A Hooker May Cost Eliot Spitzer His Job

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New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s professional future hangs in the lurch, after the New York Times (NYT)  exposed the politico for soliciting high-priced hookers from the prostitution ring identified in court papers as Emperor’s Club VIP.


The Emperor’s Club website, which has since been removed, emphasized their professional discretion:

“As a private, international club specializing in catering to the needs of the world's most financially and culturally elite, privacy and discretion are paramount objectives in everything we do,” it stated. 


The club may have promised privacy, but apparently Spitzer's business was not impervious to federal wiretapping, which recorded the governor arranging to meet a prostitute in a Washington D.C. hotel room on February 13. Spitzer has yet to address whether he will resign, but the Governor faces a unique challenge in overcoming this personal crisis. Once touted as the “Sheriff of Wall Street,” his political legacy was built on stamping out ethically challenged business practices. 


It’s unclear how hard the one-time Time magazine (TWX)  “Crusader of the Year” will fall. But experts say his career is in trouble. “I don’t think [he] can survive this,” says Jonathan Bernstein, president of Bernstein Crisis Management Inc. a national crisis management firm based in Los Angeles and author of Keeping the Wolves at Bay. “It’s extremely difficult to recover from a situation that brands you as someone who has cheated on his wife, and broken the law, and is a hypocrite. This is a guy that busted prostitution rings.” And because of Spitzer’s ruthlessness in prosecuting high brow corruption, the public will be far less sympathetic to his plight. “He hasn’t showed compassion for his targets,” says Eric Dezenhall of Dezenhall Resources a High Stakes Communications and Marketplace Defense firm and author of Damage Control. That leaves two options, Dezenhall says. Step down and give up the governor’s mansion, or attempt to fight, claiming it as a personal matter. “But that is hard because there is the ruthlessness with which Spitzer has pursued his targets,” says Dezenhall. 


Of course not all careers are put to bed by hooker hook-ups. Charlie Sheen was famously one of Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss' most frequent customers, after reportedly dropping more than $50,000 on “services.” Now the one-time bad boy stars on the CBS (CBS) sitcom, Two and a Half Men. Other stars who emerged from prostitution scandals unscathed include Hugh Grant and Eddie Murphy. That is because success in certain industries is less contingent on moral character. Especially “if wild behavior is consistent with your reputation,” says Dezenhall. “An entertainment billionaire could survive [a prostitution scandal], an athlete could survive, a left of center politician could also probably survive with their career…but an entertainer that is associated with wholesomeness couldn’t survive.” Pastors and politicians? Again, good luck.


If anything, dealing with a “situation” like Spitzer’s is much more manageable at a corporate level than at public office. “If it’s the chairman of [a public company] the people who buy the [company's] products could care less,” says Bernstein. “But a public figure, well there is the question of is he undermining the credibility of the Democratic Party in New York.”

 

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