Vitter Back In Senate Amid Sex Scandal

Emerging from a week of seclusion and scandal linking him to a Washington escort service, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., returns to his duties on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 17, 2007, as he sits on the Senate Commerce subcommittee on Air Operations. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Louisiana Sen. David Vitter returned to the Capitol Tuesday, dodging camera crews where possible and refusing to take reporters' questions about a sex scandal that sent him into seclusion for a week.

The first-term Republican said he wanted to resume his normal Senate schedule, but that proved difficult as news crews camped outside his office and chased him down hallways. Vitter, 46, has acknowledged "a serious sin" after his Washington telephone number was found among those called several years ago by an escort service that prosecutors say was a prostitution ring.

Vitter and his wife Wendy told reporters Monday in Metairie, La., that their marriage is strong and the senator plans to continue his political career. Vitter said other allegations made against him are untrue, apparently referring to a New Orleans woman's claim that he had frequented her brothel in the 1990s.

"I believe I received forgiveness from God. I know I did from Wendy," Vitter said. "Since then, I've gotten up every morning, committed to trying to live up to the important values we believe in. If continuing to believe in and acknowledge those values causes some to attack me because of my past failings, well, so be it.

"Unfortunately, my admission has incurred some longtime political enemies and those hoping to profit from this situation to spread falsehoods, too."

The couple took no questions, and Vitter flew back to Washington after a week's absence.

"When David and I dealt with this years ago, I forgave David and made the decision to love him and recommit to our marriage," Wendy Vitter said. "To forgive is not always the easy choice, but it was and is the right choice for me."

On Tuesday morning he did not appear at his office in the Hart Senate Office Building, where a gaggle of cameras and journalists waited. But he did attend a commerce subcommittee hearing on "air services to small and rural communities" in the nearby Russell building.

When Vitter left, while the hearing continued, reporters chased him down a hallway until he turned and calmly addressed them. He said he and his wife already had made "very straightforward statements about all of this. And I look forward today to being back at work, really focused on a lot of important issues for the people of Louisiana, like what we were discussing in the committee hearing."

He then continued down the hallway, ignoring questions. After exiting the building, he stepped into a waiting white Isuzu Rodeo and was driven away.

On July 9, Vitter apologized for committing a "very serious sin in my past," acknowledging that his Washington phone number was among those called several years ago by an escort service run by Deborah Jeane Palfrey.

Federal prosecutors accuse Palfrey of racketeering by running a prostitution ring that netted more than $2 million over 13 years, beginning in 1993. She contends her escort service, Pamela Martin and Associates, was a legitimate business. Telephone records show that the service called Vitter's number five times from 1999 to 2001, while he was a U.S. representative.

Also last week, Jeanette Maier, the former madam of a New Orleans brothel that was shut down several years ago, claimed Vitter was a client in the 1990s. However, her defense lawyer and a U.S. attorney who prosecuted her said Vitter's name never came up in that investigation.

The Times-Picayune newspaper in New Orleans also reported that Vitter had used the services of another New Orleans prostitute.

Vitter, 46, referred vaguely to the New Orleans-based reports but said that "those stories are not true."

Vitter, a Harvard University graduate and Rhodes Scholar, was elected to Congress in 1999 to fill the vacancy left when Rep. Robert Livingston, R-La., resigned amid disclosures of marital indiscretions. Vitter was elected to the Senate in 2004.

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said she would have no comment on the matter until she speaks with Vitter.

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for