John Edwards John Edwards

John Edwards has publicly acknowledged that he fathered a 2-year-old girl he conceived with his former mistress, Rielle Hunter.

John Edwards "ashamed" of affair with filmmaker

The former North Carolina senator and Democratic presidential candidate, 56, said in a written statement he provided to NBC News that he's taking responsibility for the girl, Frances Quinn Hunter.

"I am Quinn's father. I will do everything in my power to provide her with the love and support she deserves. I have been able to spend time with her during the past year and trust that future efforts to show her the love and affection she deserves can be done privately and in peace," read the statement.

Edwards, who said in the statement that he has been providing financial support for the child, acknowledged it was "wrong" to deny the little girl was indeed his daughter and hopes "one day, when she understands, she will forgive me."

"To all those I have disappointed and hurt, these words will never be enough, but I am truly sorry," Edwards added.

Harrison Hickman, Edwards' close friend and personal advisor, spoke on behalf of Edwards to NBC's Lisa Myers.

"He's not doing this as a way to try to bring attention to himself," Hickman said. "He's doing this as a way ... to begin to put this behind, not just him, but everybody else who's been affected by this."

Watch the interview:

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Hickman said Edwards privately acknowledged paternity "long before now.

"The reason it has taken so long for it to become public is that there were a lot of people involved," Hickman said. "There are a lot of adults involved, there are a number of families involved, and there are also a lot of kids involved."

Edwards' troubles began in October 2007 when the National Enquirer reported that he was having an affair with Hunter, a campaign videographer. Edwards, who has been married to his wife Elizabeth for 32 years, denied the accusations.

NBC News reports that family friends say Edwards and his wife have separated for now, but still talk on a regular basis.

Edwards' acknowledgement arrived a week before an interview with former aide Andrew Young, who once claimed the child was his, was scheduled to air on ABC News' 20/20. Young said in the interview that Edwards once told him to fake a paternity test.

"Get a doctor to fake the DNA results," Young said Edwards directed him. "And he asked me ... to steal a diaper from the baby so he could secretly do a DNA test to find out if this [was] indeed his child."

Youngs has written a soon-to-be published book about the affair called The Politician.

Following a failed presidential bid in 2008, Edwards confirmed to ABC News that he had had an affair with Hunter, but denied that he was the father of her child.

"I do not know if he knew it was his daughter at the time, but I know he lied when he said it was not possible ... I think he is certainly regretful of that," said Hickman.

Hickman also said Edwards wanted to come clean in the summer of 2008 about his child with Hunter, 45, but was unable to do so.

"It was complicated ... certainly more complicated than I knew," Hickman said. "He had to be able to talk to Elizabeth about it. He had to be able to talk to Rielle about it. He had to talk to us [and] his children about it. He had to deal with legal issues involving support for the child."