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Spitzer Doesn't Deny Tie to Prostitution Ring

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. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Margot Adler died on July 28, 2014 at her home in New York City. She was 68 and had been battling cancer. Listen to NPR Correspondent David Folkenflik's retrospective on her life and career