ABC News’ Brian Ross revealed tonight that the list of customers of an alleged Washington-based prostitution service includes White House and Pentagon officials as well as prominent attorneys.
“There are thousands of names, tens of thousands of phone numbers,” Ross said. “And there are people there at the Pentagon, lobbyists, others at the White House, prominent lawyers — a long, long list.” Ross added that the women who worked for the service, potentially as prostitutes, “include university professors, legal secretaries, scientists, military officers.”
On Friday, Ross broke the news that U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Randall Tobias had frequented the escort service. Ross added new details to that story tonight, recounting how he asked Tobias in a telephone interview “if he knew any of the young women, their names. He said he didn’t remember them at all. He said it was like ordering pizza.” Under President Bush, Tobias oversaw a program helping men in poor countries “develop healthy relationships with women.”
Ross used the fact that Tobias had urged abstinence in his role organizing AIDS relief for the Bush administration as a ratonale for singling out Tobias among Palfrey's tens of thousands of customers.
Today's Star reports that the Tobias disclosure has many in D.C. on edge. But if you are one of Palfrey's customers, fear not unless you are a Republican. Remember, Ross was responsible for breaking the Mark Foley page scandal late last year. Although Ross got the information from Democratic operatives months earlier, he sat on it and waited to disclose the information until it had a maximum impact on last year's congressional elections and after it was too late for Republicans to replace Foley on the ballot, ensuring a pickup of Foley's seat by the Democrats. Ross carefully picked his target, Foley, so he could point up Republican hypocrisy on the issue of family values and opposition to gay rights. Ross initially misled ABC viewers by suggesting Foley had engaged in explicit e-mails with an under-age male page. In fact, the page reported on by Ross was not underage. That was a big mistake to make because it inferred that Foley had broken a federal law he helped to enact to protect children from online predators.
Don't get me wrong. Foley deserved to be outed just as other members of Congress deserve to be called out when they are engaging in unethical or illegal conduct. Except when it comes to the Kennedy family or other major Democratic players, ABC has a history of sweeping it under the rug. Ross' efforts didn't end with Foley last year. He reported that then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) was implicated in a congressional bribery scandal despite denials from the Justice Department. And this just isn't a partisan Republican complaining here. Others in the mainstream media found Ross' report out of line. As Media Research reported at the time,
Meanwhile, on FNC Morton Kondracke recommended that "ABC should remember Dan Rather and the Bush National Guard case where they didn't do the right thing and say, you know, we can't prove the story and just get rid of it." And Jeff Birnbaum revealed that "ABC did not call the Speaker until an hour before the broadcast" and "that ABC did not check for an official response from the Justice Department, which seems sort of basic here."
So when 20/20 reports on other customers later this week, you can bet Ross will only be able to identify folks working at the Pentagon, the Bush White House and others linked to the Republican Party who used the services of the D.C. madam. But I think it's a pretty safe bet that there are an equal number of high profile Democats on her call list as well.