Vitter comments misstated: A story in Friday's editions wrongly said that U.S. Sen. David Vitter had described as incorrect stories in The Times-Picayune linking him to a New Orleans brothel. Vitter in fact said "those New Orleans stories in recent reporting" were not true. He did not specify what stories he was talking about.
What prompted this "correction"? Anyone connected to Vitter? If someone near Vitter did suggest that his statement might NOT be referring to the "New Orleans story" about the Canal St. brothel reported in the T-P, then this fact should run as a news story, not a correction sidenote, because everyone in the know was assuming that the New Orleans stories he was referring to included the Canal St. Madam story. Once again, here's the key portion from Vitter's statement on Monday:
Unfortunately, my admission has encouraged some long-time political enemies and those hoping to profit from the situation to spread falsehoods too, like those New Orleans stories in recent reporting. Those stories are not true.
Now, having said all of this, I'm not going to answer endless questions about it all over again and again and again and again. That might sell newspapers, but it wouldn't serve my family or my constituents well at all because we all have a lot of important work to do for Louisiana.
At the time, this seemed very much like it referred to the Jeanette Maier (aka The Canal St Madam) story in the Times Picayune. But now, someone wants to make sure that the T-P corrects its recent statement (found here), so that Vitter's description of "the New Orleans stories in recent reporting" ARE NOT specifically linked to certain stories. All rhetorical escape hatches must remain open, I suppose.
Vitter doesn't want to be seen as specifying a damn thing, nor is he letting the T-P narrow his choices. Even after he seemed to refer to Maier's story in the T-P, someone wants to make sure that any reporting on his statement maintains its vagueness. Vitter might've been referring to the "recently reported New Orleans stories" about him and Maier in the Times Picayune... or not. Hell, Vitty might not even be referring to any story in the Times Picayune at all! Instead, he might be referring to some other "stories" reported in New Orleans media. Who knows? He did not choose to specify.
In sum: Vitter never specified which "New Orleans stories" were not true. Yesterday, the T-P made a reasonable inference that Vitter was referring to the "newspaper" story about Maier (who presumably wishes to "profit from the situation" with her book). But then, the paper felt the need to swiftly "correct" itself the following day. I really do wonder who prompted that.
If Vitter isn't comfortable with people believing that his statement referred to the Canal St. Madam story... I mean, if he's not even willing to specifically dispute that, then his statement on Monday was totally empty.
Update: Some edits have been made for clarity. (There's no way in hell Vitter's going to specify the Wendy Cortez story, which I believe is substantially true. So, if Vitter doesn't want to say he was necessarily specifying the Maier story, either, then what the hell was he referring to on Monday? The diaper thing?)
Not to be lost in the Vitter saga are the "sinful" travails of several other "family values" Republicans. They are not as high-profile as Vitter, but they have been in the news, too, and we shouldn't neglect them.
2.... Florida state representative Bob Allen (one of the state co-chairs for John McCain). Allen allegedly offered an undercover cop $20 if the cop would allow Allen to blow him. This year Rep. Allen authored the "Lewd or Lascivious Exhibition Act" bill which died in committee, unfortunately, because it would be very funny if Allen got busted and charged for breaking his own law. Hypocrite. Which leads us to...
Cabarrus County Commissioner Coy Privette was charged Thursday morning with six counts of aiding and abetting prostitution. ...
Privette, 74, a former N.C. State Representative and retired Baptist minister, could not immediately be reached for comment. ... Privette, a Republican, is president of the Christian Action League, a statewide organization that aims to promote “legislation that is consistent with a Christian worldview,” according to its Web site.
A big thumbs up to Kathleen Blanco for signing into law the tax credits for the "Broadway South" initiative. All due praise to Sen. Ed Murray (D-New Orleans) for introducing the bill, and to Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu for supporting it throughout the legislative process.
But the heartiest congratulations must go to the originators of the plan: Roger Wilson and Chris Tidmore. Thank you, gentlemen, for being economic visionaries who are truly and equally committed to both New Orleans proper and the surrounding metro region. In only a few years "Broadway South" will become a roaring, exciting success-- plan on it, folks! It's an idea too good to fail, and behind the idea are successful problem-solvers committed to seeing it actualized.
Thanks also to Bill Hines, a New Orleanian I highly admire, who was an important supporter of the Broadway South plan. (Click that "Broadway South" link if you haven't done so already.)
