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Fishbowl5 with Las Vegas Sun’s Jon Ralston

We’re straying from Washington today to talk to Las Vegas Sun politics reporter Jon Ralston for the latest developments on Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.). The tough-talking Ralston spoke with us from Vegas today by phone. Ralston has appeared on MSNBC twice yesterday and will be on again tonight. He’s the first reporter to have interviewed former Ensign Chief of Staff Doug Hampton, the now ex-husband to Cynthia Hampton who had a torrid affair with his boss. Not surprisingly, Ensign no longer speaks to Ralston, who has been off the senator’s press list for quite sometime now.

What are people saying out there in Las Vegas? I think people are just sickened by it. People want it to be over. I think there’s a sense of revulsion at the details and relief that he’s gone.

Was there ever anything in your experience covering him that led you to suspect an affair or the events that followed? There was a situation several years ago when he disappeared. There were rumors of infidelity but nothing concrete. I don’t think anyone was shocked that he had an affair. As the details unraveled…people were shocked at the lengths that he went to and sheer creepiness of the whole thing.

Does it strike you that Cynthia Hampton is also culpable here? News reports are making it seem like she was a victim who succumbed to Ensign’s sexual advances. I don’t know if anyone is not culpable. A lot of people have affairs, a lot of people make mistakes in a marriage. No one thinks she ‘s an innocent. She cut off the affair, he continued to pursue her. I have sympathy for her even though she isn’t innocent. This is about John Ensign. He was accused of abusing the power of his office. That is a much more serious allegation than having an affair. I have sympathy for everybody in all of this except for John Ensign. Ensign is the only elected official, he’s the only one who  had power over other people. He s the one who tried to cover up. He’ the one who I’ve had no sympathy for.

What is your favorite story in all of this? I wouldn’t say any of it was my favorite story. I was consistently astounded that Ensign was in an alternate universe where he thought he could plow through again, run in more elections until reality crashed in on him.

What was it like interviewing Doug Hampton in July of 2009? It was pretty eye-opening and revealing and stunning and shocking and riveting. Everything he said in that interview has now been validated by the Senate Special Ethics Counsel. It was on my television program, [Face to Face with Jon Ralston]. The interview lasted about an hour.

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