named Lisa Druck.

"She always had a determined bent and tried to get into people's minds" even years before she transformed into "a free and open hippy chick," O'Brien said.

O'Brien said the two had lost touch for several years but became close again in early 2000 when Hunter asked her to help design a New Age Web site called "Being Is Free."

Even from her New York City party days in the mid 1980s, Hunter was "manically insistent on integrity," O'Brien said.

"She is very into honesty and trust. She doesn't put up with bulls---," although O'Brien couldn't explain why Hunter became involved in an affair with a married man running for president or reportedly took cash payments from a close Edwards ally.

The Dallas Morning News reported that former campaign fundraiser Fred Baron said he was acting independently when he began doling out $15,000 a month to Hunter through another of Edwards' aides, Andrew Young, who claimed to be the father of Hunter's child. Baron said he did so to help relocate Hunter and Young, who were being hounded by tabloid journalists.

Edwards denied the paternity of Hunter's child and said he had no knowledge of the payments.

Said O'Brien: "She enjoyed sex, drugs and had fun, but that doesn't mean she robbed banks."