--- And Please: If you are perhaps a gloomy person and are tempted to write something (however valid) that will piss on my current sunshine, I'd urge you to reconsider. Broadway South is the most hopeful news I've heard in a while, and I'd rather coast into the weekend on my current euphoria.
Atrios puts up a "Vitter Resignation Watch", with choice links. It's not a good sign if you're a GOP conservative and even Sean Hannity says you should go.
I think the disclosures that will seal Vitter's fate will arrive by the end of the month. It will take a while after that for him to get pressured into resigning, of course, but I think the end is much nearer than any of the professional pundits want to suggest. ---
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has suppressed warnings from its own Gulf coast field workers since the middle of 2006 about suspected health problems that may be linked to elevated levels of formaldehyde gas released in FEMA-provided trailers, lawmakers said today.
At a hearing this morning of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, investigators released internal e-mails indicating that FEMA lawyers rejected environmental testing out of fear that the agency would then become legally liable if health problems emerged among as many as 120,000 families displaced by Hurricane Katrina who lived in trailers. ... Nearly 5,000 pages of documents turned over to the committee "expose an official policy of premeditated ignorance," Waxman charged. "Senior officials in Washington didn't want to know what they already knew, because they didn't want the legal and moral responsibility to do what they knew had to be done."
One more reason why FEMA has been making made us sick for years now. ===
I'm promoting a great comment on this post made by joejoejoe. He brings up a number of excellent points which I want to reprint.
If Vitter won't resign out of shame then ...it's up to his fellow Republicans to throw him out. Most GOP Sens are immune to hypocrisy charges but not all.
Sen. Brownback authored legislation on human trafficking and prostitution. Sen. Coburn introduced legislation banning the expenditure of foreign public health aid to any group that endorses "the practice" of prostitution, Sen. Cornyn says "[P]rostitution directly contributes to the modern-day slave trade and is inherently demeaning. When law enforcement tolerates . . . prostitution, organized crime groups are freer to traffic in human beings."
And on and on...
And Vitter gets welcomed back with open arms? Somebody should file an ethics complaint against him in the Senate caucus for using Congressional phones to contact escorts and vote to expel.
The issue isn't just hypocrisy by David Vitter, it's a hypocrisy by the Senate to give him a pass. There are over 400+ mentions of prostitution on Senate.gov - that's the Senate doing it's business trying to write policy to with regards to public health, criminal activity, and international relations. And David Vitter is just welcome back with open arms?
Maybe Vitter is stubborn as hell and will hold on but I doubt his colleagues like Susan Collins who are running for reelection in Maine want to be associated with a caucus that welcomes whoremongers with open arms.
If Vitter won't leave the party, get the party to throw his ass out.
Today, it is hard not to look back at these commercials and feel sympathy-- not for Vitter or his wife Wendy, but for his four children, for the way they were marketed and exploited, the way they were dragged in front of the camera and told to perform. Today, we recognize the extent to which David and Wendy Vitter willingly used their children to attract votes under the guise of "family values." And though one must respect Wendy Vitter's request that the media not intrude on her children's "summer," it is obviously a respect that, back in 2004, Mrs. Vitter did not possess. Today, we also know that Wendy Vitter as well as several Republican political insiders knew about David's indiscretions, knew there was a "bomb" attached to his chest, and should have known, if they didn't, that once the bomb exploded, Vitter's children would be the real victims of the political fall-out. David and Wendy Vitter seem to have forgotten one thing about family values: They are built around valuing your family.
This is one of the reasons I was so shocked by Vitter's decision to say that the "New Orleans stories" are "not true". I suppose, in a strict legal sense, there's plenty of wiggle room there, but politically-speaking that's inconsequential. When Flynt and major LA media outlets start parading more New Orleans hookers in response to Vitter's "challenge", won't there be a whole new round of "pain" for his children? In addition to being a philanderer, he will be widely perceived as a liar. That he was repeatedly untruthful about this in the past has not received the national attention it deserves. However, that will change quickly when Flynt unveils his gaggle of prostitutes. The media will roll clips of Vitter's "not true" denial followed by the statements made by prostitutes as well as any evidence that Flynt has gathered, and the whole thing will replay itself. Louisianans won't forgive Vitter if it's shown that the New Orleans stories are substantially true, and that his statement on Monday was, at best, extremely misleading.
