John Edwards: I Still Care Deeply About Elizabeth

John Edwards: I Still Care Deeply About Elizabeth
John and Elizabeth Edwards in 2008
Amy Sussman/Getty

updated 01/27/2010 AT 07:55 PM EST

originally published 01/27/2010 AT 06:55 PM EST

John Edwards spoke out Wednesday in response to a PEOPLE report he and wife Elizabeth quietly separated before his admission he fathered a love child.

“It is an extraordinarily sad moment, but I love my children more than anything and still care deeply about Elizabeth," the former two-time Democratic presidential candidate says in a statement.

In a cover story on newsstands Friday, PEOPLE reports that last December, in a mediated visit in a North Carolina hotel, Elizabeth met the 23-month-old baby whom John had fathered with a mistress.

After that, "She said, 'I've had it. I can't do this. I want my life back,' " Elizabeth's sister, Nancy Anania, tells PEOPLE. The couple now occupy separate residences.

A spokeswoman for Elizabeth has released a statement saying she's "moving on with her life" after a "excruciatingly painful period for her."

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