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WATTS confronts fellow congressman about remarks

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts and a fellow lawmaker had to be separated recently after the California Democrat said all of Watts' children were illegitimate.

Another lawmaker intervened before the verbal confrontation between Watts and Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., became physical, according to a story in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call.

Watts declined Monday to comment on the story, and Stark's press secretary did not respond to a request for comment.

Stark's remark about Watts' children came during a May 22 hearing about the Welfare Reform Act's provisions on discouraging out-of-wedlock births.

Rep. Wes Watkins, R-Okla., a member of the Ways and Means subcommittee, was present. Jerry Regier, secretary of the Oklahoma Department of Health and Human Services, also was present to testify on the subject.

Stark tried to paint Republicans as hypocrites on the issue of family values. According to the hearing transcript, Stark said the previous two GOP speakers had cheated on their wives. He referred to Watts by his title _ chairman of the House Republican Conference _ and said his ``children were all born out of wedlock.''

One of Watts' five children with his wife, Jackie, was born before the couple wed. A sixth child Watts fathered was born to a woman the congressman did not marry. Watts' uncle raised that child.

Stark stands by his remark but through an aide apologized for getting the number of children wrong.

None of the lawmakers at the hearing challenged Stark publicly on his facts or on him insulting a fellow House member and his children. Watkins said he told Stark, away from the microphones, that he was wrong.

``I was stunned and flabbergasted that a man of that intellect would stoop so low to make those comments on the public record,'' Watkins said. ``I told him, 'That's totally false. You ought to be checking your facts.' He (Stark) shook his head and was holding up his fingers'' to contend Watts had five children born out of wedlock.

Roll Call, which first reported the Stark comments Monday, listed other remarks made by Stark that offended lawmakers.

According to the paper, he said one of his GOP colleagues learned all she knew about health care from ``pillow talk'' with her husband, a doctor.

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