And if you think the internet rumors are unsettling, just wait until you hear what Flynt gets into. The man is unabashed-- he won't make euphemisms or sugarcoat the details, especially since he regards hypocrites like Sen. Vitter to be a grave threat to our democracy.
Update 2: Also, after Vitter seemed to refer to the Canal Street Madam when he stated on Monday that "people hoping to profit from the situation ... spread falsehoods". Will she continue to "defend" Vitter, as she claimed she was doing last week? Does she still consider him good and honorable now that he's casting doubt on her story? Will she change or revise her story?
The Vitter affair prompts me to wonder whether the legalization of prostitution should become a presidential campaign issue. I think so. In light of the damaging revelations surrounding the Vitter affair, and the revelations to come (involving Vitter and others), would we be better off if prostitution were made legal? Should we focus our attention on other matters, and avoid the hypocrisy on display when the feds "throw the book" at the Madams while the johns get off easy? (Erm, perhaps that last part should be rephrased.)
Ruth Marcus of the Wapo doesn't think legalization is the answer. She's repulsed by prostitution, and argues that it demeans and commodifies women. (But what about male ho's?) In an excellent column, she writes:
You could argue that prostitution should be legal in this country, as it is in many others -- that America should get over its hang-ups about sex and that regulating prostitution would protect women from being victimized. I don't buy that, and in any event, I don't see my privacy-advocate colleagues making that case.
One man who has understood the importance of dealing with the demand side [of the prostitution equation] is former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who went after prostitution in the city by targeting customers as well as prostitutes. Under "Operation Losing Proposition," Giuliani's police arrested johns and confiscated their cars. He didn't wring his hands over their lost privacy.
So what does Candidate Giuliani say now -- now that his own marital missteps are campaign fodder, and his southern regional chairman is David Vitter? At a town meeting in New Hampshire last week, Giuliani sounded like my fellow columnists. "I believe," he said, "it's a personal issue."
What do other GOP presidential candidates currently think about prostitution? Mitt Romney made a point of saying he's against "perversions" in a recent commercial . He says he wants to clean the ocean of immorality so kids can swim safely, or something like that. It's vague, but seems related to the issue. Perhaps he could get more specific. Is he willing to denounce prostitution (and paying for it) as an immoral perversion? What does Vietnam veteran John McCain think about prostitution? What do the Democrats think?
The D.C. Madam's lawyer says there are 60 escort services like hers in the Washington D.C. area alone. Obviously, this profession will continue to persist over time. Should we just recognize it, and leave it up to the cities and states?
If prostitution is legalized, the goverment can tax it. But they'd also have to regulate it in some ways, and there'd be paperwork and red tape and licenses and fees.... just thinking about all that is enough to make you lose your "boom". But if it becomes a legal career path in some locales, then we can expect prostitution schools of higher learning to open, where advanced techniques and exotic fantasy services could be taught.
--- Here's a link with information on the Canal Street Brothel case. It also has a quick and dirty summary of prostitution's history in New Orleans which I'll reprint:
Prostitution was legalized by city ordinance in 1897, in a confined area called Storyville, near the river and downtown on the site of what came to be the Iberville Housing Project. The area was shut down by the Navy in 1917 since it was too close to the new base and port, so the red light district moved to the French Quarter.
As late as the 1960s, prostitutes kept apartments on the second floor above businesses on Bourbon Street with two balcony lights. A red light meant busy. Green meant open for business.
But a series of police chiefs ran the elicit business off Bourbon Street, most notably Joseph Giarrusso, who became chief in 1960. The clean up the Quarter campaigns paved the way for seedy clubs to be replaced by the gift shops that dominate the Quarter today.
Famous New Orleans trumpeter Al Hirt, who died in 1998, was the most vocal opponent of the anti-prostitution drive, since the ladies and jazz went hand in hand to make the French Quarter and Bourbon Street the tourist draw that fed the local economy.
--- Thx to Medium Jim for the Prostitution School link.
Here's a nugget from the 7/11 Wapo describing U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler's consequential decision on July 5th to lift the restraining order on the phone logs of the "D.C. Madam":
The judge wondered why federal prosecutors "exhibited such a strong interest in protecting a list containing the telephone numbers of unindicted co-conspirators."
"Unindicted co-conspirators", huh? I wouldn't mind seeing that description used a bit more often.
