Prostitute’s new claims complicate Vitter’s life

Sept. 11, 2007, 10:30PM

From the Houston Chronicle NEW ORLEANS — Analysts said the political future of U.S. Sen. David Vitter again was thrown into question Tuesday after a former New Orleans prostitute vouched in person that the senator was one of her former clients.

“It’s just a continuous drip of information, allegations, contradictions that are beyond his control,” said Silas Lee, a New Orleans political analyst. “The question is what’s the tolerance of voters.”

When Vitter’s sex scandal broke out in July after he acknowledged that his Washington telephone number showed up on the phone records of an escort service, political observers thought he could weather the maelstrom.

Since then, though, the atmosphere surrounding Vitter and the Republican Party has become more dire because of the guilty plea in an airport sex sting by Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho.

And the new dynamics may mean trouble from Vitter.

His survival has become “definitely more complicated,” said Elliott Stonecipher, a Shreveport political analyst.

With Republicans reeling, they will take measures to save the GOP’s image and keep the sex scandals from tainting the rest of the party, Stonecipher said. “Vitter could become the guy the party throws under the bus to keep the discussion where it is.”

The first-term senator from Metairie and family-issues conservative has one thing on his side: He faces re-election in 2010.

On Tuesday, Wendy Ellis, a former New Orleans prostitute, presented her case at a Beverly Hills, Calif., news conference arranged by Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt. She said Vitter was one of her clients in 1999, the year he won a seat in the U.S. House.

Vitter has denied those claims, but Flynt said Ellis recently passed a lie detector test that confirms her side of the story. Ellis was previously identified as Wendy Cortez, the name she used as a prostitute.

Joel Digrado, Vitter’s spokesman, declined to comment on Ellis’ new claims and said “Vitter and his wife have addressed all of this very directly.”

The Republican Party of Louisiana declined to comment and referred questions to Vitter’s office.

Lee Fletcher, a north Louisiana Republican radio talk show host and political operative, said the latest claims by Ellis and Flynt would not damage Vitter.

“He came in here 30 days ago, and it was SRO: standing room only,” Fletcher said about a recent visit to north Louisiana by Vitter.

“The consensus even among the folks behind the scenes is that it’s not going anywhere. It’s been tried and it didn’t stick,” Fletcher said about the allegations. “What’s really helped Vitter, the people going after him are a pornographer and a prostitute. And therefore they have less credibility than anybody I can think of.”

The state Democratic Party did not release a statement.

One Response

  1. […] of sex worker issues in the past. In "Fall Girls," author Mark Benjamin examines Sen. Vitter's involvement with the Deborah Jeane Palfrey's call-girl agency and the negligible impact it had on his […]

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