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."
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.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday, April 22, 2014:
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
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.
State Rep. Stuart Bishop says he’s concerned with the quality of Capitol Lake, but when it comes to Louisiana’s coastline, this Lafayette Republican doesn't seem to give a damn.
Democrats sweating this year's elections may be hoping that the Obama administration's latest delay to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline takes a politically fraught issue off the table for the midterms.
Louisiana lawmakers are entering the second half of their three-month regular legislative session, which must end by June 2. Where some of the major issues stand:
Local and state agents Thursday night raided The Keg, the popular college bar located in the area known as The Strip, leading to the (at least) temporary closure of the venue.
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”
Education Superintendent John White says a continued push to try to keep Louisiana from using tests associated with the Common Core education standards are creating "a state of chaos" for public school teachers.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to use $210 million in surplus and one-time money to help balance next year's budget received the backing Thursday of the State Bond Commission, support that was needed for the maneuver to work.
State wildlife and fisheries agents have arrested a 39-year-old man accused of stealing crawfish.
An East Feliciana Parish lawmaker has jettisoned his proposal to make it harder for a condemned prisoner to appeal a death sentence.
Senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would let the governor remove New Orleans-area levee board members for violating what he considers to be public policy, despite concerns it would introduce political meddling into state flood protection.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday will vote on a resolution that if approved would clear the way for a December ballot proposition asking voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax parishwide to help fund the construction of a new terminal at Lafayette Regional Airport.
Just days before the fourth anniversary of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill, the Coast Guard has moved cleanup of Louisiana's coast to a new phase, allowing BP to end its "active" efforts in the area.
Legislators still must leave their guns at the door of the Louisiana Capitol.