WASHINGTON (Nov. 13)
President Ford was portrayed today as feeling “very strongly” about the anti-Semitic remarks made by Gen. George S. Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and to consider them to have been “ill-advised and poorly handled.” The Presidential reaction was conveyed by White House Press Secretary Ronald Nessen to a clearly angered and agitated White House Press Corps as expressions of indignation and outrage continued to pour into Washington from American Jewish leaders and others. (See separate story)
But Nessen gave no indication of any move by President Ford to reprimand Gen. Brown or remove him from the nation’s top military post. He intimated that the President would clarify his position at a general news conference scheduled to be held tomorrow.
Brown meanwhile offered a 200-word apology in a letter addressed to the Jewish War Veterans of the United States. (See separate story.) The furor developed after it was learned today that the four star general, replying to questions after addressing a group at Duke University Law School in Durham, N.C. Oct. 10 on the possibility of American military intervention in the event of a second Arab oil embargo, had said that Jews exerted too much influence in Congress because Jews “own, you know, the banks in this country, the newspapers.”
The General prefaced those remarks with a threat that, “If there is another oil embargo and people in this country are not only inconvenienced and uncomfortable but suffer (they will) get tough minded enough to set down the Jewish influence in this country and break the lobby.” Brown’s remarks, not widely reported until now, were disclosed by the Washington Post this morning in an article by its staff writer, Michael Getler.
CANNOT EXPLAIN WHY REACTION WAS DELAYED
Nessen acknowledged that “someone in the White House knew” about Brown’s remarks “several days ago” before their publication this morning, but was unable to say when the President learned of them. He could not explain the delay in conveying the President’s reaction when the White House had prior knowledge of the Incident.
Nessen stressed that Brown’s remarks “in no way represent” the President’s “views or any other senior officials of his Administration–military or civilian.” He disclosed that the President “communicated” his reaction by an aide over the telephone this morning to Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger, Brown’s superior. But the President did not speak personally to either Schlesinger or Brown.
Hyman Bookbinder, Washington representative of the American Jewish Committee, said today that Schlesinger had telephoned him this morning and expressed “great personal anguish” over Brown’s remarks. He said the Defense Secretary had indicated “that public repudiation would be forthcoming.”
The White House correspondents, whose president is James Deaking of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, demonstrated a high degree of personal indignation which is unusual in the case of reporters covering a breaking story. Nessen was told by a reporter of the “extremely strong feeling in this room and outside.” The Press Secretary replied, “Everyone understands how strongly the President feels.” He promised to bring to the President’s attention “the concern of Jews and Gentiles in this press room.”
BROWN CLAIMS JEWS OWN THE COUNTRY
According to the Post’s account, Brown said of the alleged Jewish influence in the U.S. “It’s so strong you wouldn’t believe it….We have the Israelis coming to us for equipment. We say we can’t possibly get the Congress to support a program like that. They say, Don’t worry about the Congress. We’ll take care of the Congress.’ Now this is somebody from another country, but they can do it. They own, you know, large banks in this country, the newspapers, you Just look at where the Jewish money is in this country.”
The Post story said Brown acknowledged in a telephone interview yesterday that “it is going to be awfully easy to conclude (from his Duke University remarks), for anyone who wants to, that the chairman (of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) is anti-Semitic. That’s just not true.” The Post noted that Brown, a World War II Air Force pilot, was, as Air Force Chief of Staff last year, in charge of the American arms airlift to Israel during the Yom Kippur War. The Post said that in the telephone Interview, Brown “explained that he Just tried to cover too much ground in a single answer to a question on the complex and volatile Mideast situation.”