WASHINGTON (May. 18)
White House Press Secretary Jody Powell flatly denied yesterday a National Public Radio (NPR) report that President Carter’s top assistant, Hamilton Jordan, made remarks construed as anti-Semitic after the Senate endorsed the Administration’s controversial aircraft sales package Monday.
According to NPR, an editor, not identified, heard Jordan berate the “Jewish lobby” and boast that the Jewish lobby had been “broken” by the Senate’s action. An Israel Radio English-language broadcast referred to the allegation and a lawyer, also unidentified, was said to have heard Jordan make the remarks.
At a briefing for reporters, Powell challenged those making the charges to identify themselves and confront him with the allegation. He said the NPR item came from one of its reporters who had obtained it from an editor.
Noting that he first heard of the radio report from friends within the Jewish community who were “concerned,” Powell declared that the unidentified editor was “lying” and challenged him to a meeting. “He has refused to do this,” Powell said, adding “the editor is still anonymous.” When another reporter reminded him that “a lawyer” said he heard the same remarks, Powell declared “There ought to be limits to slandering.”
The Press Secretary denied that he or Jordan had ever remarked that the Senate vote broke the Jewish lobby. “We are concerned that the political debate not sink to the level of incivility,” he said. “The worst thing that could happen is for a political debate like this to get into a debate in which people’s motives are questioned.”
At another point in the discussion, Powell said: “If honest debate over American policy can not be conducted without the bases of motives, our society is in serious shape. That’s why we all did our best to avoid confrontation.”