Spitzer Doesn't Deny Tie to Prostitution Ring

The New York Times says federal prosecutors have wiretap evidence that New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer was a client in a prostitution ring. The first-term Democrat held a news conference and did not deny the allegations.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

A major political shock today for New Yorkers and beyond. Earlier today, The New York Times reported on its Web site that Governor Eliot Spitzer was involved in a prostitution ring. Within hours, the governor had scheduled a news conference in Manhattan for what was billed as a brief statement.

NPR's Margot Adler joins us now from New York.

And, Margot, as we said it was a brief statement, what did Governor Spitzer have to say?

MARGOT ADLER: Well, the statement was so remarkably short, so short, we can listen to the whole thing.

(Soundbite of press conference)

Governor Eliot Spitzer (Democrat, New York): Good afternoon. Over the past nine years, eight years as attorney general and one as governor, I've tried to uphold a vision of progressive politics that would rebuild New York and create opportunity for all. We sought to bring real change to New York and that will continue.

Today I want to briefly address a private matter. I've acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family and that violates my or any sense of right and wrong. I apologize first and most importantly to my family. I apologize to the public whom I promised better. I do not believe the politics in the long run is about individuals, it is about ideas, the public good and doing what is best for the state of New York. But I've disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself. I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family. I will not be taking questions. Thanks you very much. I will report back to you in short order. Thank you very much.

(Soundbite of reporters asking questions)

Unidentified Man: Are you going to resign?

ADLER: As you can hear, we're screaming questions including whether he would resign. He refused to say anything more.

NORRIS: Margot, this story broke late in the afternoon, it's still developing. At this point, what do we know about Spitzer's involvement with this prostitution ring?

ADLER: Well, we know that he was caught on a federal wiretap, basically, arranging to meet with a prostitute that he had registered under an assumed name, according to The New York Times, in a Washington hotel, he's called in these documents, Client Number Nine. Last week, federal prosecutors in Manhattan filed conspiracy charges against four people accusing them of running a prostitution ring that charged wealthy clients in Europe and the U.S. thousands of dollars for prostitutes. That's what's connected with this event.

NORRIS: Eliot Spitzer was elected as governor in a landslide election. He was known as a states attorney general as the sheriff of Wall Street. He had quite a reputation for cleaning up corruption. Can you tell us a little bit more about his record?

ADLER: Well, you know, when he was attorney general, Time magazine called him the crusader. In fact, tabloids called him Eliot Ness, and he went after Wall Street. He went after organized crime and he went after prostitution rings. In fact, in 2004, he was part of an investigation of an escort service in New York City that resulted in the arrest of 18 people on charges of promoting prostitution and related charges. So it came as an incredible shock, this particular set of charges.

NORRIS: It sounds like that he always had some problems as governor.

ADLER: Well, we do know that in his term of governor, he has had a number of incidents. First of all, he had this very unpopular plan to grant drivers licenses to illegal immigrants. It went over like a lead balloon. Then there was perhaps a more problematic situation where his aides tried to smear Spitzer's main Republican opponent, Joseph Bruno. But the main thing I think is that everyone is very shocked because there are whispering campaigns against hundreds of politicians and nothing has ever been whispered about Eliot Spitzer.

NORRIS: Margot, one last question. At that press conference earlier today, his wife was with him. Is that correct?

ADLER: Yes, she was.

NORRIS: And she said nothing there, though?

ADLER: She said nothing.

NORRIS: Thank you, Margot.

ADLER: You're welcome.

NORRIS: That was NPR's Margot Adler in New York.

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Spitzer Apologizes After Prostitution Case Surfaces

New York Governor Eliot Spitzer holds a news conference in New York City with his wife, Silda. i i

New York Governor Eliot Spitzer holds a news conference in New York City with his wife, Silda, by his side after it was announced that he has been involved in a prostitution ring. Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images
New York Governor Eliot Spitzer holds a news conference in New York City with his wife, Silda.

New York Governor Eliot Spitzer holds a news conference in New York City with his wife, Silda, by his side after it was announced that he has been involved in a prostitution ring.

Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images


Eliot Spitzer


Age: 48. Born New York City.

Family: Married to Silda Wall Spitzer, a Harvard Law School graduate and lawyer in the nonprofit sector. The couple has three daughters, ages 17, 15 and 13.

Education: Princeton University, 1981; Harvard Law School, 1984.

Experience: Law clerk for U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet, 1984-85; private law practice, 1985-86; assistant district attorney in Manhattan, 1986-92; chief of labor racketeering unit of Manhattan district attorney's office, 1991-92; private law practice, 1992-1998; attorney general, 1999-2006; governor, 2007-present.

As Governor: Elected with a historic 69 percent of the vote. Agenda stalled amid political scandal and polls that showed most New Yorkers would not vote for him again as governor. (Two aides disciplined for using state police to track the movements of a Spitzer political rival).

Pushed through moderate reforms on the budget, ethics and workers compensation. A signature effort, campaign finance, languished.

— Source: The Associated Press

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer has allegedly been caught on a federal wiretap arranging to meet with a high-priced prostitute. Last week, prosecutors charged four people with running a prostitution ring; Spitzer was reportedly one of its clients at a Washington, D.C., hotel last month.

To the public, Spitzer, a Democrat, is known as an upright, crusading politician who built his career on rooting out corruption. But in an affidavit disclosed Monday he is identified simply as "Client 9," allegedly part of a prostitution ring that stretched from Los Angeles to Paris.

Spitzer's involvement in the ring was caught on a federal wiretap as part of an investigation opened in recent months, according to a law enforcement official who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

After news of the allegations first broke Monday afternoon, it took political opponents only minutes to call for Spitzer's resignation. But the first-term governor, in a hastily called appearance at his Manhattan office, said nothing about his political future.

Speaking about what he termed a "private matter," Spitzer said he "acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family and violates my — or any — sense of right and wrong." With his wife, Silda, at his side, Spitzer added, "I apologize first and most importantly to my family. I apologize to the public, whom I promised better."

Spitzer, 48, built his political reputation fighting corruption, including several high-profile scuffles with Wall Street while serving as attorney general. In 2004, he helped lead an investigation of an escort service in New York City that resulted in the arrest of 18 people on charges of promoting prostitution and related charges.

Time magazine named him "Crusader of the Year" when he was attorney general and the tabloids proclaimed him "Eliot Ness," after the "Untouchables" Mob-buster of the 1930s.

The alleged prostitution ring, identified in court papers as the Emperors Club VIP, arranged meetings between wealthy men and more than 50 prostitutes in New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Miami, London and Paris, prosecutors said.

"Today's news that Eliot Spitzer was likely involved with a prostitution ring and his refusal to deny it leads to one inescapable conclusion: He has disgraced his office and the entire state of New York," said Assembly Republican leader James Tedisco. "He should resign his office immediately."

If Spitzer were to resign, he would be succeeded by Lt. Gov. David Paterson, also a Democrat.

Transcript of Spitzer's statement:

"Good afternoon.
"For the past nine years, eight years as attorney general, and one as governor, I have tried to uphold a vision of progressive politics that would rebuild New York and create opportunity for all. We sought to bring real change to New York and that will continue.
"Today I want to briefly address a private matter. I have acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family and violates my, or any, sense of right and wrong. I apologize first and most importantly to my family. I apologize to the public, whom I promised better.
"I do not believe that politics in the long run is about individuals. It is about ideas, the public good, and doing what is best for the state of New York. But I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself. I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family.
"I will not be taking questions. Thank you very much. I will report back to you in short order. Thank you very much."

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