After Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt contacted U.S. Sen. David Vitter last Monday to let him know he'd found his phone number on the old records of infamous D.C. Madam, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, Vitter quickly contacted key Louisiana publications and news bureaus through a written statement.
"He had hoped it would be the end of the matter, and it was not," The Times-Picayune's Bill Walsh told National Public Radio.
The pre-emptive, unannounced counterstrike was classic Vitter, who has shown a strong independent streak during his life in public office. As a member of the state Legislature, he held press conferences on the Capitol steps on key legislation without alerting other lawmakers. As a congressman, he would enter other congressional districts absent even a courtesy call. And as a U.S. senator, he stood recently against President Bush on an immigration proposal and is constantly at odds with senior Sen. Mary Landrieu, a New Orleans Democrat.
Calls made to Vitter's press secretary Joel DiGrado were not returned by press time. The only input from Vitter's camp came in a note above Vitter's official statement: "He respectfully requests that the statement be used in full without editing or paraphrasing."
Merrie Spaeth, chief executive officer of the Dallas-based Spaeth Communications, an award-winning business consulting firm that specializes partly in crisis management, says Vitter made a critical error in judgment by issuing a straightforward press release. A press conference would have been more personal, she says, but Vitter doesn't have the charm to pull it off. Spaeth, a Republican, contends that Vitter should have confessed to local television stations in timed, individual interviews under rigid protocol. Vitter also could have withheld his initial statement, waiting for the story to break as he prepared a more in-depth defense.
Given Vitter's policy stances, it may not have mattered at all. "Traditionally, you want to get out in front of bad news, but this is the difference between a tanker run aground by accident and a self-inflicted wound," she says. "He's made family values an issue in his campaigns, and now he can't live up to that. Besides renting a time machine, there's not much more he can do."
Spaeth says the last line of Vitter's statement ' "But I certainly offer my deep and sincere apologies to all I have disappointed and let down in any way" ' could bother voters, as it doesn't close the subject and offers no personal appeal. "As printed, it's to anybody and says I'm sorry I got caught," she says. "It doesn't ring true. Sometimes outright apologies are worse because they don't seem truthful."
There's also a timeline issue in a few of the sentences, she adds, which likely made critics and the press grow even hungrier. "This was a very serious sin in my pastâ?¦ Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wifeâ?¦," Vitter wrote. Spaeth says the last line opens Vitter up to more scrutiny. "It's not clear to me here that he stopped all of this since his initial confession to his wife and family," Spaeth says. "The strategic issue here is whether they should have come out with this and announced it a long time ago. Again, it appears as if he is coming clean only because he was caught."
Vitter's decision to go underground for the better part of last week only made matters worse. With that move, he failed to fulfill his role as a representative of the voters and missed votes in Washington, D.C. "He could resurrect himself, though, since he has a few years before he faces voters," she says. "But if there's even more released and it looks like a pattern, I don't know. He's going to have to find a way to sell this, and he doesn't have the talent of a Bill Clinton. He has a tough road ahead. This is going to be communications way beyond media."
Business organizations opposed the proposal, saying it would lead to job losses and higher prices for goods and services.
An attempt to repeal a six-year-old law that permits public school science teachers to use material outside a classroom's adopted textbook has been rejected by the Senate Education Committee.
New York Times poll shows Obama, Jindal have identical approval and disapproval ratings in the state.
OK, so they’re bentgrass, the type used on golf course greens. But grass is grass.
The Senate Finance Committee approved the bill Wednesday, despite opponents who argued it would shut down the storefront lenders.
A measure to allow the state to implement its own, less stringent plan for limiting carbon dioxide emissions unanimously passed the Senate.
FDA to regulate e-cigarettes, Jodie Foster gets married, Vermont to require labels on genetically-modified food, and more news for today, April 24, 2014.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
A push to expand Louisiana's Medicaid program as allowed under the federal health care has been overwhelmingly rejected by the Senate health committee.
Louisiana welfare recipients would be prohibited in state law from spending the federal assistance at lingerie shops, tattoo parlors, nail salons and jewelry stores, under a bill that received the support Wednesday of a House committee.
Senators will consider whether to prohibit private businesses in Louisiana from paying unequal wages to employees of different genders for the same job.
Rep. Joel Robideaux has delayed bill hearings and said unless a compromise can be reached, he won't bring up the legislation this session.
Once again, Lafayette Parish School Board President Hunter Beasley is focused on an issue that has nothing to do with the educational well-being of our public school children.
After exhausting his appeals all the way to the state Supreme Court, the owner of the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete has no legal remedy left save one: do an end run around the high court via a bill that would grandfather his “right” to keep a 550-pound tiger enclosed in a pin at his roadside business.
Louisiana poet Darrell Bourque has won the 2014 Louisiana Writer Award, given annually to recognize outstanding contributions to Louisiana's literary and intellectual life.
Drivers would have to secure dogs riding in truck beds while on interstate highways, if the Senate agrees to a bill backed by the House.
An effort to prohibit employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity was shelved Tuesday for the legislative session.
Louisiana won't lessen its penalties for marijuana possession, keeping laws on the books that allow people to be jailed up to 20 years for repeat offenses of having the drug in hand.
“This is one of the oldest divides that exists, and that divide is about the haves and the have-nots.”
It took a few weeks for the pitfalls to emerge in the governor’s $25 billion budget, but the time of judgment has finally arrived.
With pressure continuing to build for him to resign, Congressman Vance McAllister announced plans recently to remain secluded during the Easter break, but the Swartz Republican has said he’ll be back on the Hill casting votes and attending committee meetings when the congressional recess ends April 28.
A bid to limit the use of unmanned aircraft on private property in Louisiana stalled Monday in the Louisiana Senate.
A Shreveport lawmaker said Monday he's scrapping his proposal to name the Bible as Louisiana's official state book.
Attorney hopes fellow lawyers will join him in urging the D.A. to step aside and allow a competent, ethical challenger to take over the scandal-ridden office.
An official with the Louisiana Department of Education was arrested on a range of charges Friday after allegedly breaking into a home and brandishing a knife.