Page last updated at 20:47 GMT, Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Spitzer's dramatic fall from grace

By Laura Trevelyan
BBC News, New York

Eliot Spitzer announces his resignation, wife Silda by his side, 12 March 2008
Spitzer has pledged to do public work outside the political arena
New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's fall from grace has all the elements of a Greek tragedy.

As the aggressive former attorney general of New York, famed as a crusader for justice, who took on corruption on Wall Street and organised crime, he was accused of hubris.

His nemesis came in the form of a prostitution scandal - the oldest profession in the world claiming the scalp of the squeaky clean one-time law enforcer.

As the man who became governor of New York state pledging to clean up government, once news of the sex scandal broke he was open to charges of hypocrisy, and his resignation became inevitable.

His political opponents threatened to drag him from office unless he quit.

Loyal wife

The governor who liked to call himself "the steamroller" reportedly came to the attention of prosecutors because he was moving money from a bank account in a suspicious manner.

New York Post front cover
New York's tabloid press seized on the governor's apparent hypocrisy

That led investigators to a high class prostitution agency, and to the revelation that Mr Spitzer was one of its clients.

New York's merciless tabloids descended, and reported on Wednesday that the governor had spent some $80,000 (39,500) on prostitutes.

Finally, after high drama and live television coverage of his limo as it tracked through Manhattan, Eliot Spitzer resigned, flanked by his loyal wife Silda, who stayed by his side despite everything.

Political fallout

As a Democratic party high-flier, one of the super-delegates who could be key to deciding who gets the Democratic party nomination, Mr Spitzer was expected to back Hillary Clinton.

Eliot Spitzer and Hillary Clinton take part in a parade in New York City, Oct 2006
Mr Spitzer had promised to support Mrs Clinton's presidential bid

Having resigned, he will no longer serve as a super-delegate, according to the Democratic National Committee.

But there is some consolation for Mrs Clinton.

David Paterson, the Lt Gov of New York who will replace Mr Spitzer in the top job on Monday, is also a super-delegate and has already been campaigning for her.

What has turned press and public alike against Mr Spitzer is the way he applied one standard to his opponents and, apparently, another to himself.

As attorney general, he was the scourge of wrong-doing on Wall Street - in what now seems like a supreme irony, women's rights groups hailed his efforts to bring stronger penalties against men who used prostitutes.

Everyone is susceptible to the notion that when you begin to do well, you begin to see no boundary lines and forget the rules apply
Eliot Spitzer
BBC interview in 2006

He will be remembered as a successful attorney general, popular with the public, who swept to power as governor with a big mandate for change.

New York governor has been a platform for a presidential run before - but that path is no longer open to Mr Spitzer.

He has pledged to do public work outside the political arena.

As he contemplates his future, he might reflect upon an interview he gave to the BBC's Hardtalk programme in 2006.

He said then: "Everyone is susceptible to the notion that when you begin to do well, you begin to see no boundary lines and forget the rules apply. Everybody's susceptible to that."

Profile: Eliot Spitzer
10 Mar 08 |  Americas
Q&A: The Spitzer scandal
12 Mar 08 |  Americas
Scandal-hit NY governor 'sorry'
10 Mar 08 |  Americas

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