Vitter Ally Says He’ll ‘Always Have That Cloud Over Him’

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins supports Vitter’s gubernatorial campaign but says his past scandal is fair game.

US Senator David Vitter (L) speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, September 30, 2013. Senator Vitter penned an amendment to nix subsidies for the health care of congressional staffers. 
National Journal
Josh Kraushaar
Jan. 23, 2014, 1 p.m.

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.”

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