July 10, 2007 -- Republican Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, whose phone number was linked to Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the so-called "D.C. Madam," says that he is sorry for a "serious sin" and that he has already made peace with his wife.
Palfrey is awaiting trial on racketeering charges related to a prostitution ring she allegedly ran.
"This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible," Vitter said Monday evening in a printed statement. "Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling. Out of respect for my family, I will keep my discussion of the matter there with God and them. But I certainly offer my deep and sincere apologies to all I have disappointed and let down in any way."
Until his disclosure Monday, Vitter had been a rising star in the Republican social conservative movement.
"I don't believe there's any issue that's more important than this one," Vitter said in June 2006, about the importance of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. "I think this debate is very healthy, and it's winning a lot of hearts and minds. I think we're going to show real progress."
At another time, speaking at the Lafayette Parish Republican Executive Committee luncheon, Vitter compared same-sex marriage to hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
"David Vitter is dedicated to making life better for his young family and all Louisiana families," reads the first line of his official biography. Presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani eagerly used Vitter to vouch for his credentials, to write Op-Eds and to serve as a surrogate selling him to social conservatives.
"Obviously, I disagree with Rudy on some significant social issues and these are very important to me and to many people I represent," Vitter said during his March 12 endorsement of the former New York Mayor. "But after numerous personal meetings with the mayor, it's very clear to me that he's not running for president to advance any liberal social agenda."
"Like all parents, Wendy and I, our top concerns are our children," Vitter said, referring to his three daughters, Sophie, Lise and Airey, and son, Jack. "And even with all the international threats we face from al Qaeda to Iran to North Korea, we'll sleep very soundly at night with Rudy in the White House."
A product of Harvard, Tulane Law School and the Rhodes Scholars, Vitter was elected to the Louisiana Statehouse to succeed former Klansman David Duke in 1991; there he successfully pushed through term-limits legislation.
In 1999, after designated House Speaker Rep. Bob Livingston, R-La., abruptly resigned after disclosures of numerous affairs, Vitter successfully ran to succeed him representing suburban New Orleans.
Asked whether she could forgive her husband after an extramarital affair, as Livingston's wife had done, Wendy Vitter told the Times-Picayune: "I'm a lot more like Lorena Bobbitt than Hillary [Clinton]. If he does something like that, I'm walking away with one thing, and it's not alimony, trust me."
Vitter quickly became the Louisiana delegation's most conservative member — against abortion even in cases of rape and incest and against gambling — and he secured power through his seat on the House Appropriations Committee. There were whispers about Vitter having an affair with a prostitute around the time he was contemplating a gubernatorial run in 2002, but nothing ever was reported in the mainstream media.
In May 2002, he opted out of that race, announcing that he and Wendy had entered counseling because of the "cumulative stress from working in a high-pressure job, living in two cities, building a house, raising four young kids including a newborn, having our campaign activities based at home and traveling the state considering a run for governor."
But the next year, after Sen. John Breaux, D-La., announced in 2003 that he wouldn't seek re-election, Vitter within days announced he would run to succeed him, and the national GOP did everything it could to clear the way for the man who said he represented "mainstream Louisiana values."
With President Bush running strong on top of the ticket — and Vitter winning his home parish by a 5-1 ratio over his chief opponent Rep. Chris John, D-La. — Vitter avoided the state's odd runoff process by securing more than 50 percent of the vote.
On Aug. 30, 2005, the day after Hurricane Katrina hit, Vitter erroneously told the public that, "In the metropolitan area in general, in the huge majority of areas, [the water is] not rising at all. It's the same or it may be lowering slightly. In some parts of New Orleans, because of the 17th Street breach, it may be rising and that seemed to be the case in parts of downtown. I don't want to alarm everybody that, you know, New Orleans is filling up like a bowl. That's just not happening."
He has perhaps been best known nationally for criticizing the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina, opposing Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, fighting for the Federal Marriage Amendment and endorsing Giuliani.