Following Eliot Spitzer's late entrance into the race for City Comptroller, Women's groups took to City Hall Wednesday to decry his participation in the prostitution industry.
"Do we want an elected official who has broken the law and has participated in an industry that we all know has a long history of exploiting women and girls?" asked Sonia Ossorio, president of the city's chapter of the National Organization for Women.
The goal of the press conference was to inform New York voters, particularly female voters, how the prostitution scandal that forced Spitzer to resign in 2008 was not just a politician's personal indiscretion or a "victimless crime."
"Violence against women cannot be relegated to 'mere sex-related concerns,'" said Taina Bien-Aimé, the director Women's City Club of New York.
Bien-Aimé noted Spitzer had worked against human trafficking and the prostitution industry in the past as Attorney General and as Governor, but wondered how he could have gone against his own record.
"His involvement in the prostitution industry cannot be swept under the rug," Ossorio added.
When asked whether it mattered if a prostitute consented to sex, Bien-Aimé noted most girls in the city go into prostitution at age 13 or 14—and not by their own choice.
The women said demand from anyone, including Spitzer, for prostitution only helps sustain a "brutal" and "illegal" industry.
"We will not end sex trafficking without ending the demand for prostitution," Bien-Aimé said.
Though the women said they were not asking voters to support any particular candidate, Ossorio questioned why women would want to vote for Spitzer at all.
"Why would you vote for the guy that used them like objects?" she asked.
Despite the group's assertions, Spitzer is leading by six points among women in an early poll released Wednesday. Spitzer is ahead of his opponent, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, 40 to 34 percent among women, according to a Wall Street Journal-NBC 4 New York-Marist poll.
The women's groups were joined by a handful of volunteers holding signs calling Spitzer a "John" and grouping him with mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner, who sent lewd photos to several women online. Like Spitzer, Ossorio said Weiner's sexting scandal showed disrespect for women.
"We can do better than that. There are so many smart, great candidates," Ossorio said.
Barbara Morgan, Weiner's campaign spokeswoman, noted he has worked with NOW on women's issues in the past.
"We understand that Anthony's opponents and their supporters are going to resort to the old politics playbook of negative attacks," Morgan said in a statement.
A spokeswoman for Spitzer's campaign did not immediately return multiple requests for comment.
NOW has not yet made an endorsement in the comptroller's race, but has previously endorsed City Council Speaker Christine Quinn for mayor.
When asked what electing Spitzer and Weiner would say about New York City, Ossorio was confident.
"I don't think that's going to happen," she said.
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