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Spitzer scandal leads '20/20' to move up prostitution story

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Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s call girl scandal has prompted ABC News to give the go-ahead to a two-hour prime-time special on prostitution that includes Diane Sawyer’s visit to a legal brothel in Nevada.

The ‘‘20/20’’ special, which airs 8 p.m. Friday, has been in the works for two years. It was expected to be on sometime in May or June, but ABC moved it up because Spitzer’s resignation last week put the topic in the headlines, said David Sloan, executive producer of ABC’s newsmagazines.

‘‘It has taken a lot of time and I think it’s going to be very provocative,’’ Sloan said.

The special’s lengthy gestation did not indicate any cold feet on the part of ABC about airing it, he said. It will be on during the same week that the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would hear a major case about broadcast indecency.

On ‘‘Prostitution in America: Working Girls Speak,’’ Sawyer interviews sex workers in poor neighborhoods outside Philadelphia and in one of Nevada’s legal brothels. ABC hurriedly set up interviews with some highly paid prostitutes who work the luxury penthouses in a nod to the Spitzer scandal.

The New York Democrat is accused of spending thousands of dollars on expensive prostitutes, most recently paying for a woman to travel from New York to Washington where he was spending the night.

‘‘Much of the coverage on prostitution is as a cultural phenomenon, when it’s really about human beings that are in crisis,’’ Sawyer said. ‘‘There is a lot of denial about the suffering these women experience.’’

Sloan said the special is structured so much of the racier material is confined to the second hour.

ABC speaks to experts on the issue, including columnist Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times, particularly during the first hour.

‘‘Behind every prostitute is a story of sex abuse, drug dependency or mental illness,’’ Sloan said. ‘‘No one chooses this.’’

He said it was a serious look at the issue, not an attempt to be salacious.

‘‘We’re very proud of it,’’ he said.


AP

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