Why should we cook the goose while her ganders enjoy amnesty? ---
And if you were tardy to the latest Noladishu post on Vitty (as I was), go read it and click all the links. Here's one of the tastiest little morsels: "The stuff [the ladies of New Orleans high society] are saying puts the rumors on the deepest, darkest corners of the internet to shame." Yikes!
John Maginnis begins his latest column with a "sad" thought experiment that blames the slowness of the state's post-storm recovery on... Monica Lewinsky. Here's the chain of reasoning: if there was no Lewinsky there would have been no impeachment of Clinton, and that would mean no Hustler investigation into Speaker-to-be Rep. Bob Livingston, and therefore no revelations, no resignation, and Louisiana would have had the stroke to get more funds after the catastrophes in 2005.
So after that wonderful little thought-chain, Maginnis asserts that it's "unfair" for us to say Vitter is a hypocrite:
Even accusations that [Vitter] is a hypocrite, given his past ringing defense of traditional marriage, are unfair, since married men going to prostitutes is as traditional as the institution itself.
Going to prostitutes is as "traditional" as marriage? What an interesting claim that is. I'm sure Maginnis was reminding everyone about this point during the Clinton ordeal.
When Vitter said Clinton was morally unfit and should resign, and when he praised Rep. Livingston for stepping down, and when he campaigned on family values... he was also paying for sex with prostitutes! Then he lied about it. And finally, when he got caught, he refused to step down.
But Maginnis tells us we are being "unfair" when we call Vitty-cent a hypocrite. We can't blame him for following the well-established tradition of married men visiting prostitutes. How can we hold him to a higher standard than we do ourselves? It's "traditional", don't you see?
I suppose so. And people have a longstanding tradition of resenting leaders who they view as hypocrites and Pharisees. I'd also like to know: what other longstanding "traditions" obviate claims of hypocrisy? Lying? Stealing? Illegally crossing borders? Married men have long done these things too.
Perhaps a U.S. Senator's illegal recklessness, his lying, and his exposure to blackmail shouldn't concern me. I should just patiently leave Vitter alone so that he can do his job of defending marriage from gays and Louisiana from the illegal hordes. We've all broken the speed limit, why should we worry about this? --- Update: Here's the sentence from the column that immediately follows the one I quoted above:
Sure, it reflects poorly on his state, but what's new? As far as checks and balances on powerful Louisiana politicians go, the FBI polices the Democrats while Hustler takes care of Republicans.
On Tuesday's Larry King show, Hustler publisher Larry Flynt stated that "Vitter lied" when the Senator denied reports about his use of prostitutes in New Orleans. Flynt reiterated his claim that he has linked 5 New Orleans hookers to Vitter, and indicated that Hustler investigators are in New Orleans and are coordinating their research with "major Louisiana media".
Earlier today, Flynt told WDSU that Vitter was lying when he said that the stories about his involvement with prostitutes at the Canal Street brothel were "not true". Flynt expects to be able to reveal more within 10 days. WDSU reports that Wendy Cortez is among the five hookers that Flynt is talking to about Vitter. (WDSU video: Flynt: Vitter Lying About New Orleans Prostitutes.)
That's about what I expected. Vitter's denial of the "New Orleans stories" on Monday came off like a challenge to the media to find more evidence of Vitter's whoremongering in New Orleans, and to prove him wrong. I find Vitter 's willingness to play such an ultra-risky high-stakes political game to be so audacious that it invites suspicion. I still can't believe he actually did that after a week's worth of contemplation. Vitter's denial on Monday virtually ensured that the media would unearth more embarrassing disclosures and revelations, which would lead to more questions for Vitter, and more public pain for his family.
--- Note: Some edits were made after initial posting.
Chris Kelly notes an offensive implication stemming from Vitter's apparent attempt to deny that he enjoyed the services of in-state whorehouses:
Why lie about getting diapered in New Orleans while admitting getting diapered in Washington? Why even bring it up? Is that your idea of spin? ...
It's not exculpatory, Poopypants. It just sounds like you prefer getting your crack wiped by call girls from out-of-state. It's like bragging that your salsa comes from New York City. Where's your sense of local pride?
What'll that do for tourism? If Louisiana's own politicians don't get their hookers in New Orleans, who will?
Last fall, Mayor Nagin announced that New Orleans was having a "Super Bowl for Prostitutes". Now Vitter tells the national media that he, in effect, refused to "Buy Louisiana" and keep his "sins" local. What a slap in the face to our underground economy! ---
That was the witty title I wanted to use for the previous post on Vitter's press conference, but I forgot.
