HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (AP) _ Vice President Dan Quayle castigated the news media Wednesday for airing rumors of an extramarital affair by President Bush and charged they were trying to ''hurt the president and help Bill Clinton.''

''There's good journalism and there's bad journalism and I want to say something to you good journalists,'' Quayle told reporters accompanying him on a campaign trip to California. ''You are being overwhelmed by the bad journalism and the bad journalists of America.''

Good journalists don't print something ''that was investigated and was totally false,'' he said.

The issue arose Tuesday after the New York Post published stories based on an allegation in a book, ''The Power House'' by Susan B. Trento, that Bush had an affair with longtime aide Jennifer Fitzgerald, now a State Department official.

Quayle took the media to task for asking Bush about the report at a news conference with the prime minister of Israel and again in an Oval Office television interview.

''Look what you're talking about: a rumor, gossip from a dead person,'' he said.

The book says former disarmament negotiator Louis Fields, who died in 1988, had said he once arranged for Bush and Fitzgerald to use a guest house in Geneva.

Quayle urged the reporters to fulfill their responsibility ''to get good journalism in the forefront. And I say to your editors and your publishers and your producers and the networks that control the information that goes to the public, try to regain good journalism.''

''When you start talking about sleaze, I think some in the media ought to try looking in the mirror,'' the vice president said. ''Now what's the motivation in this? I can't think of any other motivating factor than that you want to hurt the president and help Bill Clinton.''

Quayle had dismissed a question Tuesday in Sacramento about the Post report as ''just outrageous.'' But his spokesman, David Beckwith, said Quayle watched the television coverage Tuesday night ''and had been fuming ever since.''

Quayle delivered his angry lecture on journalism ethics at a news conference at the McDonnell Douglas Space Co., where he assured workers ''your job is safe'' so long as the White House stays in Republican hands.

Quayle, winding up a three-day swing through this state reeling from the recession and deep cuts in aerospace and defense, drew cheers from several thousand flag-waving workers at McDonnell Douglas, the biggest single contractor on the $30 billion space station Freedom.

Boos rang out when two workers held aloft Clinton signs.

''As long as George Bush is president, the space station is safe and so is your job,'' Quayle said.

McDonnell Douglas' parent company on Monday unveiled a corporate restructuring that will streamline its divisions and close a parts plant in Columbus, Ohio, with nearly 1,000 jobs. Earlier the defense giant had announced two plant closings in California.

The Bush administration has fought to keep the space station alive against critics in Congress who want the money spent on domestic programs. The House in late July beat back the latest attempt to kill the space station and approved $1.7 billion for fiscal 1993 or $300 million less than the Bush administration requested.

Kenneth A. Francis, president of McDonnell Douglas Space Systems, hailed the vice president, who chairs the Space Council, as ''the strongest supporter of space programs in America today.''

''Being No. l in space is in our national security interest and that's the way we're going to keep it,'' Quayle said.

Quayle aides said Clinton and Al Gore have supported the space station, which would be ferried into orbit aboard the space shuttle during 17 missions from 1995 to 2000.

But Quayle charged that Clinton would cut defense spending ''by $60 billion more than we believe is safe for national security and our industrial base.''

Valerie Barrett, a McDonnell Douglas worker from Huntington Beach, said she supports Quayle, adding, ''You betcha. He gives us our jobs.''

But Shawn Franks, 28, of Yucaipa, said he was switching his allegiance to the Democrats. ''It's been a long, hard four years and it doesn't seem much has gone like it should,'' he said.