My wife received an invitation in the mail Monday (March 23).
It was an invitation to a David Vitter Town Hall Meeting next Monday (March 30) in the East Baton Rouge Parish Council chambers in Baton Rouge at 9:30 a.m.
Needless to say, we are more than a little curious as to why she would get such an invitation from him inasmuch as both she and I are former Republicans now enrolled in RR (Recovering Republicans) and participating in the 12-Step Program.
To be fair, under her name in the address were the words “or current resident,” the implication being that whoever dwells in our house is invited.
Regardless, I’m not entirely certain I want my wife or any of my three daughters in the same room with this man—and not just because of the obvious—the 2007 revelations of Vitter’s association with the former (now deceased) D.C. Madam, Deborah Jeane Palfrey prior to his 2004 election to the U.S. Senate (while he was serving in the U.S. House of Representatives).
Neither is it a claim by former New Orleans Madam Jeanette Maier that Vitter had been a client of hers in the late 1990s.
Nope. It’s the 1993 case of Mary Mercedes Hernandez that sounds alarms and raises red flags for me.
Who is Mary Mercedes Hernandez, you ask?
Fair question. She is a conservative Republican whom Vitter defeated in the race for the District 81seat in the Louisiana House of Representatives in 1991.
In April of 1993, Vitter was one of 16 New Orleans-area House members who voted not to table House Bill 1013 which would have made it illegal for employers or insurers to discriminate based on sexual orientation. There was some feeling that he voted not to kill the bill so that it could be debated on the House floor—and defeated on its merits.
Later that same year, on Sept. 21, Hernandez attended a “town hall meeting” held by Vitter at the American Legion Hall in Metairie. She, along with other constituents, had been invited to attend the meeting by Vitter (we’re seeing a trend here) to “discuss state issues,” she said in a lawsuit she filed against Vitter for physically attacking her at the meeting.
Documents obtained Monday by LouisianaVoice show that Vitter counter-sued Hernandez for harassment, naming prominent state Republican officials as her co-conspirators but that in the end, a judgement was signed in favor of Hernandez and Vitter paid Hernandez a small amount of money to settle her lawsuit in March of 1998, the year before he won a 1999 special election to succeed U.S. Rep. Bob Livingston who resigned following disclosures of his own extra-marital affair. VITTER 1993 ASSAULT CASE
The amount of the final settlement—a mere $50—isn’t nearly as important as what the few pages reveal about Vitter and how he can go on the attack when challenged.
For example, among the documents obtained by LouisianaVoice was a letter written by Vitter two years after the suit was filed, and while it was still moving through the legal system, to Livingston.
The letter, dated April 12, 1995, read:
- “Thank you very much for your recent letter inviting me to help support the East Jefferson Parish Republic PAC with a significant contribution. I have been an active participant in and supporter of the PAC in the past, and would love to continue that support. However, one matter prevents me from doing so at this time.
- “Several months ago, a Ms. Mercedes Hernandez slapped me with an utterly frivolous lawsuit which continues to languish in the courts. This is a continuation of a personal vendetta against me on the part of not only Ms. Hernandez, but other persons active in the PAC, specifically including John Treen and Vincent Bruno. Both Messrs. Treen and Bruno were instrumental in encouraging this harassing action. In light of this and in light of these persons’ continued active involvement in the PAC, I will have nothing to do with the PAC’s fundraising efforts.
- “I can easily tolerate sincere disagreements with people. I can even tolerate serious disagreements which lead to litigation. But I will have nothing to do with people who pervert the judicial system to harass me, carry out a personal vendetta, and directly harm not only me but my wife and child as well.”
John Treen, the older brother of the late Gov. Dave Treen, lost a 1989 special election to the Louisiana House of Representatives to Ku Klux Klansman David Duke and Dave Treen lost to Vitter in that 1999 election to succeed Livingston by a scant 1,812 votes. Bruno was a member of the Republican Party’s State Central Committee and worked in the 1999 Dave Treen congressional campaign.
So, it’s easy to see that bitter feelings were running deep when Hernandez asked Vitter during a question and answer session to explain the intent of House Bill 1013, the so-called “Gay Rights Bill,” had failed by a 71-24 vote in April of that year—with Vitter voting against passage. It might even reasonably be called ambush journalism—but sometimes that’s the only way to get an answer from some of our elected officials (see Bobby Jindal).
In her petition, she said Vitter “became agitated and enraged,” left the podium and advanced toward her in a “threatening manner, pushing aside chairs where were in his path,” and wrenched a portable tape recorder from her grasp, causing injuries to her right hand.
In the classic defense of “My dog doesn’t bite,” “I keep my dog in my yard,” “I don’t own a dog,” Vitter denied that (a) the incident occurred, (b) he had no intent to cause “physical contact or the apprehension of physical contact,” (c) “any contact was incidental,” (d) that Hernandez “sustained no injuries as a result of the alleged events in question,” and (e) Hernandez should be held in comparative negligence and assumption of risk…in mitigation or in reduction of any damages recoverable by the plaintiff…”
And then he filed a reconventional demand, or countersuit, claiming that Hernandez had gained the floor at the “town hall meeting” to “spread false, malicious and damaging information about Mr. Vitter, particularly concerning his voting record with regard to gay rights.”
Hernandez, in her answer to Vitter’s reconventional demand, described herself as a conservative Republican and active as a member of the Jefferson Parish Republican Party. She said she wanted him to explain the “Gay Rights Bill” and his position on the bill because she “had heard that he was a co-author of the bill” by former Rep. Troy Carter (D-Algiers).
(An attempt by LouisianaVoice to determine the names of any co-sponsors of the bill was unsuccessful because the Legislature’s web page which tracks bills in current and past sessions goes back only to 1997.)
She said “after being assaulted and battered” by Vitter “in front of scores of people,” she left the meeting and went to a nearby restaurant where she met a friend, Peggy Childers, who had been seated next to her at the meeting and who had witnessed the encounter.
It was Childers, she said, who suggested that she contact John Treen, “a friend and very prominent and respected member of the Republican Party, for advice. The following day, Sept. 22, she met with John Treen, Ms. Childers, Bruno (then Vice-Chairman of the Jefferson Parish Republican Party), and several others.
The judgment against Vitter was for a pittance ($50, plus judicial interest and costs is certainly that in any legal proceeding), but it did vindicate Hernandez and the entire matter illustrates the mental makeup of the man who wants to be our next governor.
(An earlier post of this story incorrectly said Vitter voted to kill the bill.)