I still can't get my mind around Vitter's denial of the recently reported "New Orleans stories". Does he really think that's going to work? Are we supposed to believe that all the rumors and reports about Vitter's past acts in Storyville and at the Canal St. Brothel were false, but that Vitter just coincidentally had parallel failings only in D.C.? How did his wife Wendy come to learn about the D.C. experience, anyway? Did she somehow catch him, or did Vitter just fess up one day out of the blue?
I'm sorry their children have been put through this. But after David confessed to his wife and they underwent counseling, they decided that David would satisfy his lifelong ambitions and run for ever-higher public offices despite his serious (and seriously hypocritical) sins. They understood that they were putting themselves under increasing scrutiny, and they surely understood that disclosures about Vitter's whoremongering would be incredibly painful for their children. So, Mr and Mrs Vitter took that risk when they decided that David would run for Senate, and now their kids-- who they placed front and center in Vitter's campaign commercials-- are paying the price. And after that lousy, evasive statement yesterday, odds are they'll have to endure another media circus when Flynt trots out more prostitutes, or when Wendy Cortez (or someone else) digs up an old photo... etc.
Update:Dangerblond and Blageur point us to this Raw Story vid clip from Hardball with Chris Matthews. WDSU's Norman Robinson is interviewed about Vitter's press conference (I love it when Robinson covers this story), and then NBC's political director came on to say that David Vitter's perfromance was "borderline disasterous", and that his blame towards the media came off almost as a challenge. That reminds me of my favorite sentence from the Times-Picayune's coverage of Vitter's statement.
The couple gave the news conference in a hotel conference room no bigger than a two-car garage.
Heh. (Could two Isuzu Rodeosfit in there?) Anyway, Chris Matthews did make a useful observation in the clip that I think is applicable to Vitter's claim that the "New Orleans stories" are "not true".
And we know of course from years of covering politicians that when they say something is quote "not true", they're not denying it, they're simply saying that all the specifications may not be as they've been reported.
Unfortunately my admission has encouraged some longtime political enemies, and those hoping to profit from the situation, to spread falsehoods too-- like those New Orleans stories in recent reporting. Those stories are not true.
This statement virtually guarantees that Vitter will be forced to resign sometime this year, probably in weeks, as more disclosures occur and corroborative evidence is unveiled. He can't lie his way out of this. What Vitter's seemingly implying-- that his sinful "actions" occurred only in D.C.-- is so utterly ridiculous based on what I know that I can't believe he's trying to get away with it.
Louisianans won't forgive Vitter if it's shown that the "New Orleans stories" are substantially true.
The DP informs us that "Senator David Vitter has scheduled a 5pm news conference in Metairie today where he is expected to finally speak publicly about his admitted ties to a Washington, D.C. prostitution ring". In light of this news, I've collected a long review of facts and claims made in the past week about L'affair Vitter.
The disclosure and response: After Hustler and TIME magazine called Senator Vitter's office that Monday afternoon for comment, Vitter provided an exquisitely vague press release to the AP. It read:
U.S. Sen. David Vitter made the following statement today about his telephone number being on the old phone records of Pamela Martin and Associates prior to his running for the U.S. Senate. He respectfully requests that the statement be used in full without editing or paraphrasing.
"This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible. Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling. Out of respect for my family, I will keep my discussion of the matter there- with God and them. But I certainly offer my deep and sincere apologies to all I have disappointed and let down in any way," Vitter said.
A reasonable interpretation of this statement would be that Vitter's "serious sin" goes beyond merely calling the D.C. Madam's escort service. We can presume that Vitter is admitting to having at least one appointment with one of the D.C. madam's escorts where services were provided. Vitter tells us he is "completely responsible" for his "serious sin", and that he has already received forgiveness from God and wife, and that he won't discuss the matter further out of "respect" for his family.
Five Calls: Impressive research by the Times Picayune revealed that Vitter actually placed no less than 5 calls to the D.C. Madam stretching from October 12, 1999 to Mardis Gras, 2001 (Feb 27). Some of these calls (or callbacks) occurred during House roll call votes in which Vitter participated.
