CNN Tries to Rehabilitate Scandal-Tainted Eliot Spitzer (Again)

Would Eliot Spitzer be getting such a boost from CNN if he were a Republican? The former Democratic New York governor resigned in 2008 over a prostitution scandal, but less than three years later he snagged a prime-time show on CNN. On Wednesday night he enjoyed a nice promotion from CNN's Piers Morgan as he runs for New York City comptroller.

Morgan largely avoided Spitzer's 2008 scandal – except to use it for his "comeback" narrative. "This is all part of a comeback. You are the 'Comeback Kid.' Do you like being the 'Comeback Kid?'" he asked Spitzer.

Morgan also got Spitzer to pitch his own comptroller skills, hailing him as the "Sheriff of Wall Street":

"Well, we have record earnings again down at the banks and Wall Street is buzzing again. You were known as the sheriff of Wall Street. Have they been policed properly in your view since the huge crash?"

And Morgan cited positive poll numbers for Spitzer and fellow scandal-tainted Democrat Anthony Weiner to ask about the public's "power of forgiveness."

Spitzer touted his skills and hoped voters would "give him a second chance." Morgan answered, "Well, they seem to be. And that's what the polls are suggesting." He plugged Spitzer's book and concluded the chummy interview, "I've always been a fan. I'll remain a fan."

Below is a transcript of the segment, which aired on July 17 on Piers Morgan Live at 9:49 p.m. EDT:

[9:49]

PIERS MORGAN: Eliot Spitzer's sex scandal cost him his job as New York's governor. Many thought it would destroy his political career but now he's back, running for office again. This time as New York City's comptroller. The polls show he's leading the race, but can he really pull off a victory?

Eliot Spitzer is in the chair tonight or maybe we should call it "in the arena" because that was the tile of his own show here at CNN. His new book is "Protecting Capitalism Case by Case." Eliot, great to see you again.

ELIOT SPITZER (D), former New York governor: Well, thank you. It's great to be back.

MORGAN: We joined CNN –

SPITZER: On this side of the table.

MORGAN: – at roughly at the same time. And –

SPITZER: You're still here.

MORGAN: I'm still here.

(Laughter)

(...)

MORGAN: Let's move to your book, "Protecting Capitalism Case by Case." Eliot Spitzer. This is all part of a comeback. You are the "Comeback Kid." Do you like being the "Comeback Kid?"

SPITZER: Well, I would have preferred not to have needed to be a comeback kid, but that's –

(Laughter)

If it's the only alternative I've got, sure. Look, the book, the genesis of the book was certainly the eight years as attorney general where he made cases, and I wanted to put it into a theoretical construct. Then I taught for several years at CCNY, thoroughly loved it. And so I said, let me try to write this stuff down. And it's an argument in defense of capitalism. People – you know, there are folks who disagreed with me who said no, no, no, you're messing with the rules of capitalism.

The argument in this book is that if you understand markets properly as I think these cases demonstrate I do, you understand where you need enforcement, where you need the notion of self-regulation doesn't work, you need to ensure competition, you need to ensure there are no conflicts of interest.

The things that had infected Wall Street that I was saying back in, you know, years before the cataclysm, I said guys, if we do not tame these problems, we do not temper these impulses, there's going to be an issue.

MORGAN: Well, we have record earnings again down at the banks and Wall Street is buzzing again. You were known as the sheriff of Wall Street. Have they been policed properly in your view since the huge crash?

SPITZER: No. I -- look -- no, there's not been sufficient accountability and I write a little bit about that. I'm glad the profits are back. You know, profits are good. You know, as I say, you want capital formation, you want the banks to be healthy. You want them to be better capitalized. We did not either succeed in insuring accountability for those. There were malefactors who should have been sanctioned. OK. Put that aside.

More fundamentally did we reform the sector properly, and I think the problem is we did not. We still have too big to fail, we have too big to manage, and we also have almost – you know, with the government just said they're too big to prosecute. And so you put those three together, it leads to a situation where bad things can happen once again. And I think – you know, John Kenneth Galbraith, who wrote a great book that I talk about in my book, you know, a short history of financial euphoria, makes the observation that we have a very short memory when it comes to financial crises.

We like to forget because it's an ugly moment. And yet we forget at our own peril because the lessons have to be internalized or else we'll be in trouble.

MORGAN: Talking of forgetting your peril and lessons learned, you and Anthony Weiner both ahead in the polls in your relative races. What does that tell you about the American public's power of forgiveness?

SPITZER: Well, look, I don't read too much into polls. I would say this about the American public. It is a forgiving public. And that is, I think, an affirmative quality, you know, as a people. As I've said, and I believe very deeply, it doesn't mean that forgiveness will extend to me. That is an open question and this is a tough race. This has been, as you may have seen, you know, the media, you think you're in the media, you were once in the tabloid media, it can be a little edgy, and I knew that. I mean, this is not something that I -- that escaped my attention before --

MORGAN: But a lot of speculation about whether your wife Silda is behind this, whether you're still together. Do you want to clarify that?

SPITZER: Look, I'll say only this. Yes, the family is behind it. And I would not have done this without the family being behind it. It's also been a rather, you know, frenzied, shall I say, media moment. When I was down in Union Square the other day, literally I was stuck in a doughnut, it's called, with about 100 folks surrounding me.

So I would not have invited any member of my family into that context at this moment. But the family is behind it. And you know, beyond that I've said a lot about our personal lives. I think – you know, personal lives are personal lives. I'm running for an office where I think the skills I've got in terms of capital markets, finance, budget, and I hope the public will give me a second chance and say those skills relate to the job you're seeking.

MORGAN: Well, they seem to be. And that's what the polls are suggesting. "Protecting Capitalism Case by Case." Eliot Spitzer, it's great to have you back.

SPITZER: Thank you, sir.

MORGAN: I've always been a fan. I'll remain a fan. Good to see you again. 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014