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ABC says they would have reported Vitter's name if they had it
Michael Roston
Published: Tuesday July 10, 2007
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Update: This story has been updated to reflect confirmation from AP that it did not contact Senator Vitter.

It might just be a story of the scoop that got away.

ABC News told RAW STORY Tuesday morning that if its investigative reporting team had known Republican Senator David Vitter of Louisiana was a former client of so-called 'DC Madam' Deborah Palfrey, they would have reported it.

"I think we said at the time, and I can certainly say now that if a member of Congress or a United State Senator had come up on the list, and we were able to confirm that, we would have absolutely reported that," said Jeffrey Schneider, an ABC News spokesman, in a Tuesday morning phone interview with RAW STORY.

Schneider told RAW STORY that ABC News's Investigative team, led by award winning reporter Brian Ross, was not working with a full set of records from Palfrey's business.

"We had access to documents from 2002 to 2006, and we believe that we had access to possibly as much as 80% of those records," Schneider explained. "As you know, Ms. Palfrey had records going back more than 10 years, and we did not have all of the records, but we did very meticulous reporting on the records we did have."

He added, "There are obviously six other years of records that were just released, and the Senator's number must have been on one of those years we didn't have."

In fact, Palfrey had records for 13 years, which would mean nine more years of records from Palfrey to which ABC News claims it did not have access.

Vitter outed himself after Hustler called

Notably, it appears that AP was alerted to Vitter's presence on the list by the Republican Senator himself.

"The statement containing Vitter's apology says his telephone number was on old phone records of an escort service before he ran for the Senate," said a version of the story from the Associated Press that ran on Monday night.

AP Director of Media Relations Paul Colford sent an e-mail to RAW STORY stating that "Sen. Vitterís statement came into the APís New Orleans bureau without prior contact from the AP."

The magazine Hustler in a Tuesday afternoon press release then claimed responsibility for Vitter's decision to identify himself to AP as a former DC Madam client.

"Within hours of a phone call from the offices of HUSTLER Magazine asking Vitter to comment on an article HUSTLER reporters were working on, Vitter ran to the Associated Press in an attempt to get ahead of the story," said the statement e-mailed to RAW STORY. "As of 2 p.m. West Coast time on Monday, only Larry Flynt and the HUSTLER investigative team knew that Vitterís phone number appeared on the phone records of Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the so-called D.C. Madam. Within hours of obtaining the phone records, Flynt's team found what ABC News has so far been unable to ferret out."

Vitter's office did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment on whether the Senator had approached AP first.

ABC News's Schneider explained that ABC News had decided to report all names from the DC Madam's list that it considered 'newsworthy.' Former Undersecretary of State Randall L. Tobias was one official who was identified. Tobias, the former point man on promoting abstinence in US-led HIV/AIDS prevention efforts, resigned from his post after Ross and Justin Rood reported that he had been one of Palfrey's clients.

Harlan Ullman, a military affairs analyst, was also identified as a customer of Palfrey's escort service.