We can reasonably assume that these five calls over a 17 month period related to more than one appointment with the D.C. madam's escorts. It's unclear whether Vitter's description of "This... sin" referred to only one call and one appointment with the "erotic fantasy" service, or whether the phrase (as well as his subsequent apology) was worded so that it could be stretched to include the entire batch of calls and visits he made to the D.C. Madam's operation. So, my charitable interpretation of Vitter's statement is this: once he realized he was caught, Vitter vaguely acknowledged and apologized for seeing the D.C. Madam's call girls multiple times between 1999 and 2001, while he was married with children, and while he served as a U.S. Representative.
Keep that in mind as we review the series of scandalous revelations that occurred last week.
Canal Street Madam's claims: Jeanette Maier, the Canal Street Madam, claimed that Vitter was an "occasional" client of her New Orleans brothel, as well. She said he visited her business in the mid-90's but stopped coming prior to the federal investigation that culminated in a raid by federal agents in 2001. None of the attorneys involved in her federal case ever heard or saw Vitter's name appear in the wiretap conversations or records seized from the brothel. Maier never revealed Vitter's name to her own attorney, nor did she choose to reveal it to T-P columnist James Gill over drinks one night at a pub in Metairie. Apparently without prompting, Maier disclosed that Vitter was not into anything "unusual" and that he favored a prostitute named Wendy Cortez.
Other reports: A trusted source for YRHT claimed that Vitter was indeed a client at Canal Street, and that he was into diapers, among other unusual fetishes. Noladishu also posted about Vitter's "sick fetishes", and linked to a blog reporting that one of Vitter's commercial romances was "blessed with issue", and that he has a child living in Alexandria, VA.
Wendy Cortez's claims: If all that wasn't enough, known prostitute Wendy Cortez contacted the Times Picayune and said Vitter was a regular client of hers while he was a state legislator. The ex-boyfriend of Wendy Cortez claimed he had seen a picture of Wendy standing next to Vitter. She was wearing a bikini, and was grabbing his crotch. The boyfriend also said there were times when he had picked Wendy up from the Canal Street brothel after she finished work. However, according to the T-P, Jeanette Maier said the photo of Wendy Cortez (nee Wendy Yow) was not the Wendy Cortez she knew from the brothel. (This claim by the Canal Street Madam is very puzzling. I believe there is only one Wendy Cortez linked to Vitter, and that she worked mainly in the French Quarter. However, I also think it's likely she worked at the Canal Street location at some point. According to a trusted source, other patrons at Canal Street claimed Vitter liked getting pampered there. Perhaps Vitter stopped going to Canal Street prior to US Attorney Jim Letten's federal investigation into the matter. I've heard that Letten is a friend of Vitter's and a fellow De la Salle graduate.)
Would you be willing to sign under the penalty of perjury an affidavit saying you have never had an extramarital affair and you have never known, met or been in the company of one Wendy Cortez?
To which Vitter replied:
Flaming Liberal thank you for repeating all these vicious rumors that my political enemies are trying to bandy about and those rumors are absolutely true and they really don’t belong in any political campaign and I’ve stated very clearly that they’re lies, but I’m not going to start jumping through hoops and taking orders from my political enemies who have absolutely no credibility. So, I’ll speak very clearly about that. I have in the past; I’ll continue to do so.
Some quick notes: Vitter obviously slips when he says the "rumors are absolutely true". He meant to say they were absolutely false, but was perhaps rattled and made a Freudian slip. He claims that he had previously stated "very clearly" that the rumors about his infidelity and his relationship with Wendy Cortez are "lies". And he says he has spoken "very clearly" about that in the past, and will continue to do so. We'll see about that, but it's important to note that Vitter went on record as being willing to discuss and deny rumors about his private life, rather than refusing commnent on such matters.
Then caller "Tom" followed up on the Flaming Liberal's query and asked if Vitter would have "any reservations or trepidation" about discussing Wendy Cortez on the radio with Republican Vincent Bruno. Vitter replied:
Well, I’ll be happy to address that very directly. I’m not going to appear anywhere with Vincent Bruno because he is a thug and a liar. I’m not going to demean myself; I’m not going to demean the debate in the campaign by doing that.
Bruno responded later on in the day with a threat of a lawsuit and claimed that he would depose Vitter on the Cortez matter. The threat of legal action prompted a quick response and the next day Vitter sent a certified letter to my house and to Bruno’s house officially apologizing for his comments about Bruno that were made on the program.
This is useful background to have when you read the details about the similar denials Vitter made on the radio in 2004.
