Spitzer Used Daughters, Dogs in Uphill PR Battle

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Photo: Patrick McMullan

In Jonathan Darman's titillatingly good Newsweek profile of Eliot Spitzer, we learn that the disgraced ex-governor has no plans to run for his old public offices again, doesn't want to admit whether he went to therapy, and always knew what he was doing wrong when he paid prostitutes for sex behind his wife's back. But most telling, we thought, were the portions of the story in which he talked about how he used his daughters and his dogs to manage his and his family's PR image in the tough months after his epic downfall. In much the same way that he forced his wife Silda to stand next to him at his excruciating confessional first press conference, he says he never let his three daughters miss a day of school, even though that meant they were the first members of the clan to have to emerge to face the media and their peers. "I just hoped beyond hope that they would be able to walk out the front door without the media being too obtrusive," Spitzer explained. "I wanted to create a sense that, yeah, their dad had done something unforgivable, but we were still a family and we were going to make it through this."

Put that way, it gives you a little bit of the willies. But a much more cute (and telling, in a way) anecdote about the way Spitzer felt about himself involves his two dogs:

The first images of Eliot Spitzer, private citizen, were of a man in baggy sweatpants, trailing after his wheaten terrier, James. The photographers followed them. "I explained to James that he was a good-looking dog," Spitzer recalls. "People wanted to take his picture." He didn't know what he would encounter outside his door, but there was nothing he could do about it. "You put up barriers and sort of prepare yourself." ... A year later, he is still walking. Now he has a new companion. When he was a young politician with a tough-guy reputation, he preferred to walk only James and leave Jesse, the other family dog, at home. Jesse is a bichon frisé, the kind of dog that blue-haired women leave their fortunes to. "I wouldn't take her out in public," Spitzer recently explained. "I thought James was the better image for me." Now, most any weekend, he can be seen trailing after both animals. "It's like, OK, I have a bichon, a little white ball of fluff … I don't care. What do you have to lose?"


It's funny how he makes it sound brave to walk a bichon. Not nearly as brave, we'd argue, as having to go back to school the very morning after your father is exposed as America's most famous — and hypocritical — john.

Spitzer in Exile [Newsweek]