A private investigator hired by Sen. David Vitter’s (R-LA) gubernatorial campaign is on tape saying he wanted to “keep the mainstream media neutered” on a prostitution scandal involving him, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand said Tuesday.
Normand divulged that information at a press conference about last month’s arrest of Robert Frenzel, a private investigator employed by the Vitter campaign who fled after Normand caught him recording the sheriff’s breakfast meeting in a cafe.
Normand said that investigators recovered a second video from devices they confiscated from Frenzel in addition to video of the coffee shop meeting. That second video, he said, showed Frenzel’s boss, Wes Bearden, giving a female witness leading statements as she wrote out an affidavit. The sheriff did not identify the female witness but said the pair “were trying to discredit Wendy Cortez.”
Wendy Cortez, who also goes by the last name Ellis, is a prostitute who claimed in a 2007 interview with Hustler magazine that Vitter had been one of her customers. She recently re-surfaced in a series of video interviews with local blogger Jason Berry. Cortez claimed in those videos that Vitter impregnated her and demanded that she get an abortion, but she ultimately decided to give the child up for adoption.
Cortez’s claims are unconfirmed and have been surfaced by few news outlets in Louisiana.
The video showed Bearden had told the unidentified witness that his goal was to “keep the mainstream media neutered” on the prostitution story, according to Normand.
The sheriff said the FBI was now involved in the case.
A gubernatorial debate between Vitter and his Democratic opponent, state Rep. John Bel Edwards, was scheduled for Tuesday night.
This post has been updated.
Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at email@example.com.