Vitter Challenges Media to Prove He Consorted with New Orleans Hooker

His number appeared five times in DC Madam’s call lists but now he says reports that he frequented a New Orleans brothel in the 1990s are “not true”

“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.”
– Sen. David Vitter

In the spring of 1987, Colorado Sen. Gary Hart held a commanding lead in early polling in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. But two questions dogged the candidate: How would he deal with the large debt carried over from his 1984 run for the presidency — and what about the rumors that he was, as they said back then, a “womanizer.”

The debt quickly became a non-issue after Hart made a miscalculation in handling the second question that has become a classic “what not to do” in politics — he challenged the media to prove he was having an affair:

“Follow me around … I’m serious. If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They’d be very bored.”

Reporters from the Miami Herald took Hart up on the challenge and quickly outed his extramarital relationship with an attractive young woman named Donna Rice. After photos surfaced of Hart and Rice looking both intimate and disheveled on the deck of a yacht called Monkey Business, he dropped out of the race.

Yesterday, Sen. David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican with a penchant for pompous moralizing, may have made the same mistake Hart did 20 years ago. After waiting a full week to address revelations that he used the services of the DC Madam five years ago, he appeared before the media and dropped the gauntlet, all but challenging reporters to prove he had relationships with other prostitutes:

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. 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.

Vitter was referring to stories that surfaced in New Orleans last week that he had been in a relationship with a working girl in the 1990s:

In 2001, federal agents shut down the New Orleans bordello, and the senator’s name never appeared in notes or records that were seized during the investigation, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. Vitter issued a statement last week emphasizing that no records existed to tie him to the establishment.

Last week, a woman who said she worked as a prostitute under the name Wendy Cortez said Vitter was a regular customer of hers when he was a state representative in the 1990s.

The woman’s former fiance, Tait Cortez, corroborated her claim and said he had confronted the woman about the relationship after he found photos of her with Vitter. Tait Cortez said he split up with the woman, whose maiden name was Wendy Yow, after he learned she was working as a prostitute.

On television, Vitter comes off as such a class-A doufous that it is almost impossible to believe that he was a Rhodes scholar. His performance yesterday broke fundamental rules of crisis management in politics: Don’t act like you’re in a bunker, especially if you are. And if you’re going to lob grenades at the media, they’d better not be duds. Rather than tamping down media interest, Vitter added weeks, maybe even months, of life to this story. It was a brazen act of self-destruction.

Finally, it was unclear in earlier reporting how many times Vitter’s number came up in the DC Madam’s call lists. Here’s an update:

A subsequent review of the records by The Times-Picayune revealed five calls from Vitter’s phone to the service between 1999 and 2001.

And this is the point. If his number had appeared on the list in Washington just once, a very slim case could be made that he had a momentary lapse. But five calls represents a pattern, and to suggest this pattern began after he moved from Louisiana is just ludicrous.

4 Comments

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  • July 17, 2007 - 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Actually, Sen. Vitter specifically did not deny that he had been with a New Orleans hooker. His statement was purposely vague – almost Clintonian – in leaving himself a loophole.

    In claiming “those stories are not true,” Vitter specifically did not say which of the hundreds of stories of various topics are not true. While local talk-show immediately reported that Vitter denied the Canal Street Brothel accusation, in fact, Vitter did no such thing.

    In fact, such a declaration would have provided fuel for the kind of action the media took in covering Gary Hart. And, of course, if another shoe drops, Vitter’s always got the ability to say he didn’t specify WHICH New Orleans stories were false.

    But if the allegations about his longtime connection with prostitute Wendy Cortez are false, he should come out and specifically say “I did not have sex with that woman.”

  • Greg Bacon
    July 18, 2007 - 5:40 am | Permalink

    Cortez claims Vitter is the father of her child.

    So, Vitter just needs to submit a DNA sample to prove Cortez wrong.

    My guess is that Vitter is guilty as charged.

    He took a week to address the growing problem–not the one in his pants–so he could consult spin doctors and check on a focus group or two to see what to say to the quivering masses.

    He needs to submit a DNA sample and preferrably, not one stuck to a blue dress.

  • Jess Wonderin
    July 19, 2007 - 12:34 am | Permalink

    “Notes or records not found” when they raided the Ho House??? Must been stapled to the WMDs that were trucked into Lebanon and buried . . .

    Are we to believe that “just one time” he wandered into a den of indecency and was tricked into slipping into something more comfortable . . . a Depends?????

    ya right, and God told George to invade Iraq . . .

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