Congressman Charles Boustany's full-throated denial of allegations that he frequented prostitutes in Jefferson Davis Parish reminds me of the classic opening statement of attorney Vincent Gambini in the film My Cousin Vinny. After the prosecutor presents his opener, Gambini walks over to the jury box, points to his opponent and says, "Everything that guy just said is bullshit."
Boustany lacked Gambini's eloquence in a conference call with political reporters last week, but he more than made up for that with righteous indignation. Considering the sources for the allegations are all unnamed, and considering Boustany has never been implicated in anything like this before, his anger is understandable.
What makes this an interesting story to me is the politics of it all, not the sex. The allegations only surfaced in the late stages of a campaign, not before — in contrast to the sex scandal that hounded U.S. Sen. David Vitter for years and ultimately ended his career. It's ironic that Boustany and 23 others are now running for Vitter's seat in the Nov. 8 jungle primary.
The political angle is what Boustany focused on in his conference call, taking more shots at state Treasurer John Kennedy, the front-runner in the Senate race, than at Ethan Brown, author of the book Murder In the Bayou, in which the allegations appear. Boustany claimed the treasurer's campaign encouraged news organizations to cover the accusations by sending emails touting them.
For the record, Brown makes it clear that Boustany is in no way suspected of having anything to do with the deaths of any of the "Jeff Davis 8," as the murdered women about which the book is written are known. Brown cites unnamed sources as saying Boustany had sex with some of the murdered sex workers at a motel operated by a man known as "Big G" who, until recently, worked as a "field rep" for Boustany. Brown and his publisher, Simon & Schuster, stand by the book's allegations.
After blaming Kennedy for bringing the book's accusations to the media's attention, Boustany delivered a campaign broadside of his own: "John Kennedy doesn't care about my family or the people of Louisiana," he said. "He cares only about saving the twilight of his own political career."
Well, OK, if this is about politics, then open the silos. Which is exactly what the Kennedy campaign did, responding in what The Washington Post aptly called "a historically great denial." In a Vitteresque rhetorical flourish, Team Kennedy tweeted, "I want to be very clear that my campaign played absolutely no role in creating this story alleging Congressman Boustany's sexual relationships with prostitutes that were later murdered, his staff's alleged involvement in running the bar and hotel where this illicit behavior took place or publishing the book Murder In the Bayou written by Ethan Brown and published by Simon and Schuster. My wife, Becky, and I are keeping the Congressman, Mrs. Boustany and their children in our prayers as they deal with this as a family."
Slate called Kennedy's reply "an all-timer in the political art of weaponizing denial."
The election is still seven weeks away. Before it's over, don't be surprised if Boustany trots out the Gambini opener after all.