Leno to Spitzer: How Could You Be This Stupid?

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
July 13 2013 12:38 PM

Jay Leno to Spitzer: How Could You Be This Stupid?

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"The fall from grace is incredibly painful, and is something through which you learn,” former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer told Jay Leno.

Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer is campaigning for New York City comptroller and thought it would be a good idea to travel to California to appear on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show Friday. “Here’s my question,” Leno said. “You’re a brilliant guy. You’re someone I always admit—you got the mob in New York, you’re the guy that brought down Wall Street and the banks. How could you be this stupid?” After some back and forth in which Leno insisted he wasn’t trying to be “glib,” Spitzer answered: “There was a phrase that I used that was ‘Hubris is terminal.’  People who fall prey to hubris, end up falling themselves.”

The back-and-forth demonstrated that Spitzer is at least willing to discuss the scandal that led to his resignation five years ago when he was identified as “Client No. 9” of a prostitution ring. Newsday’s Verne Gay points out that Leno’s question to Spitzer evoked his famous line directed at Hugh Grant in 1995: “What the hell were you thinking?”

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Leno also wondered whether Spitzer’s return to public life was made easier by Antony Weiner’s decision to run for New York mayor. “No. The public … has been forgiving of people in certain circumstances … But that doesn’t mean the public will be forgiving of me as an individual. It needs to see contrition. It needs to see growth. It needs to see understanding. … It needs to see that you have changed in some way,” Spitzer said, according to Politico.

Meanwhile, former AIG CEO Maurice “Hank” Greenberg filed a lawsuit against Spitzer on Friday, five days after the former governor announced a return to political life. Greenberg’s lawsuit alleges that Spitzer, once known as the “Sheriff of Wall Street,” made defamatory statements against him for several years, reports CNBC. In his interview with Leno, Spitzer said that “Wall Street desperately wants me to lose.”

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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