By Suzanne Kelly
In the aftermath of the affair that led to the resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus, his biographer and paramour Paula Broadwell has remained publicly silent, turning instead to family and friends as she tries to assess just how news of the affair might impact her future.
"It's been hard for her family and her to see the picture that's being painted of her," says Broadwell's brother, Steve Kranz, a Washington-based attorney. "Her real focus is her family and her husband and her boys and trying to restore the trust she had with her husband and trying to protect her children from the publicity."
After weeks of media portrayals that have ranged from spurned lover to obsessed stalker, both family and friends of Broadwell have begun to present a fuller picture of her as she grapples with the shock of her affair being thrust into the public spotlight. Part of that outreach included providing photos from the family collection, given first to CNN, of Broadwell with her family and in Afghanistan.
"She's trying to live as normal a life as possible, but there are moments of realizing all that has happened," says a source close to Broadwell who asked not to be identified.
Early on, Broadwell began quietly returning emails from well-wishing friends, but she hasn't done much beyond that, according to sources who have said she is very focused on how the news has affected loved ones. But that strategy appears to be shifting somewhat with the hiring of a Washington-based public affairs group and friends who have known Broadwell for years now going public to combat images of her that they feel are unfair.
"I generally felt that perhaps inevitably, but also regrettably, the media coverage of her was just suffocating and one-sided and unfair," says Michael O'Hanlon, who is director of research for foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. O'Hanlon says Petraeus introduced him to Broadwell in 2009 and that they too had become friends. He says the media coverage of her "was developing a piling-on quality that, because she is much-less well known than he, and also because she was the author of emails to Jill Kelley, was making her out to be a Glenn Close, 'Fatal Attraction' kind of character in the media's eyes."
O'Hanlon, who also wrote an op-ed defending her Broadwell’s character - but not her actions - in the Baltimore Sun over the weekend, said that he can understand how an affair between the two may have come to fruition. He has spent time with both of them over the years, and particularly over the course of time when Broadwell was writing a biography of Petraeus, “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus”.
"These were two people who spent a great deal of time together, who had an obvious infatuation for each other that developed over the years and two people who made a big mistake and let that infatuation become something more when they both had happy families," says O'Hanlon. "I think they did do something wrong, but it happened by mutual consent, not some devious plot."
"Paula needed help more than Dave" in terms of how the public perceives her now, said O'Hanlon who remains friends with both. "Dave has a national reputation that will help him through this, and she doesn't."
Broadwell is getting more help. She recently hired Washington-based public relations firm The Glover Park Group to help reshape her image and to provide a more well-rounded picture her.
It's still not clear whether Broadwell had any warning that Petraeus was going to resign on November 9 and confess to an extramarital affair as the reason for his resignation.
Just days before the news broke, Broadwell emailed a CNN producer offering "a short essay on (Petraeus') leadership principles in light of" his 60th birthday. "Sorry I have been incognito-focused on the phd!" she said in the email.
Broadwell was planning a birthday party at the Washington home of her brother, scheduled for November 10, which turned out to be the day after Petraeus announced his resignation. Her co-author, Vernon Loeb, who is also an editor at the Washington Post, spoke to Broadwell days before the party.
Loeb said in an interview posted on the Washington Post website that everything seemed normal as late as Thursday, the day that President Barack Obama accepted Petraeus' resignation, and one day before the news became public. [Editor’s note: CNN’s Suzanne Kelly was also invited to Broadwell’s party.]
It's possible that Petraeus didn't warn Broadwell about what he intended to do as he spent the week orchestrating the details of his departure. Sources who were told afterward about how the resignation was received within the intelligence community said that many were 'stunned' that Petraeus had decided to include news of the affair in the announcement he made to colleagues at the CIA.
Yet friends of Petraeus defended him early on, telling the media that the former director was ashamed of his behavior. Broadwell, on the other hand, abruptly cancelled her birthday plans once the news broke and tried to stay out of the public eye.
During that time, Kranz, her brother, described Broadwell as being tearful and ashamed of her actions and how the affair impacted her family.
According to a source close to Broadwell, she is still concerned about the outcome of the current FBI investigation that government sources tell CNN is focused on classified material that was found in her home. The source says that the FBI has given Broadwell no insight into how long that investigation might take and says that she is laying low until that legal issue is resolved.
The CIA inspector general also has opened an investigation into whether Petraeus may have misused resources to facilitate the affair while director of the CIA.
Broadwell's brother says she spent the holiday weekend at the beach with family and friends and is now trying to figure out what comes next for her family, her career, and her life.
"She's a very strong person," said Kranz. "I've been concerned about her because it has been so devastating and she feels terrible about what she's done and the pain it's inflicted."