White House Repudiates Official’s Slur About N.Y. Interest Groups

The White House yesterday repudiated a statement by a high Administration official who said provisions of pending congressional legislation designed to combat the Arab boycott could result in an American company being “harassed by certain New York interest groups.”

The statement was made by John C. Bennison, acting general counsel to the White-House Council on International Economic Policy (CIEP), with regard to the public disclosure provision of the Stevenson-Williams proviso in the Tax Reform Bill before the Senate. The statement was in the form of a letter dated Aug. 10 to Anthony Scotto, vice-president of the International Longshoremen’s Association.

Edward C. Schmults, deputy counsel to President Ford, said the Bennison letter was written by a “staff lawyer at CIEP who should not have attempted to summarize the administration’s position on a complex issue.” In referring to “certain New York interest groups,” Schmults said the “summary and choice of words are offensive and inappropriate.” The lawyer, Schmults added. “regrets his action and has apologized” and has “emphasized that he had not intended to offend anyone.” Schmults did not disclose the lawyer’s name or to whom he had apologized.

ADL, SOLON ISSUE PROTESTS

David A. Brody, director of the Washington office of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, telephoned the ADL’s protest to the White House over the Bennison statement, expressing “shock and outrage” at what the ADL called “a not unsubtle appeal to prejudice.” Sen. Harrison A. Williams Jr. (D.NJ) demanded an apology to “Jewish persons, organizations and causes” from Treasury Secretary William E. Simon who is chairman of the CIEP.

Williams, who is co-author of the legislation with Sen. Adlai Stevenson (D.III.), said Bennison’s letter had “blatant anti-Semitic overtones.” He added, in a letter to Simon: “I find it difficult to read this phrase (regarding “New York interests”) as having any other meaning than one which is discriminatory and derogatory toward Jewish people and causes and persons sympathetic to the State of Israel.”

Not only does this letter “misstate and exaggerate the likely consequences” of the legislation on American business, Williams noted, “it does so in a way deliberately calculated to inflame base, even vulgar instincts of persons who may be affected by this legislation to persuade them to align themselves with the Administration.”

In a statement today the ADL expressed “approval” of the White House “repudiation” of the Bennison statement. Williams’ office told the JTA it had not yet received a response from Simon.

George Meany, president of the AFL-CIO, in a letter to Stevenson, assailed as “appalling” the statement by Bennison. He said that the reference to New York special interest groups “can only be taken to mean the individuals and organizations who support the right of Israel to exist and who reject the notion that good business practice requires American citizens and corporations to support the Arabs in their implacable determination to destroy Israel and her people” He also scored the Administration’s hostility to the Anti-Boycott law.

Meanwhile, the Administration continued yesterday to oppose the Senate bill. At a hearing, a Treasury Department official, Charles M. Walker, assistant secretary for tax policy, testified against it. His testimony drew a remark from Sen. Abraham Ribicoff (D.Conn.) that he and Simon lacked “guts.”

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