Our initial story about Sen. David Vitter’s alleged mistress accusing him of impregnating her and then telling her to get an abortion was pulled this morning (Oct. 18) when we received court documents that conflict with parts of a story published by Jason Brad Berry of the American Zombie investigative blog.
This story is an update. The bottom line is this: There are holes in parts of the woman’s story, but this remains largely a “she said/he said” tale that may never be proved totally true or totally false. Vitter is not commenting, nor is anyone from his campaign for governor.
The woman, identified by Berry as Wendy Ellis, has an extensive criminal record (including forgery and theft) and has made prior inconsistent statements that undercut her overall credibility. She did pass a polygraph test in 2007 that reportedly verified her having a sexual relationship for “at least four months” with Vitter. Vitter in 2007 denied all stories relating to prostitutes in New Orleans, but he has since refused to discuss anything related to the woman’s claims, including the polygraph or Berry’s recent online story.
Ellis also has produced no tangible evidence that Vitter fathered a child with her in 2000 or that he told her to abort the child. She gave the child up for adoption. She also has produced nothing tangible to support her claim that Vitter put her up in an apartment and visited her regularly for trysts from 1998 until some time in 2000. Moreover, Vitter was elected to Congress in May 1999. Like many members of Congress, his family remained in his district and he returned home often.
Ellis is the same woman who came forward in 2007 to say that she had a sexual relationship with Vitter for “at least four months,” according to a story that same year published by The Times-Picayune. In that story, the Picayune quoted a nationally recognized polygraph expert who said the test of Ellis showed “no deception intended” in her answers about her relationship with Vitter. The TP story noted that the polygraph examination did not go into details about the alleged relationship.
After Berry posted portions of his videotaped interview with Ellis on Oct. 17, several news organizations (not Gambit) received information that undercuts portions of Williams’ story. Gambit received that information on Oct. 18.
According to court documents in Arkansas, Ellis (then known as Wendy Williams) in September 2001 sent a handwritten plea to a judge who had just sentenced her to 10 years in prison for violating the terms of an earlier probation. In that 2001 letter, she makes several statements that contradict portions of what she has since told Berry and others. Two of those statements stand out:
• Ellis has said to Berry and others since 2007 that she worked for an escort service in New Orleans and she met Vitter through that service. In her 2001 letter to the judge, she wrote: “Now, when I stood before you, I was accused of working for an Escort Service and stripping. Sir, yes I danced as I told you but I never worked for an Escort Service.” That statement to the judge directly contradicts her later statements about working for a service in New Orleans in the late 1990s.
• Ellis told Berry on videotape that she had sex exclusively with Vitter from 1998 until she got pregnant in 2000. In her letter to the judge, she wrote that she was diagnosed with acute lymphoma leukemia in January 1999 and began seven months of treatment. “I took chemotherapy and radiation treatments for seven months, the first month was a treatment every other day. This is neither here nor there, but it woke me up! I made a promise that once I was in remission for one year, I would turn myself in and face my problems. Within that year, I met a man in Orlando, Florida where my mother lives. He and I had a wonderful life and decided that if we were going to spend the rest of our lives together, we needed to go ahead and take care of this.”
The reference to meeting the man from Florida “within that year” is ambiguous. Does it mean the calendar year 1999, or some time during the 12 months after she went into remission (and it’s not known when “remission” began)? This is a key point. If Ellis's relationship with the man began in 1999, it clearly undercuts her claim that she was only intimate with Vitter during that time. If it began sometime in 2000, possibly even after she got pregnant or after she gave the child up for adoption, her story still could be true. There’s no tangible evidence to support either conclusion. At a minimum, her letter to the judge presents inconsistencies with her latest story.
In her videotaped interview with Berry, Ellis states that she now has lupus and is dying. She says she wants to set the record straight before she dies.
In 2007, Vitter admitted a “very serious sin” after his name turned up in the phone records of Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the so-called D.C. Madam who was accused of running a high-end prostitution ring. According to published reports, records show that Vitter’s phone was dialed by Palfrey’s phone five times from October 1999 (five months after he arrived in Congress) through February 2001. That revelation in 2007 led to Vitter having to defend himself against accusations of consorting with prostitutes - both in Washington D.C. and in New Orleans.
Vitter has never answered questions from the media or the public about the matter. He and his wife made an in-person statement to the media in July 2007 that Vitter had sought forgiveness from God and his wife and that the issue was behind them. Vitter also stated at that time that “those New Orleans stories … are not true” - a reference to allegations that he had consorted with prostitutes in New Orleans. Since then, Vitter has declined to discuss that topic with any news media and has avoided media contact as much as possible.
Berry says he stands by his story and will continue to investigate.
In the final week of the Louisiana gubernatorial primary, Vitter is not expected to attend any debates.