During the gubernatorial campaign, the opponents of U.S. Sen. David Vitter have been saying lately that he skips candidate forums where he doesn’t get the questions in advance. That way, he can avoid getting an unwanted question about the sexual indiscretion he admitted in 2007 to having committed several years earlier.
Vitter got the question at a forum Monday night hosted by the Alliance for Good Government, and he wasn’t happy about it.
Have you ever violated Title 14 under Louisiana statutes?
Title 14 refers to the entire criminal code in Louisiana. In other words, the question was asking whether any of the candidates had ever violated the law.
In 2007, Vitter admitted to a “very serious sin” with the so-called D.C. Madam prostitution scandal in Washington. But when he ran for re-election in 2010, he dodged the question of whether he had broken the law.
Of the four major candidates, state Rep. John Bel Edwards and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle were absent.
Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne answered first. “It’s a question that ought to be asked,” Dardenne replied and then said he had never violated Title 14 and never would.
“Off the top of my head, I couldn’t cite you Title 14,” Vitter began his answer Monday night. “I don’t know exactly what it says. But given that Jay Dardenne knows exactly what it’s about, this question was obviously planted as a gotcha question at me.”
He repeated the accusation: “It’s a gotcha question, not a good public debate question for a discussion about the future of Louisiana. So let’s all recognize what’s going on here and what it’s all about. I’ve spoken about my past and how my family has dealt with that, actions from 15 years ago and how me and my family have dealt with that. I’m very happy and very proud to say we’ve dealt with it just fine. If that’s not good enough for you, then that’s not good enough for you. But it is for Wendy [his wife] and it is for our family. It is for us. I really don’t appreciate the games and the gotcha question planted on behalf of my opponents.”
The question came from one of several asked by Anna Friedberg, a criminal defense attorney representing the Orleans chapter of the Alliance for Good Government.
“That was the Orleans chapter’s question,” Friedberg said afterward, suppressing a giggle at the idea that they had coordinated the question with the Dardenne campaign.
The lieutenant governor expressed surprise afterward that Vitter – who like Dardenne is an attorney – couldn’t identify Title 14. “It’s the whole criminal code,” Dardenne said. “Every lawyer knows that.” As he walked away, he added, “I didn’t even know the lady would ask the question.”