Holly Petraeus: The "wonderful" and "furious" wife caught in the David Petraeus scandal


Holly Petraeus speaks during a news briefing on October 18, 2012.


Alex Wong

It may be an awkward time to bring this up, but when Paula Broadwell was working on a biography about the man she was sleeping with, she found his wife to be really helpful with the research. That's nice?

During a discussion about her biography on former CIA director David Petraeus in February, Broadwell apparently said of his wife: “Holly has been a wonderful source of information for this research as well,” according to The Oklahoman. Holly probably isn't flattered. A former spokesman for David Petraeus told ABC News that Holly Petraeus is currently furious at her husband for his affair with Broadwell. 

"Well, as you can imagine, she's not exactly pleased right now," retired US Army Col. Steve Boylan told ABC. "Furious would be an understatement."

But it's not fair to see Holly Petraeus in the limited view of "angry wife" that plagues so many victims of famous affairs. She has an interesting life story and has achieved many accomplishments in her own right. 

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In a profile of Holly Petraeus published in March, USA Today reported on her long history of political activism and military support. In 2004, she greeted all 18,000 members of the US Army's 101st Airborne Division after they flew back from Iraq. "She really cared for those boys," Ed Rufo, a local military booster, told USA Today. "They called her a hangar rat." 

But Mrs. Petraeus was more than just a sweet mom stand-in to the troops. She also has a history of consumer advocacy. She headed the Better Business Bureau's unit for the military, and in 2003 boldly testified before the US Senate that the "unrelenting pace of deployment" was hurting military families, according to USA Today. Last year, Elizabeth Warren took notice of her advocacy and appointed Petraeus to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Office of Servicemember Affairs. 

Most recently, she testified before Congress on how the housing crisis was hurting military families, according to The Washington Times

Holly Petraeus grew up with the military in her blood. Her brother, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather had all enlisted, The Daily Beast reported. And last year it was revealed that the Petraeus' son had quietly served two tours in Afghanistan, as well. 

Petraeus said that it was her and David's trouble controlling their spending during their newyled days that inspired her to dive into the financial advocacy world. In another favorable profile of Holly (this one published in 2011 on NPR), a colleague described her loving yet tough personality: "She's Mom, apple pie, and also a pit bull."

Meanwhile, husband David Petraeus, the retired Army general who resigned as CIA director last week after admitting to being unfaithful, "deeply regrets and knows how much pain this has caused his family," his ex-spokesman told ABC