Not $5,000 Per Hour, More Like $750S

It's so annoying when inaccurate figures are repeated so often that they become settled data points. A case in point: it's now widely assumed that Eliot Spitzer, the whoremongering Governor of New York, paid $4,300 or even $5,000 for an hour of an escort's time. Wrong! Spitzer did indeed pay $4,300, and he applied a pre-existing credit of some $400, according to the FBI affidavit, making for a total expense of $4,700; but $200 of that was a tip, and $1,500 was on account. So the cost of an individual session with "Kristen"-the girl Spitzer saw in February-was $3,000. Given that the Governor was entitled to four hours, that works out at a more modest $750 per hour-not quite the extravagance that has so colored Spitzer's reputation, and prompted such manufactured shock in the media.

Incidentally, the former Governor could learn from the experience of David Mellor, a cabinet minister in the UK's Conservative government of the early 1990s. When an affair was revealed in the tabloids, Mellor's image was saved by one anecdote. His cunning publicist claimed Mellor had sex with his lover while wearing the "strip" of his beloved soccer club, Chelsea. That fact turned a sleazy adulterer into a man of the people, and Mellor survived. Spitzer, now fixed in the public's mind as an arrogant plutocrat who demands unsafe sex at $5,000 an hour, is in even more dire need of a humanizing detail. Unfortunately, the only clothing he made a habit of retaining, according to one former madame, were his black socks. Not the same. And his publicist doesn't appear to have the same shamelessness as Max Clifford, the Machiavellian genius of media manipulation in the UK who saved Mellor.