The XX Factor

Is It Wrong to Feel Sympathy for Eliot Spitzer?

I have a strange fascination with Eliot Spitzer. There, I said it. It’s true. I suppose that’s in part due to the fact that when Spitzergate roared its way into the headlines, I was running a project in which I was (for reasons that now escape me) collecting e-mails from men who had paid for sex about why they had paid for sex. Spitzer was one of those guys. I mean, he didn’t send me an e-mail (not that I’m aware of, anyway), but he was one more john who had paid for sex, and the only difference was that A) he had gotten caught and B) he was famous.


Since, I’ve followed the guy’s fall from grace and heady reascent to Slate columnist . Most recently, the kids over at Vanity Fair took him out to lunch , and John Heilpern succeeds in getting the former governor to open up over hotdogs. These days, Spitzer works for his father, a real estate tycoon. He’s worked doggedly to rehabilitate his reputation, but his candor is surprising (for a politician, at least). “What I did was heinous and wrong,” he has concluded. Apparently, he’s got a shrink, or something like it. “But I don’t view it like, ‘Gee! I’m in therapy,’” he protests.

He appears to be most ashamed of having successfully ruined his own hard-won legacy. “And that is a very hard thing to live with,” he notes. “When he turned away,” Heilpern observes, “I could see he was in tears.” It was a moving scene. Or maybe just the crocodile tears of a narcissist who had lost the spotlight.