Hart Ends Campaign With Attack on Media With AM-Hart Bjt
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Gary Hart ended his Democratic presidential campaign Friday with an attack on a political system that ″reduces the press of this nation to hunters and presidential candidates to being hunted.″ Even while he spoke, the media debated the tactics that led to Hart’s downfall.
Hart, in announcing in Denver his withdrawal from the race, vented anger at the methods used by The Miami Herald to get a story that appeared in Sunday’s editions. Herald reporters staked out the candidate’s Washington townhouse last weekend and reported a visit by a 29-year-old Miami model.
″We’re all going to have to seriously question the system for selecting our national leaders, that reduces the press of this nation to hunters and presidential candidates to being hunted, that has reporters in bushes, false and inaccurate stories printed, photographers peeking in our windows, swarms of helicopters hovering over our roof, and my very strong wife close to tears because she can’t even get in her own house at night without being harassed,″ Hart said.
″And then after all that, ponderous pundits wonder in mock seriousness why some of the best people in this country choose not to run for high office,″ he said.
Immediately after Hart’s announcement, Herald Executive Editor Heath Meriwether said in a prepared statement, ″We take no joy in the announcement Mr. Hart made today.″ Susan Rodin, Meriwether’s administrative assistant, said he would have no further comment.
Herald Publisher Richard Capen also declined to be interviewed, said Carolee Carter, his administrative assistant.
She said Capen felt that while the Herald’s scrutiny of Hart was justified while he was a presidential candidate, ″now that he’s put himself back into private life, we don’t have any wish to prolong coverage of an obviously serious personal problem.″
Hart, dogged by a reputation for womanizing, did not mention The Washington Post’s story in Friday editions that said that hours before Hart decided to end his campaign, its reporters presented the candidate’s staff with evidence of a recent liaison between Hart and a Washington woman.
The paper quoted a senior Hart aide as saying the development ″accelerated the inevitable″ withdrawal of Hart from the race.
The Post did not identify the woman, but said she and Hart had had ″a longtime relationship.″
Benjamin C. Bradlee, executive editor of the Post, denied rumors that it had negotiated with Hart about whether to run the story or identify the woman.
″There were no ultimatums, no negotiations,″ Bradlee was quoted as saying. ″We simply asked to talk to Hart about the information we had gathered.″
After Hart’s announcement, Pat O’Shea, a secretary in Bradlee’s office, ″There’s no comment being made at all here by anybody today.″
The New York Times, in an editorial in Thursday editions by former Executive Editor A. M. Rosenthal, took the Herald to task for its reporting methods and its rush to print the story without giving the woman, Donna Rice, a chance to tell her story. Hart and Rice denied anything improper happened.
Rosenthal said that while the sexual conduct of a presidential candidate is a newsworthy story, reporters are not justified in using deceptive techniques to uncover it.
″If reputable papers such as The Miami Herald indulge in sneaky snooping that its editors would never tolerate around their own homes, that is bad. But if the rest of the newspaper business justifies it, that’s worse,″ he wrote.
″In time, without any question, we will lose the support of the American public in our constant struggles against those who would erode the First Amendment. We cannot claim it was designed for voyeurs.″
Such sentiments were echoed by former South Dakota Sen. George McGovern, whose losing 1972 Democratic presidential campaign was managed by Hart.
″No candidate in history has ever been subjected to this kind of brutal, close-in work, a stakeout of his private residence. I find that demeaning, both to the press and to the candidates,″ McGovern said in an interview Friday on ABC-TV’s ″Good Morning America.″ ″And if politics has gotten to that point, I personally don’t feel any safer about the selection process.″
″Gary Hart doesn’t claim to be a saint, and the contest for the presidency is not a competition for sainthood,″ McGovern added.