Paper Exposes Australian Opposition Leader's Drunken Romp at NYC Strip Club

Australian opposition leader Kevin Rudd said he expected his lead in opinions polls will suffer after revelations in newspapers Sunday of his drunken night at a New York strip club.

"I think I'll take a belting in the opinion polls," Rudd told Nine Network television. Rudd will become prime minister if his center-left Labor Party wins elections expected in October or November.

The bookish 49-year-old former diplomat was responding to a report in News Corp. newspapers throughout Australia about a drunken night he had in the Manhattan strip club "Scores" with a fellow lawmaker and the editor of the New York Post in 2003.

The reports cited unnamed sources as saying Rudd, a committed Christian and family man, was warned by management against touching strippers.

"I have absolutely no recollection of that," Rudd said of the warning claim. "We'd had too much to drink, I accept that, but I think the big error was made just in going in there in the first place."

Rudd has been actively campaigning to draw the Christian vote away from the conservative government of Prime Minister John Howard by discussing his own personal faith — an unusual tactic in Australia, where politics and religion are usually kept separate.

Rudd rejected a newspaper columnist's view that the scandal gives the lie to his public image.

"I'm on the record as saying I'm as flawed and failed as the rest of them," Rudd said.

The editor who was with him on that night, Col Allan, an Australian employee of News Corp., told the newspapers that Rudd, then Labor's foreign affairs spokesman, had "behaved like a perfect gentleman."

The lawmaker who accompanied them, Warren Snowdon, denied that Rudd had touched a stripper or been warned by management.

"We stayed for a reasonably short length of time, nothing untoward happened and we left," Snowdon told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Senior government minister Peter Costello declined to comment on the reports.

Labor, which has lost the last four elections, has held a clear lead over the government in opinion polls since Rudd was elected leader last December.

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