The former Democrat presidential candidate John Edwards last night admitted fathering a child with his lover while he ran for the White House and his wife battled cancer.
The baby was conceived with Rielle Hunter, a former campaign worker, two months after his wife Elizabeth learnt she had incurable cancer in March 2007.
It was also five months after Mr Edwards had sworn to his wife and campaign aides that his affair with the woman was over.
Andrew Young, a former aide of the Democrat politician who claimed paternity of Mr Edwards' daughter Frances Quinn Hunter, is due to release a book on the affair early next month. It will detail his role in covering up the scandal, which is expected to finish Mr Edwards' political career.
The former senator from North Carolina was among early front-runners in the Democratic field for the race eventually won by Barack Obama.
Yesterday, he said in a statement: "I am Quinn's father. I will do everything in my power to provide her with the love and support she deserves."
He said he had reached an agreement over financial support with the child's mother. "It was wrong for me ever to deny she was my daughter and hopefully one day, when she understands, she will forgive me," he added.
Mr Edwards, a wealthy lawyer, spent 18 months denying any affair with Miss Hunter, who had introduced herself to him in the bar of a New York hotel in February 2006.
Miss Hunter (45) was deemed by his aides to be flirtatious and highly tenacious, but he hired her to record life-on-the-road footage for the campaign website and brought her into his inner circle.
One member of his staff, who trawled the internet for information about Miss Hunter, found claims that she was the inspiration for a character in a Jay McInerney novel described as "ostensibly jaded, cocaine-addled, sexually voracious".
She worshipped Mr Edwards and told him he had the power to change the world or become another Gandhi, according to aides. Four staff members resigned over the affair, which appeared to have ended at Mrs Edwards' insistence in December 2006.
The relationship was made public by the 'National Enquirer' in October the following year, to which Mr Edwards responded: "The story is false. It's completely untrue, ridiculous."
Two months later and weeks before the caucuses in Iowa, the newspaper reported that Miss Hunter was pregnant by Mr Edwards.
In an extraordinary cover-up, Mr Young, the candidate's personal assistant and a married father of three, claimed he was the father.
The allegations of the 'National Enquirer' were mostly ignored by the mainstream media until Mr Edwards was seen visiting Miss Hunter and her baby at a Los Angeles hotel. He admitted to the affair but continued to deny paternity.
Mrs Edwards, who has breast cancer, said her "whole family feels relieved" that her husband had come forward to admit paternity of the child.
She declined to discuss her marital status amid reports that she and her husband had separated.
Mr Edwards landed in Haiti yesterday with supplies for survivors of the earthquake. (©Daily Telegraph, London)