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."
The fight to clean up Lafayette Parish could get some added ammunition with two ordinances up for votes Tuesday by the City-Parish Council targeting litter-bugs.
By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
US cities bidding on Olympics; Guard prevents more Ferguson riots; storm threatens travel and more national and international news for Wednesday, November 26, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.
By now, the story of how longtime LSU coach Dale Brown discovered Shaquille O'Neal has been told many times: Brown happened upon a massive 13-year-old at an army base in Germany, stayed in touch with him and eventually became like a second father.
Fate simply wasn't ready to give the New Orleans Saints a break from longtime nemesis Steve Smith.
Lafayette Police have had a busy day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state's midyear budget deficit.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she disagrees with President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, hoping the latest controversy doesn't worsen her campaign difficulties.
Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
Thinking himself the “son of God,” the man charged with the 2013 killing of an officer of the Chitimacha Tribal Police will not stand trial following a ruling Thursday on his mental competency.
Either Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't want to tip Baltimore off as to who'll start in New Orleans' secondary on Monday night, or he really doesn't know yet.