By Ken Tucker
Updated June 30, 2010 at 12:33 PM EDT

Elizabeth Edwards was interviewed this morning by Matt Lauer on The Today Show about the shattering of her marriage due to John Edwards’ affair with Rielle Hunter.

It was Edwards’ first TV interview on the subject, and The Today Show billed it as “Elizabeth Edwards Breaks Her Silence.” Edwards was bracingly blunt: “I need to break free of the media imposed image,” she said. “I’m not just a cuckolded wife.” Edwards was on the show to promote the paperback edition of her book Resilience, to which she’s added a new chapter about the marriage break-up.

Edwards said she watched Rielle Hunter’s interview with Oprah Winfrey in April: “I still think this person is so completely unlike me that it’s hard to imagine the same person could marry me and be attracted to that — to that woman, as well.” There seemed to be a lot of emotional weight behind the quick pause just before “that woman,” as though Edwards might have been about to say something stronger, perhaps more derogatory.

“I think I did marry a marvelous man,” said Edwards. “But he changed… and he’s no longer the person who I married.”

Edwards made an interesting comparison between herself and Sandra Bullock:

“I think about Sandra Bullock — who I don’t know at all — what an incredible year she’s had. She won the Academy Award for an incredible performance, and more than that, she took that story and integrated that into her own life in this healthy, happy way. And yet, the stories you hear are not about all those great successes, but about the failure of her marriage. I thought that’s not who she is, and in a sense I know she… wants to reclaim who she is in the same way I want to reclaim who I am. I hope the next time I am on television it’s to talk about some policy I really care about.”

Looking healthy, Edwards, who has been diagnosed with cancer, said she feels “good… I’m on a new chemotherapy regime.” Lauer quoted a passage from her book in which she said she hopes for “another eight years” of life. “I would,” she affirmed to Lauer. “I want to live at a normal cadence with my children.”

Edwards called characterizations of her as a “manipulator” false in recent books such as Game Change, by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, and Andrew Young’s The Politician, and in particular asserted that Young’s book is “full of lies.”

We never know the truth behind what goes on in a marriage, or in the case of John and Elizabeth Edwards’ political lives, how accurate descriptions of various behaviors is. At this point, sympathy for Edwards’ health and the betrayal of her husband probably trumps the image that subsequently surfaced of her being a harsh person with which to work on the campaign trail.

What do you think?