NEW ORLEANS – Robert Livingston, the former Louisiana congressman who resigned in the late 1990s after admitting to extramarital affairs, said his situation is not at all like U.S. Sen. David Vitter's, and he urged Vitter not to resign.
Monday, Vitter, R-La., acknowledged a past "serious sin" involving an escort service that federal prosecutors claim was a prostitution ring. Since then, he has stayed out of the public eye, as several Republicans, including prominent members of the state GOP, have offered support and critics have accused the family values politician of hypocrisy.
Livingston, in an interview with WWL TV, said he had urged the fellow Republican "to pick himself up and charge forward. We need him."
Livingston was in line to be House speaker when he resigned during hearings to impeach President Clinton in 1998, after admitting to affairs. Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, who investigated Livingston, took credit for his resignation.
Hustler said it also discovered Vitter's number in phone records released by Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the woman prosecutors allege ran a Washington, D.C., prostitution ring, and told him, hours before Vitter released his apology. Palfrey maintains her escort service was a legitimate business that offered sexual fantasies.
Livingston said his leadership role makes his situation different from that of Vitter, who succeeded him in the House and is the state's junior senator.
"I think David Vitter should stay right where he is," he told the station in an interview Friday. Efforts to reach Livingston Saturday were not successful.
U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal, R-La., who is running for governor, offered more tepid support. He said he and his wife were disappointed by Vitter's actions but are keeping the Vitter family in their prayers.
"This is a matter for the senator to address, and it is our hope that this is not used by others for their own political gain," Jindal said.
U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said he had exchanged e-mails with Vitter and expected him in Washington, D.C., by Tuesday. Vitter missed votes Tuesday through Friday, and his whereabouts over the last week have been the source of much speculation.
Political analyst Elliott Stonecipher said it's unusual for a senator to be out of sight so long and "does not look good."
"It suggests there's a lot more family concern and issues and, you know, I hope I'm wrong in that. ... Maybe he's really really, really struggling with this," he said.
"Something else is operating, but it's pure speculation on my part what," he said.