Paula Broadwell, David Petraeus’ Biographer and Alleged Mistress

Following the rapid-fire media response to the unfurling scandal, a portrait is developing of a highly educated political insider who carved her own path to Washington

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T. Ortega Gaines / The Charlotte Observer / AP

Paula Broadwell, author of the David Petraeus biography "All In," poses for photos in Charlotte, N.C.

As the tawdry — but still hazy — details surrounding David Petraeus’ alleged affair continue to leak, there’s a key figure in the scandal who, so far, has remained silent: Paula Broadwell. She’s the author and former Army reservist whose alleged adulterous relationship with Petraeus prompted the CIA director’s resignation Friday. Broadwell recently co-authored a biography of the four-star general, titled All In: The Education of General David Petraeus, initially published in January 2012. But until last week, her name remained relatively unknown. Now, following the rapid-fire media response to the unfurling scandal, a portrait is developing of a highly educated political insider who carved her own path to Washington.

(MORE: Petraeus Stumbles off the Stage)

Fast Facts:

  • Born in North Dakota in 1972 and raised in Bismarck, the state’s capital.
  • Attended Century High School, where she was named prom queen and valedictorian.
  • Graduated from West Point, receiving a degree in political geography and systems engineering and ranking first in her class for overall fitness.
  • Earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where she first met Petraeus in 2006.
  • Also earned a master’s degree in international security from the University of Denver.
  • As an Army reservist, was recalled to active duty three times following 9/11 to focus on counterterrorism.
  • Previous gigs include modeling for a machine-gun manufacturer.
  • On Twitter, calls herself a “National Security Analyst; Army Vet; Women’s Rights Activist; Runner/Skier/Surfer; Wife; Mom!”
  • A self-described soccer mom, she lives in the Dilworth neighborhood of Charlotte, N.C., with her two children and her husband, a radiologist.
  • Her family moved to Charlotte about three years ago because it was her husband’s turn to choose a location based on an agreement they’d made.
  • She developed her doctoral dissertation on transformational leadership into a project that would eventually become the biography All In.
  • Criticized by some for painting a biased portrait of Petraeus in All In that supposedly revealed a deep admiration of him.
  • Described by neighbors as a friendly, devoted and involved mother.
  • Has lived, worked or traveled in more than 60 countries.
  • Interests include surfing, wine tasting, kickboxing and mentoring youth, according to her LinkedIn page.

[Details from the New York Times, New York magazine, the Bismarck Tribune, Reuters, the Charlotte Observer]

Quotes by Broadwell:

“I never felt threatened as a Westerner, nor did I feel that out of place as a female journalist. As you know, many female journalists have covered Afghanistan over the years, and a significant number of women serve in the military … so I wasn’t that much of an anomaly.” — Discussing her time embedded with Petraeus in Afghanistan (The Bismarck Tribune, January 2012)

“My background is the military, and I went to the military academy also, so I had a sort of natural network there to worth with.” — Explaining the access she had to Petraeus and to covert information, in an appearance promoting All In (The Daily Show, January 2012)

Quotes About Broadwell:

“Here she has two young kids, a husband who’s a doctor, and yet … she’s writing a book of this magnitude and hardly breaking a sweat.” — Vernon Loeb, co-author of All In (The Charlotte Observer, January 2012)

“I would say the real controversy here is: Is he awesome, or incredibly awesome?” — Jon Stewart, summing up All In (The Daily Show, January 2012)

“Obviously she has made a mistake, but I really do believe she is probably better equipped than about anybody I know to figure her way out of this in a really positive way, without destroying anybody. That’s just not her nature.” — Sarah Curme, Broadwell’s neighbor and friend (The New York Times, November 2012)

“She was relentlessly pro-Petraeus. There was no room for a conversation of shortcomings of the Petraeus theology.” — An Afghan-policy expert who met Broadwell in Kabul (The Washington Post, November 2012)

MORE: Exit Petraeus — and His Famous Military Doctrine