Clinton Says He Wants to Reach Man Who Claims to be Half-brother
Jun. 22, 1993
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The California man who claims to be Bill Clinton's half-brother said today he hopes the president believes they are related but says he wants no favors.
Henry Leon Ritzenthaler said he was en route to New York when Clinton tried to contact him Monday. ''I'd be very honored and very privileged to talk to him,'' he said on ABC this morning.
''I don't know what I'd say to him,'' he said on CBS.
The retired janitorial service owner from Paradise, Calif., says he and Clinton have the same father: W.J. Blythe. Blythe died a few months before the future president was born, and about nine years after Ritzenthaler's birth.
Without confirming Ritzenthaler's claim, Clinton said he tried to call him Monday. ''I placed a call but there was nobody home. I don't think I should say anything until I've talked to him,'' Clinton told reporters, promising to release a statement as soon as he did.
Ritzenthaler said the only thing he wants from Clinton is recognition that they are related.
''I know he's my half-brother. I know he is in my mind, my own heart. I hope he reaches the same idea,'' he said.
''I don't want nothing from Mr. Clinton at all. I don't want no favors or nothing,'' he said.
He later told CNN, ''I'm not here for any personal gains. I don't want any money out of it - just a chance to meet him and say. 'Hi.' That's all I want to do.''
Ritzenthaler and his wife, Judith, said they wrote Clinton's campaign last June when they learned of the family connection. They never heard back, but hold no hard feelings.
''When we never received a reply, we decided at that time we'll let it drop because we didn't know, one, if he was interested or if he even got the letter,'' Mrs. Ritzenthaler said.
A campaign aide said Clinton shrugged off all questions about his father, saying he wanted his dad to ''rest in peace.''
The Ritzenthalers said they wrote Clinton to learn about the Blythe family history because the California man has a history of heart trouble.
''That's our main reason for doing it and that's our main goal to this day,'' he told CNN.
After Blythe died, Clinton's mother remarried and Clinton took the name of his first stepfather, Roger Clinton. His mother's second son by that marriage, Roger, now 35, spent a year in federal prison in 1984 on a cocaine charge and is now pursuing a singing career.
Until now, media accounts of Clinton's humble upbringing have invariably said he was Blythe's only son.
The Washington Post reported Sunday, however, that records show Blythe married Adele Gash Coffelt 11 years before Clinton's birth. The couple divorced a year later, then Ritzenthaler was born in 1938. Ritzenthaler said today he was conceived the day his father and mother signed their divorce papers.
W.J. Blythe was listed on his birth certificate as the father. Coffelt says Blythe was the father.
Clinton is 46; Ritzenthaler, 55.
Blythe's sister, Vera Ramey of Denison, Texas, says the father actually was a member of W.J.'s family, a married man whom she would not identify. She said Clinton's father accepted responsibility to avoid a family scandal.
Denying Ritzenthaler's claim, Mrs. Ramey said: ''If they want to make a big deal out of it and bring charges, I will be there to testify. That's all I'm going to say.''
Clinton's mother, Virginia Kelley of Hot Springs, Ark., said Monday she did not know if Ritzenthaler's claim was true. ''I just don't know. He (Blythe) didn't say anything to me,'' said Mrs. Kelley, 70.