Hillary Clinton Denies Using Slur

Monday, July 17th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. (AP) — A tense moment the night President Clinton lost a Congressional bid in Arkansas 26 years ago has returned to embroil Hillary Rodham Clinton in controversy.

A book due out this week accuses the first lady and Senate candidate of using an anti-Semitic slur that night — an allegation Mrs. Clinton firmly denied.

``I wanted to unequivocally state it never happened,'' she said during a news conference outside her home Sunday.

The accusation is in the forthcoming book, ``State of a Union: Inside the Complex Marriage of Bill and Hillary Clinton,'' by former National Enquirer reporter Jerry Oppenheimer.

Oppenheimer quotes Paul Fray, who worked for Bill Clinton's unsuccessful Congressional campaign in Arkansas in 1974, as claiming that Mrs. Clinton called him a ``Jew b------'' after Clinton lost the election.

Fray's wife said she witnessed the incident, and a third person, Neil McDonald, claimed to have heard the slur as he stood outside the room. Previous biographies have mentioned the argument but none mentioned any slur.

Though Fray is not Jewish, he said one of his relatives was.

A visibly angry and emotional Mrs. Clinton questioned the credibility of Fray and the others cited in the book. Her campaign released copies of a handwritten letter, dated July 1, 1997, that Fray allegedly wrote Mrs. Clinton.

In the letter, Fray states: ``I have wronged you. I ask for your forgiveness because I did say things against you, and called you names, not only to your face — but behind your back ... names that are unmentionable.''

Fray adds: ``At one time in my life, I would say things without thinking, without factual foundation ... I beg your forgiveness.''

Mrs. Clinton said she was releasing the letter to show that ``there's a history of these kinds of charges coming from the people in question. They've been false in the past. They're false now.''

She wouldn't comment what sort of statements Fray was apologizing for in the letter.

In Monday's New York Times, Fray acknowledged writing a letter of forgiveness to Mrs. Clinton but said he would have to see it first to determine if what she released was what he wrote.

The Clinton campaign also released a statement from the president in which he said, in part: ``I was there on election night in 1974 and this charge is simply not true. It did not happen.''

Clinton also defended his wife in an interview in Monday's Daily News.

``She might have called him a b------,'' Clinton told the newspaper. ``I wouldn't rule that out. She's never claimed that she was pure on profanity. But I've never heard her tell a joke with an ethnic connotation.''

Oppenheimer on Sunday defended his claim. He told CNN that his research found that ``Mrs. Clinton, who says she's never used such language, heard that kind of language while growing up.''

Mrs. Clinton indicated that her advisers had debated the best way to respond to the allegations. Before her news conference, the allegation had not been widely reported outside of local newspapers.

``We had a lot of difficult conversations about it, because my policy for the last eight years has largely been just to absorb whatever insult, whatever charge, whatever accusation anybody says, and not respond because they are so outrageous and so unfair,'' she said.

She said she decided to issue a full-force denial to ensure that ``anyone who tries to get someone else to believe this will at least have to say, 'Well, she says it's not true.'''

``You're darn right it's not true. It's absolutely false,'' she said.

Rep. Nita Lowey, who is Jewish, stood next to Clinton during the press conference and told reporters she came to offer support because ``there's no way Hillary could make a statement like that.''

Mrs. Clinton's Republican opponent in the New York Senate race, Rep. Rick Lazio, declined to comment on the issue.


On the Net:

Hillary Clinton's campaign site: http://www.hillary2000.org

Lazio's campaign site: http://www.lazio.com