Disgraced Ex-Gov. Spitzer On AIG: 'I Told You So'

The disgraced former governor of New York made his TV return Sunday, appearing on CNN and issuing an "I told you so" to people outraged about the post-bailout bonuses going to executives of AIG.

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JACKI LYDEN, host:

Public outrage over bonuses paid to executives of AIG is even pulling disgraced politicians out of hiding. Eliot Spitzer, former governor of New York, emerged from the media wilderness this week to say I told you so. His first TV interview since his prostitution scandal aired today on CNN. NPR's Robert Smith has more.

ROBERT SMITH: Watching the interview, it sometimes seemed as if Client Number 9 never went into that hooker's hotel room. The old Eliot Spitzer was back in his dark suit, red power tie, jutting out that massive chin, but the new Eliot Spitzer wasn't looking to string up the executives of AIG.

(Soundbite of television program)

Former Governor ELIOT SPITZER (Democrat, New York): The search for villains is emotionally satisfying, not terribly useful. The better effort is okay, what do we learn?

SMITH: Of course, the same question could be asked of Spitzer. It was impossible to watch his interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria without thinking about the last time we saw Spitzer on TV, standing next to his wife, apologizing for his sexual hijinks and resigning as New York governor.

Today, Spitzer seems just as smart, just as judgmental as ever, but it takes the sting out of his indictment of Wall Street when you know he's guilty of some of the same sins.

(Soundbite of television program)

Former Gov. SPITZER: Recklessness, a hotdog, cowboy mentality. What was missing was judgment.

SMITH: Spitzer has been writing an occasional column for slate.com, but it took his old nemesis, AIG, to pull him out of his fortress of solitude. Back when he was New York's attorney general, Spitzer battled with the company for lying about its finances.

He eventually squeezed more than $1 billion out of them. So, when every politician in the country went on air to bash AIG this week over its bonuses, Spitzer couldn't resist the urge to crow that he was right all along, first on public radio station WNYC, then on CNN.

(Soundbite of television program)

Former Gov. SPITZER: Back then, I said to people, AIG is at the center of the web. The financial tentacles of this company stretched to every major investment bank.

SMITH: And just as it seemed like the old Spitzer was getting ready to fight the tentacled beast again, he had to concede that he wouldn't be leading the charge. The new Spitzer still has some work to do in his personal life.

Former Gov. SPITZER: I have spent a year with my family, with my wonderful and amazing and forgiving wife and three daughters, and we'll have rebuilt those relationships and hope to do that as time goes on.

SMITH: When asked point blank if he could imagine getting back into government, Spitzer said he doesn't think about it, but he didn't rule it out, either. Robert Smith, NPR News, New York.

LYDEN: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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