Louisiana Sen. David Vitter today offered his first public response to questions about the behavior of his longtime aide, who resigned last month after reports surfaced that he had allegedly threatened to kill a female friend and held her at knife-point during a 90-minute ordeal.
In Baton Rouge to file papers for his reelection, with his wife at his side, Vitter was confronted by reporters wanting to know why he kept aide Brent Furer on his staff for two years after the violent incident, and what if any discipline his office imposed after he learned of Furer's guilty pleas to three related offenses. Furer resigned in June, after news of the altercation went public.
Vitter said the issue has been "misrepresented" and "misreported," and he called it old news.
"Well, the event was two years ago. The discipline he got in the office was two years ago," Vitter told reporters.
The senator's remarks came on the heels of an announcement from the National Organization for Women over the weekend calling on the U.S. Senate Ethics Committee to censure Sen. David Vitter for tolerating the behavior of a top aide who allegedly threatened to kill a female friend and held her at knife-point during a 90-minute ordeal.
"This is not just Sen. Vitter making another lapse in judgment," Terry O'Neill, the NOW president, told ABC News. "This is about his utter disdain for the women of this country. It's important for the ethics committee to address this if the U.S. Senate wants to have standards that actually respect women."
The Vitter aide who was involved in the 2008 altercation resigned last month after an ABC News report on the incident. Until Wednesday, Vitter repeatedly refused to answer questions about his decision to keep the man on his staff for two more years despite his arrest and subsequent guilty pleas to lesser charges.
When asked why he had assigned Furer to handle women's issues, Vitter said that he had done no such thing.
"He was not," Vitter said. "That's just one of several issues that have been completely misreported. Tanya Newman, Nicole Herbert in my office are assigned to women's issues. That's always been the case."
However, numerous legislative guide books over the past several years identify Furer as Vitter's point man on women's issues. And Beth Meeks, the executive director of the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence said in an interview Tuesday that she had been in Washington in June – just before news of the incident went public – and that Vitter had assigned Furer to meet with her to discuss the senator's views on domestic violence legislation. She said she was advised that Furer was the senator's point man on women's issues.
The group NOW announced its plans to pursue sanctions for Vitter during its annual conference over the weekend, with O'Neill saying afterwards that she had her "marching orders." The public rebuke is the latest attempt to force Vitter to publicly address the actions of longtime aide, Brent Furer, who had been assigned by the senator to handle women's issues.