Louisiana Sen. David Vitter apologized again Monday to constituents and friends for his connection to an alleged prostitution ring in Washington, D.C., but said he's been to church and marriage counseling and has received forgiveness from God and his wife.
Vitter added that stories about him visiting a brothel in New Orleans "are not true."
"I want to again offer my deep, sincere apologies to all those I have let down and disappointed with these actions from my past," said the 46-year-old Republican, who lives with his wife, Wendy, and four children in a New Orleans suburb.
Since the time he first admitted to his wife about the dalliances, which he did not detail but claim took place while he was a congressman in the 1990s, Vitter said he has "gotten up every morning committed to trying to live up to the important values we believe in. If continuing to believe in and acknowledge those values causes some to attack me because of my past failings, well, so be it."
"Unfortunately, my admission has encouraged some long-time political enemies and those hoping to profit from the situation to spread falsehoods too, like those New Orleans stories in recent reporting. Those stories are not true," he said.
Wendy Vitter said she chose to forgive her husband when she first learned about Vitter's indiscretions.
"When David and I dealt with this privately years ago, I forgave David. I made the decision to love him and to recommit to our marriage. To forgive is not always the easy choice, but it was and is the right choice for me. David is my best friend," she said.
"Last week, some people very sympathetically said to me, 'I wouldn't want to be in your shoes right now.' I stand before you to tell you very proudly, I am proud to be Wendy Vitter," she added.
The remarks were the first public statements since Vitter was linked to the alleged D.C. Madam and a high-priced brothel in his hometown. His comments came a week after he first apologized and then went into seclusion following the revelation that his telephone number appeared on phone records of Pamela Martin and Associates, an escort service in Washington, D.C.
Federal prosecutors have accused Deborah Jeane Palfrey, who ran Pamela Martin and Associates, of racketeering. The service netted more than $2 million in the 13 years since it opened in 1993. Palfrey contends that her escort service was a legitimate business offering sexual fantasies. A judge ruled last week that Palfrey is permitted to release the records.
A day after the thousands of numbers were posted on her Web site, a former madam in New Orleans claimed Vitter frequented her establishment. Jeanette Maier said Vitter was once a client of the Canal Street brothel. She pleaded guilty to running the operation in 2002. Vitter won his seat in the U.S. Senate in 2004.
Saying he was a "decent guy" who appeared to be in need of company when he visited the brothel, Maier added unexpected details to a scandal enveloping the first-term conservative senator.
"As far as the girls coming out after seeing David, all they had was nice things to say. It wasn't all about sex. In fact, he just wanted to have somebody listen to him, you know. And I said his wife must not be listening," Maier said in an interview with The Associated Press.
"He is a decent guy. He's not a freak. He's not using drugs. He's not using taxpayers' money to buy hookers or drugs or anything like that. He's just a decent, normal guy," she said.
Vinny Mosca, Maier's attorney in the brothel case, said in a statement last week that Maier never told him about Vitter being a client and that his name never came up in the case.
Mosca also said Vitter's name "was never picked up on any government wiretap nor is it listed in any transcript or court document as part of the Canal Street brothel case."
On Monday, the senator denied ties to the New Orleans brothel. His wife then stepped to the podium and asked the media to leave her family alone.
"You know, in almost any other marriage, this would have been a private issue between a husband and a wife — very private. Obviously, it is not here," she said. "And now I'm going to speak to you as a mother and I hope you will understand. It's been terribly hard to have the media parked on our front lawn and following us every day."
"And yesterday, the media was camped at our church — at our home, and at our church every day. As David returns to work in Washington, we're going to return to our life here. I would ask you very respectfully to let us continue our summer and our lives as we had planned."
Vitter recently played a prominent role in derailing an immigration bill backed by President Bush. He also is a key supporter of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's presidential bid, serving as regional campaign chairman for the South.
Vitter said he was returning immediately to Washington, D.C., to participate in Tuesday's votes on the defense authorization bill, and to continue work on behalf of Louisiana.