Rock Center | March 29, 2013
>>> to watch what while john edwards ' aware became public and unraveled with his once-promising political career, she has not spoken at length about the experience, the whole ordeal, until now. she agreed to sit down with savannah guthrie .
>> reporter: to understand 31-year-old cate edwards ' life is to understand incredible highs and heart-wrenching lows. we watched her father's political star rise . before his devastating fall from grace over a cheating scandal, all while his wife elizabeth was battling cancer.
>> do you resent the fact that things that are so personal to your family have become so public?
>> sure. i mean, absolutely. we went through something really hard for any family. i mean, my mother taught me this more than anything. it's the people around you who sort of pick up and keep carrying you when you can't do it yourself.
>> reporter: cate edwards embodies that spirit of resilience. standing by her dad and honoring her mom with the elizabeth edwards foundation, to lift up underprivileged students with promise. a cause she hopes will reflect the best of the family name , after years of turmoil. it was 2007 . her dad, already a vice presidential candidate , was on his second run for presidency when elizabeth edwards first learned she had incurable cancer.
>> i have seen people in real desperate shape who don't, first of all, have the wonderful support that i have, and have no place to turn.
>> reporter: but as the world now knows, around that same time, john edwards was harboring a secret. an affair with a woman hired to bruise campaign videos, rielle hunter. have you ever meant her?
>> i did early on in the campaign.
>> reporter: i'm sure she's not someone you spend a great deal of time thinking about?
>> that's correct.
>> reporter: she wrote a book, said some unpleasant things about your mom. i am not going to repeat them. did that make you mad?
>> of course. i thought it was a poor choice i guess. that's all i can say.
>> reporter: edwards affair, splashed across the tabloids, made worse by his public denials. it all unraveled when he eventually admitted he had a child with hunter. what did you think when you found out what happened with your dad and this affair. did you find out about it from him?
>> yes. he told me. i was devastated, disappointed. these are my parents. i had grown up with a lot of love in my family and it was hard to see them go through this.
>> reporter: were there times when you didn't talk to your dad, where it was just difficult to have a relationship at all?
>> i don't think we ever went through that, no. i mean, we're a family of talkers, so we -- we try to talk through and get through things. there was a time i was angry with him, of course. but we worked through it.
>> reporter: but cate would have to see her father go through more scandal.
>> i did not break the law.
>> reporter: in 2011 , he was indicted for misusing campaign funds in an effort to hide his relationship with hunter. cate dropped everything to be there every day of the criminal trial .
>> i'm so proud to have had her with me, tlul of this process.
>> reporter: were there ever moments when you thought, you made your bed, lie in it?
>> i did not fault my bad for the trial. he made those mistakes, there is no question, but i had never, ever felt he did anything illegal. so i didn't think it was right.
>> reporter: was it hard to sit in the trial sometimes?
>> yeah, it was difficult for family to see this very private, very difficult part of our lives rehashed in front of everyone. but there was nowhere else i would have rather been at the time.
>> reporter: the federal jury found edwards not guilty on one charge and deadlocked on the others. do you think your dad will ever run for office again?
>> i doubt that, highly.
>> reporter: today, cate 's family includes jack and emma claire, and now a half sister , quinn. are you able to have any kind of relationship with quinn?
>> yeah, she's my sister and she's just a really sweet, innocent little girl , and, yeah, i certainly think of her as part of our family.
>> reporter: the family expanded again 17 months ago when cate married her princeton sweetheart, trevor upham. a wedding her mother didn't live to see. elizabeth edwards ' last moments were with cate and her estranged husband john at her bedside.
>> he there was at the end with her.
>> yes, he was. it was important for him to be there, and he called and said can i come, and i said, mom, can dad come, and she said yes. the throw of us, especially had been through so much together, so we have drawn a lot of strength from one another.
>> reporter: do you think your mom forgave him?
>> i think she did. i don't know the answer to that. i think she had a mix of emotions.
>> reporter: after her mom's passing, it was cate who gave the eulogy, remembering another painful loss. her brother wade, killed in a car accident when he was just 16.
>> one thing remains true and will never change, and that we're still a family and wade and mom are still a part of this family and always will be.
>> reporter: it's that dedication and loyalty that allowed her to forgive her dad.
>> i think it's easier to stay angry than it is to forgive someone. forgiveness is a tough thing. but, yes, it was hard. but we worked through it. i love my family, and i'm loyal to them and i care about them, and their pain is my pain.
>> reporter: today, cate is moving forward. she launched a law practice that advocates for the poor and working class . and continues to focusing on her mom's foundation, whose fellows program matches mentors with kids in need.
>> the goal is to provide someone with an elizabeth. mom really started this morning lab. she really was in all gas sets of her life, a great encourager, a great mentor and this really encapsulates who she was throughout her entire life. encouraging people to reach their full potential.
>> reporter: how do you process everything that's happened in this extraordinary life you have already had?
>> i have had a very happy life , despite the obstacles and the struggles. i try not to question things too much, because there is life going on.