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Eds.: SUBS lead to RESTORE dropped letter in Bryant

April 10, 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ NBC’s ``Today″ show anchor Bryant Gumbel, prodded by the GOP, may have to eat his words for suggesting that Republicans failed to express their condolences to Ron Brown’s family.

Gumbel was in Washington, D.C., for Wednesday’s broadcast to cover the Commerce secretary’s funeral when he made the remark in an interview with U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.

``Although many have praised Ron lavishly, I understand no Republicans have yet expressed condolences to the Brown family,″ Gumbel said. ``Is that politics as usual, or is that just plain bad manners?″

Gumbel’s remark sat poorly with the RNC.

``We were just stunned by the suggestion that anyone would respond to a tragedy like this in a partisan way,″ said Mary Mead Crawford, the RNC’s press secretary. ``It’s such an inflammatory thing to say and, of course, it’s not true.″

RNC Chairman Haley Barbour, who had expressed his own sympathies to Brown’s family six days earlier, asked ``Today″ for a retraction and said he had been assured that the matter would be ``rectified.″

``I spoke to Bryant Gumbel today and made plain to him that I had expressed my condolences to the Brown family,″ Barbour said. He said the GOP’s self-syndicated TV show, ``Rising Tide,″ had a Brown tribute as its lead story.

``I don’t deserve any credit for expressing my sympathy, but I don’t expect people to go out and take political shots for it,″ he said.

Gumbel, en route from Washington to New York City, could not be reached for comment, said a ``Today″ spokeswoman.

``Today″ executive producer Jeff Zucker stopped short of saying his show would issue a correction or retraction. ``Bryant will address it with neither a correction nor a clarification, but we will address it,″ he said.

``I liked Ron Brown,″ Barbour said. ``I had a tremendous amount of respect for the job he did as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, but also was very much aware of the kindness he showed (former RNC boss) Lee Atwater, when he was in the hospital, dying.

``Ron went to the hospital. He set with him and read to him. There was no publicity, no spectacle, but a very kind, generous, thoughtful act.″

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