In March of 2004, Chris Tidmore reported that Vitter was a guest on WSMB radio when a caller named Elwood asked ""Would you be willing to sign an affidavit that you have ever known, met or had relations with one Wendy Cortez?" Vitter responded:
"I think you know that that allegation is absolutely and completely untrue...I have said that on numerous occassions...I'll say that in any forum...Unfortunately, that's just crass Louisiana politics, now that I am running for the Senate. I have made that clear that it is all completely untrue...And, it's obviously politically motivated."
By the way, "Elwood" is the Flaming Liberal's call-in name. They are the same person, and I'd suspect Vitter himself recognized the voice. Here is a quote from an email The Flaming Lib wrote to Steven Sabludowsky a couple days ago (and forwarded to me) which adds background detail to this 2004 call.
Steve, the comments Vitter made (correction “lies”) on WSMB radio you wrote in your column below were on the John Marie program on a Saturday morning and the U. S. Attorney, Jim Letten, was on the program with Vitter discussing crime and were in response to a challenge I put to Vitter, similar to the challenge I put to Vitter on WTIX referred to in your column. Chris Tidmore heard the phone call which I played for him from a tape and Chris wrote about the incident and that is why there is a record of Vitter’s lie.
And Steve, when John Marie announced that the Flaming Liberal was up next on the phone line, Vitter excused himself saying he had to make a telephone call, and when Vitter returned, after I chatted with Jim Litten regarding the Bush campaign importing contraband campaign t-shirts and Sen. Kerry’s campaign was manufacturing t-shirts made in America with union labor.
I challenged Jim Letten to open a criminal investigation regarding the Bush campaign violating a law that Bush himself signed into law!
Letten responded by saying that the matter was not in his jurisdiction and John Marie asked if I was finished and after a few more remarks to the U. S. attorney John Marie said good-bye.
However, my phone line was still open and Vitter, conveniently, returned and I asked John may I please ask the Congressman a question.
John said sure go right ahead and I hit Vitter with the challenge for him to agree to sign an affidavit to deny having sexual relations outside of his marriage and seeing a French Quarter prostitute.
So, Steve, I was twice responsible for backing Vitter into a corner and having him put on the public record as a liar!
David Bellinger is the Flaming Liberal (aka "Elwood") and he might be one of the most prolific and consequential talk show callers in the history of Louisiana radio. YRHT was happy to introduce David's platform for his prospective mayoral candidacy in 2005. I consider my neglecting to contact David as the Katrina hurricane approached (and before the wireless network became jammed) to be one of the bigger mistakes of my life. Luckily David survived, and is no doubt enjoying the important role he played in this Vitter story.
So, after previously saying he would happily and directly discuss and deny the "lies" about Wendy Cortez and associated rumors "in any forum", Vitter decided to evade questions posed to his office this week about Wendy Cortez. In Friday's paper, the Times Picayune reported that
On Thursday, The Times-Picayune asked Vitter's office whether he had ever hired a prostitute or knew Wendy Cortez. In response, his office issued a statement that referenced his Monday apology regarding the Washington escort service and reiterated that he was not implicated in a federal investigation that led to the closing of a Canal Street brothel in 2001.
"Senator Vitter was very honest and direct in his statement on Monday.
Evasion: Last week Vitter stayed in the New Orleans area and missed hearings, votes and meetings on Capitol Hill. Today, he cancelled a scheduled town hall meeting today in Louisiana, and his office says he will return to D.C. tomorrow.
2004 Senatorial Campaign and election:
In 2004, Rep. Vitter campaigned as a strong "family values" candidate bent on eliminating "corruption" and cronyism from Louisiana politics. He even criticized Senators Breaux and Landrieu for not properly defending marriage, as he had criticized President Clinton's moral unfitness for office. Democratic Senatorial candidate Chris John's campaign was either unable or unwilling to make the long-simmering reports about Vitter's infidelity and whoremongering an issue in the campaign, and raise associated questions about Vitter's trustworthiness and judgment.
In a 2004 meeting with conservative pastors who promoted the "family values" agenda, Vitter apparently lied about his past infidelity and the skeletons in his closet in order to secure their support.
