Press Club event turns testy between candidates Edwards, Vitter

BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - On a day that he would stand inches away from his opponent, U.S. Sen. David Vitter released an ad admitting he "failed" his family in the years-old prostitution scandal once again encircling him.

Republican Vitter and Democratic State Rep. John Bel Edwards faced off Monday before members of the Baton Rouge Press Club and other members of the media.

Over the weekend, Edwards began airing a scathing attack ad against Vitter. In it, a woman's voice is heard saying:

"John Bel Edwards, who answered our country's call and served as a ranger of the 82nd Airborne Division, or David Vitter who answered a prostitute's call minutes after he skipped a vote honoring 28 soldiers who gave their lives in defense of our freedom.  David Vitter chose prostitutes over patriots. Now the choice is yours."

On Monday, Vitter released an ad of his own, apparently in hopes of diffusing the bite of the Edwards' ad. In the ad, Vitter says:

"Fifteen years ago I failed my family, but found forgiveness and love. I learned that our falls aren't what define us, but rather how we get up accept responsibility and earn redemption."

During the Baton Rouge Press Club event, FOX 8 News asked Vitter to the "prostitutes over patriots" ad.

"As I have said before I failed my family 15 years ago, everyone knows that, I've talked very directly about that, and the circumstances of that are very well known," Vitter said. "The good news is I asked for and received forgiveness soon after that, and I thank God for that every day."

Also Vitter had years ago said he committed a serious sin, but did not elaborate. He has been dogged for year by the prostitution scandal involving the D.C. madam who ran a call girl service, but managed to win re-election to the U.S. Senate. But the scandal took blew up again when gubernatorial candidates hit Vitter hard on the issue of integrity.

"The issue isn't just family and it isn't just forgiveness, his performance of his public duties were compromised as well. He missed key votes honoring veterans," said Edwards in response to Vitter's statement on the issue.

Edwards, who vowed on the night he landed in the runoff not to engage in negative campaigning, said Vitter forced his hand by constantly attacking him.

"I am not going to go to my corner and cower down like what has happened in the past when Sen. Vitter decides that he's going to be the schoolyard bully. It just won't happen," Edwards said.

"Since the beginning of this campaign I've been the target of way more negative campaigning," Vitter said.

Also on Monday, Edwards agreed to remove images of Arlington National Cemetery from his attack ad.  He agreed to do so after the family of a Louisiana National Guardsman who is buried in the cemetery objected to the images.

And at one point, things got testy between the candidates on the subject of campaign trackers and private investigators. Vitter tried to defend having a private investigator taking video at a Metairie coffee house recently, where Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand was sitting with a group that included businessman and attorney John Cummings.

Vitter called the controversy over the incident silly, but added, "There is one serious side to that coffee shop incident, and I'll tell you exactly what it is. That person was researching a serious matter, of  what I believe is an illegal scheme between a business associate and major donor of John Bel Edwards and a private investigator to pay for false testimony from witnesses against me. I referred that some time ago, weeks ago, to the U.S. attorney and the FBI with significant supporting affidavits, and documentation."

However, Vitter said the private investigator working on his behalf was not doing anything illegal.

Edwards said it is not an approach to seeking political office that he has taken.

"John Bel Edwards has never hired a tracker, there was nobody tracking Sen. Vitter or anybody else for me," he said.

The election is Nov. 21.

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