Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said that Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, a newly announced gubernatorial candidate in 2015, will "always have that cloud over him"—his past involvement in a high-profile prostitution scandal.
Perkins, a Louisiana native and friend of Vitter's, is supporting the senator's candidacy. But he said questions about his past are fair game for the media and his political opponents.
"People will be watching him closely and viewing it. And they have a right to do that," Perkins said in an interview on C-SPAN's Newsmakers program, scheduled to air Sunday. "When you do something like that, you open yourself to greater scrutiny and criticism and it's just something you'll have to live with."
In 2009, when there was speculation Vitter would be vulnerable in a primary, Perkins was mentioned as a possible challenger, but he quickly squelched the possibility. He has frequently been touted as a future candidate for political office, including for Vitter's Senate seat if he wins the governorship in 2015.
Vitter announced Tuesday that he is running to succeed Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is term-limited. He starts as the early front-runner, but he faces a possible intraparty challenge from Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne. Meanwhile, Democrats are hoping popular New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu enters the race.
In 2007, Vitter apologized to the public, with his wife by his side, when his number appeared on the call list of the "D.C. Madam," Deborah Jeane Palfrey. But he made an impressive political comeback three years later, winning reelection with 57 percent of the vote against then-Democratic Rep. Charlie Melancon, who made an issue of Vitter's "sin" during the campaign.
"Knowing David and having conversations with David, I feel comfortable those issues in his life have been dealt with and that he's on the right track," said Perkins, one of the country's most prominent social conservatives.
Asked whether a candidate's personal issues should be relevant to the public, Perkins said: "I don't buy into this idea that you have a personal life and a public life. That's a false dichotomy. You are who you are. When the pressure comes, more of what you are is going to come forth."