Moreover, bigwig Republican insiders like Boysie Bollinger "have known quite well and for quite some time about the allegations that David Vitter was a frequent patron of prostitutes and that they understood the damage it could inflict if the story were made public." Bollinger was quoted as stating, "We (Louisiana Republican party insiders) discussed this exact fact, that this bomb could go off." Yet these same GOP insiders endorsed and supported this political "time bomb" without apparent regard for the citizens of Louisiana, who would be hurt when and if the "time bomb" in Vitter's past ever exploded. They KNEW Vitter could be disgraced, discredited and perhaps blackmailed, and yet they supported him anyway. In addition to this political "bombing" of Louisiana, Bollinger engaged in a hideous "double game" during last year's crucial mayoral campaign, and has actually stated that George Bush is probably "the best friend Louisiana has". With friends like Boysie and the other state GOP insiders who kept their mouths shut about Vitter's "time bomb", does Louisiana need enemies?
When Mary Jacoby's Salon story about Vitter's flaws and infidelities came out prior to election day, the so-called "mainstream liberal media" didn't touch it. (I don't recall if the Times Picayune-- which now seems so resourceful and dedicated to unearthing details about the Vitter affair-- endorsed Vitter over Chris John.) YRHT repeatedly referred to allegations about Vitter's hypocritical, immoral and criminal conduct, to no avail or widespread notice.
Revelations to come:
Senator Vitter may be called to testify at the D.C. Madam's upcoming racketeering trial. Also, Hustler's Larry Flynt says "five prostitutes in New Orleans" alone are linked to Vitter. It's quite likely that more embarrassing details will emerge, given Vitter's pattern of reckless behavior.
Vitter allegedly retaliated against others:
One of the most underreported and unexplored dimensions to this affair involves the claims made by Chris Tidmore that Vitter "seriously damaged" his career in response to his original reporting of the story. Tidmore, a current GOP candidate for State Rep, says that Vitter "used his influence to deny job opportunities that were presented" to Tidmore and did so "to others related to the story". Vitter repeatedly said the stories were "lies" born of political motivation.
Senator Vitter should resign because of his pattern of reckless, illegal and hypocritical behavior. When people asked Vitter about the truth, he repeatedly and completely denied "the rumors", and disparaged those who spoke the truth, and retaliated against reporters who reported the truth. There are doubtless more revelations to come, and this state can't have a distracted Senator who avoids doing the people's business when skeletons march out of his closet. Louisiana can ill-afford another political embarassment dedicated to hanging on to office while the national media covers his repeated "sins". Vitter should take the advice he gave others in the past, and resign for the good of the state. I believe Gov. Blanco's best choice to replace Vitter would be Treasurer John N. Kennedy (fat chance, I know). However, if Blanco can cut a deal with the GOP to replace Vitter with former Gov David Treen she should do so. Treen's brother John was one of the very few people in the GOP who refused to sacrifice his principles for political expediency and support someone he knew to be a "liar" and a political time bomb.
Vitter did admit to something, and if that something is solicitation, then he is a disgrace to the Republican Party, which is supposed to be the party for conservative family values, and a disgrace to our nation.
If Vitter did indeed solicit D.C. Madam’s services, he should resign, and he should be prosecuted for breaking the law.
Sources say Senator Vitter lied to Christian ministers about his past
The following is a quote from an email sent by the Flaming Liberal:
Over the past few days it was confirmed on talk radio that David Vitter met with a number of Christian Conservative ministers/pastors in Baton Rouge in the weeks/months prior to the November 2004 general election in which he was elected to the Senate. Based on two independent sources who spoke on talk radio this past week, Vitter was asked at the meeting about the rumors circulating that he had committed adultery and had frequented prostitutes.
From what these two sources stated, Vitter denied the allegations and assured these Christian ministers there were "no skeletons in my closet." One source stated publicly the other day that Gene Mills, Executive Director of the Louisiana Family Forum, attended the meeting. It's been rumored that Religious Right leader James Dobson might have been there, but that has not been confirmed.
If Vitter lied to these pastors about his secret life (probably after everyone in attendance prayed for Vitter), then how can the public trust a man who would lie to Christian ministers who asked him a direct question about his adulterous double life? After that meeting, the Religious Right in Louisiana began an aggressive campaign to support and to ensure the election of David Vitter to the Senate based on his promotion of "Family Values" and his adherence to those values in his personal life. Now we know David Vitter is the antithesis of "Family Values." He's a fraud.
Update 2: Controversial Pastor Grant Storms, leader of the Christian Conservatives for Reform, has confirmed the Flaming Liberal's account of David Vitter lying to religious leaders in a private meeting about the skeletons in his past. He said so during the last half hour of Jeff Crouere's political radio show on WGSO 990am 7/16/07.
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