Flynt: Inquiry Led to Senator's 'D.C. Madam' Confession

Tod Hunter
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — At a press conference Wednesday, Hustler magazine founder Larry Flynt claimed credit for exposing Sen. David Vitter's connection to "D.C. Madam" Deborah Jeane Palfrey, saying Vitter confessed after a journalist reported finding the senator's number in the escort service's phone records.

During the press conference, Flynt said he has “twenty-some investigations going that all look good,” many of them involving “high-ranking Republican and Democratic members of the Senate and the House.” Flynt also said his team has received more responses from the Post ad than it had from earlier, similar initiatives, including his effort against critics of President Clinton in 1998. “I don’t know if there’s something in the air, or if it has to do with election year," Flynt said.

"Larry Flynt's ongoing investigation into the dirty secrets of prominent elected officials has exposed another hypocrite," a press release from Hustler said. "Within hours of a phone call from the offices of Hustler Magazine asking Vitter to comment on an article Hustler reporters were working on, Vitter ran to the Associated Press in an attempt to get ahead of the story."

Vitter, R-Louisiana, admitted that his telephone number turned up in the phone records of an escort service run by Palfrey, though he did not say he had sex with a prostitute. The records date from before he won his Senate seat in 2004.

"This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible," Vitter said in a statement given to reporters this week. "Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and from my wife in confession and marriage counseling."

Vitter, 46, was one of the supporters of a failed constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage and serves as the Southern regional chairman of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign. He represented New Orleans suburbs in the House of Representatives from 1999 to 2004, when he ran for the Senate. He is married and has four children.

Palfrey was indicted in March on money laundering and racketeering charges stemming from her business, Pamela Martin & Associates, which prosecutors allege was involved in prostitution. Palfrey has denied the charges. Palfrey tried to sell a telephone list containing names of more than 10,000 clients to raise money for her legal defense. A judge blocked her from selling the information, but she has provided some of the documents to media outlets.

Dan Moldea, an investigative journalist collaborating on a book with Palfrey, told CNN that he found Vitter's number in Palfrey's phone records and passed the information to Flynt.

"I had no idea who he was prior to then, although I'm sure he was a client and he's stated accordingly, but I don't remember this man," Palfrey said.

An editor at Hustler called Vitter's office for a response Monday evening, spurring Vitter to issue his statement to The Associated Press.

Paul Colford, a spokesman for the wire service, said Vitter's statement "came into the AP's New Orleans bureau without prior contact from the AP."

In June, Flynt took out a full-page ad in The Washington Post, offering up to $1 million for "documented evidence of illicit sexual or intimate relations with a congressman or senator."

Moldea has said that he is a paid consultant for Flynt and Hustler and is not eligible for the $1 million prize.

Flynt launched a similar campaign in 1998, when President Bill Clinton was facing impeachment over allegations that he had lied about his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Hustler's search led to the resignation of House Speaker-designate Robert Livingston — whose vacant congressional seat was won by Vitter.

Vitter is the first lawmaker known to be linked to Palfrey's business. State Department official Randall Tobias — who promoted abstinence education as head of the Bush administration's effort to curb the spread of AIDS — resigned in May after confirming he patronized Palfrey's business.