N.Y. Governor Tied to Prostitution Ring

Last week, federal investigators charged the operators of a high-end international online prostitution ring. Monday, word broke that an FBI affidavit alleges that none other than New York's democratic Governor Eliot Spitzer was caught arranging a meeting with an escort from the service.

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BILL WOLFF: From NPR News in New York, this is the Bryant Park Project.

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RACHEL MARTIN, host:

Overlooking historic Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan, this is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News. News, information, awesome vocabulary. I'm Rachel Martin.

ALISON STEWART, host:

And I'm Alison Stewart. It is Tuesday, March 11th, 2008. I am very excited about this new show because, as you know, I am a dork and I receive from Dictionary.com Word-a-Day. And I get very excited when I am able to work my Word-a-Day into daily life.

MARTIN: I'm excited, too. We're going to speak with a young woman who was crowned last night the national vocabulary champion. She's also - she's done the whole spelling bee thing. She's over that. She's so beyond that. She went on to vocabulary.

STEWART: So she has to know the meaning the words.

MARTIN: Yeah, it's not just rote memory.

STEWART: Not just has to figure out the Latin root or the Greek root and figure it all out. She needs to actually have comprehension.

MARTIN: Plus, she speaks like 45 languages and has a million extracurricular activities. She's a junior in high school.

STEWART: Yay. Good, well good for her.

MARTIN: Her name is Aliya Deri, and we're going to talk to her later on. Excellent.

STEWART: Also we're going to talk politics. Not politics in the United States, politics in Spain. A liberal, reform-minded prime minister won reelection in this traditionally conservative Catholic country. We'll look at Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, and we'll also explore Spain as a country with two identities on this, a very somber anniversary for Spain. The Madrid bombings happened on March 11th four years ago.

MARTIN: Also some are alleging that the biker who bombed a military recruiting office in Times Square recently was an anarchist. That had us here at the BPP asking, what exactly is in anarchist? I mean, we all have this kind of preconceptions about what that means.

STEWART: People throw that word around, too.

MARTIN: Yeah, and we had some real questions. Do they have an organization? A system of beliefs? What ties them together? The answers may surprise you. We're going to drill down into that.

STEWART: And if you've been on iTunes lately downloading anything, you notice, probably, that Jeff Buckley's song "Hallelujah" has been at the top of the iTunes single chart for about a week? What happened a week ago? Well, an "American Idol" contestant sang this very beautiful song. So it reminded us of what a brilliant album Jeff Buckley's album "Grace" is from 1994, the late Jeff Buckley. If you haven't heard it, or you don't have it in your collection, well, this is a segment for you. It's one of our Assisted Listen Series. We'll talk to a man who wrote a book about Jeff Buckley, and we'll introduce you do some of the great songs that are on that record, "Grace." We'll also get to today's headlines in just a minute, but first, here's the BPP's big story.

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MARTIN: "Eliot Mess."

STEWART: "Holy Spitz."

MARTIN: "Will Spitz quitz?"

STEWART: "Love Client Number Nine."

MARTIN: We took our guesses yesterday at what the headline in the always colorful New York Post would be today. They went with "Ho-No."

STEWART: So simple. That question answered, we are left asking, what do we know, what don't we know about the story broken yesterday by another home-town paper, you may have heard of it, the New York Times. The federal investigators have linked New York's Democratic governor, Eliot Spitzer, to a prostitution ring.

MARTIN: We do know that last week federal investigators brought charges against the alleged operators of a high-end, international, online, prostitution organization called The Emperor's Club.

STEWART: We do know that a FBI affidavit in the case alleges that a john known as Client Nine was caught in a wiretap arranging a February 13th meeting with an escort from the service in a Washington, D.C., hotel room.

MARTIN: And we do know that a law enforcement official has said Client Nine is Eliot Spitzer. Yesterday afternoon after the allegations came out in the New York Times, Governor Spitzer apologized during a press conference with his wife by his side.

STEWART: But we don't know exactly for what he was apologizing.

Governor ELIOT SPITZER (Democrat, New York): I have 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.

STEWART: Spitzer was contrite, but not specific. And while he didn't address the question that was on everyone's mind, would scandal lead to his resignation? Others were calling for him to leave office. New York State Assembly Republican leader James Tedisco said Spitzer, quote, "violated the public trust."

Assemblyman JAMES TEDISCO (Republican, New York State Assembly): If, indeed, he was involved with this, I don't think there's any way he can continue to be the executive here or be the governor.

MARTIN: Tedisco also brought up something that has been talked about the news and on more than 1,200 reader comments on the New York Times story. The fact that, until yesterday, Spitzer's legacy would have been as a champion of ethics known for rooting out corruption and crime as New York attorney general, including a 2004 bust of a Stanton Island prostitution operation. A lawyer for that prostitution ring was quoted in the New York Daily News this morning saying, quote, "My client feels that people who live in a glass mansion in Albany should not throw stones."

STEWART: Were Spitzer to resign, Lieutenant Governor David Patterson would take his place. It's already a busy time in Albany. The deadline for passing the new state budget is in just three weeks. Now let's get to some more of today's headlines.

WOLFF: This is NPR.

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