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Hustler says it revealed senator's link to escort service

  • Story Highlights
  • Magazine says its phone call prompted senator's confession
  • Publisher Larry Flynt had offered reward for information
  • Journalist working on book with alleged madam notified Flynt
  • Sen. David Vitter admits his phone number appears in escort service's records
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Larry Flynt's Hustler magazine claimed credit for exposing Sen. David Vitter's connection to the "D.C. Madam" Tuesday, saying Vitter confessed after a journalist reported finding the senator's number in the escort service's phone records.

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Sen. David Vitter apologized after his telephone number appeared among those linked to an escort service.

"Larry Flynt's ongoing investigation into the dirty secrets of prominent elected officials has exposed another hypocrite," Hustler said.

Vitter, R-Louisiana, admitted Monday that his telephone number turned up in the phone records of an escort service run by Deborah Jeane Palfrey, though he did not say he had sex with a prostitute. The records date from before he won his Senate seat in 2004.

"This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible," Vitter said in a statement given to reporters Monday night. "Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and from my wife in confession and marriage counseling."

Vitter, 46, represented New Orleans suburbs in the House of Representatives from 1999 to 2004, when he ran for the Senate. He is married and has four children. Video Watch what some in Vitter's state say about the admission »

Vitter was one of the top backers of a failed constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage and serves as the Southern regional chairman of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign. In his Monday statement, he offered his "deep and sincere apologies to all I have disappointed and let down in any way."

Palfrey was indicted in March on charges of money laundering and racketeering stemming from her business, Pamela Martin & Associates, which prosecutors allege was involved in prostitution. Palfrey has denied the charges, saying she operated a legitimate escort service.

In an effort to raise money for her legal defense, Palfrey tried to sell a telephone list containing names of more than 10,000 clients. A judge blocked her from selling the information, but she provided some of the documents to media outlets.

Dan Moldea, an investigative journalist working with Palfrey on a book, told CNN that he discovered Vitter's number in Palfrey's phone records and passed the information to Flynt.

"I had no idea who he was prior to then, although I'm sure he was a client and he's stated accordingly, but I don't remember this man," Palfrey said.

Hustler said an editor at the magazine called Vitter's office for a response Monday evening, spurring Vitter to issue his statement to The Associated Press.

Paul Colford, a spokesman for the wire service, said Vitter's statement "came into the AP's New Orleans bureau without prior contact from the AP."

Flynt took out a full-page ad in The Washington Post in June to offer $1 million for "documented evidence of illicit sexual or intimate relations with a congressman or senator."

Flynt launched a similar campaign in 1998 in an effort to counter the drive to impeach then-President Bill Clinton over allegations that he had lied about his relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Moldea worked with Flynt in that effort as well.

Moldea told CNN that he is a paid consultant for Flynt and Hustler and is not eligible for the $1 million prize.

Hustler's search led to the resignation of House Speaker-designate Robert Livingston -- whose congressional seat Vitter won the next year.

"Flynt's team is currently continuing its investigation into improprieties by other high-ranking elected officials," Hustler announced.

Vitter is the first lawmaker known to be linked to Palfrey's business, though State Department official Randall Tobias -- who promoted abstinence education as head of the Bush administration's effort to curb the spread of AIDS -- resigned in May after confirming he patronized Palfrey's business.

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Campaigning in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Giuliani said Vitter's apparent connection to the Palfrey case was a "personal issue." But he admitted, "Some people disappoint you."

Vitter's disclosure follows the June resignation of Giuliani's South Carolina campaign chairman, State Treasurer Thomas Ravenel, who was indicted on cocaine charges. Giuliani told reporters Tuesday "it's too early to tell" if Vitter will leave his campaign, and said he should not be judged on the problems of some people associated with his campaign or with his administration as New York mayor. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Brianna Keilar, Sean Callebs, Steve Brusk and Ninette Sosa contributed to this report.

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