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Gov. Spitzer Apologizes After Prostitution Report


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

New York's political world looks different this morning now that the governor known as Mr. Clean has been linked to a high-end prostitution ring. Eliot Spitzer is identified in an affidavit as Client Number 9, hiring a call girl brought from New York to a fancy hotel in Washington, D.C. Governor Spitzer spent eight years as New York's attorney general. He was elected governor a little over a year ago. Here he is delivering his State of the State address.

Governor ELIOT SPITZER (Democrat, New York): We gather here today with the front page stories of scandal fresh in our minds and the minds of all New Yorkers. We are in danger of losing the confidence of those who elected us.

MONTAGNE: The governor, of course, is now in the headlines for a growing scandal. Joining us is Brooke Masters, a reporter with the Financial Times who knows quite a bit about Governor Spitzer. She wrote "Spoiling for a Fight: The Rise of Eliot Spitzer."

Good morning.

Ms. BROOKE MASTERS (Author): Good morning.

MONTAGNE: Let's just begin with the briefest description of how this came out, realizing that there's very little information out there from anybody.

Ms. MASTERS: What there is public is that four people were arrested in connection with a prostitution ring. Authorities somehow got a hold of suspicious transactions connected to Mr. Spitzer - we don't know how - and from there tried to figure out what these transactions, what they were for. And from there they ended up at the prostitution ring.

MONTAGNE: Looking back on Eliot Spitzer's term as New York's attorney general, he was called the Sheriff of Wall Street, Eliot Ness. So considered quite a good guy.

Ms. MASTERS: Yeah, I mean, he really comes across as an incredible straight arrow. When you meet him, he's a guy who talks about his wife and his kids and his office is filled with picture of them.

When I did the book, I interviewed I think four, maybe five ex-girlfriends. They were his college sweetheart, the med student he dated when he was in law school. And they all still liked him. They all pretty much ended the conversations with say hi to Eliot. He had no reputation for taking advantage of women or anything like that.

MONTAGNE: And of course let's remind folks he's been charged with nothing at this point. But given his reputation as a crusader against corruption, how are his colleagues and New Yorkers, for that matter, responding to the scandal?

Ms. MASTERS: Most of them are really, really shocked and disappointed. I mean, this is not what they expected. You know, New Yorkers elected him with a record margin of a vote in 2006 because he pledged to clean up Albany. And I think lots of people were really hoping he would make a difference for a state that's really had a lot of trouble with corruption at the state level.

My e-mails and phones were just packed yesterday with, listen, can you believe this? Including people who had worked with him for, you know, a decade. Like I can not believe this.

MONTAGNE: Is it likely that he will resign?

Ms. MASTERS: You know, it's a tough call. I was struck in yesterday's press conference that he gave that he talked about politics being about ideas, not people. And I think that if he can continue to work on his ideas, maybe he'll stay on. But if he feels he is so tarnished that the ideas and policies he wanted to push - if he can't get anything done, there's no point in being there.

MONTAGNE: It is a fact, though, that it is a crime to engage in prostitution.

Ms. MASTERS: It's worse than that. If what is alleged in the affidavit is true, it's a federal felony, it's a Mann Act violation, it's crossing state lines to engage in prostitution, which is a federal felony which would bar him from office, I believe.

MONTAGNE: So this could be beyond his own control?

Ms. MASTERS: Absolutely. It could be, but he hasn't been charged with anything. And it's a long way from charging to proving, as we all know.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.

Ms. MASTERS: Thanks for having me.

MONTAGNE: Brooke Masters is author of "Spoiling for a Fight: The Rise of Eliot Spitzer." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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