Donna Rice Denies Spending Night With Gary Hart
MIAMI (AP) _ Miami model and actress Donna Rice on Monday denied she spent Friday night with Democratic presidential front-runner Gary Hart at his Washington townhouse and called their weekend activities ″all very innocent.″
″I don’t know if he was attracted to me, but there was nothing between us,″ the 29-year-old South Carolina native who also works as a pharmaceutical sales representative said in an interview. ″I’m more attracted to younger men.″
The Miami Herald reported Sunday that a woman, later identified as Rice, ″spent Friday night and most of Saturday″ with Hart at his Capitol Hill townhouse, while Hart’s wife Lee was in Denver. But the paper said Monday that its reporters left the back entrance to Hart’s house uncovered for a time.
Mrs. Hart had been scheduled to meet her husband in New York on Tuesday, but canceled the trip because she has a sinus infection, said Hart campaign deputy press secretary Dawn Alexander in Denver.
″You don’t fly″ with a sinus infection, Alexander said.
Mrs. Hart believes The Miami Herald story was ″the result of the campaign having front-runner status,″ Alexander said. ″You’ll be closely scrutinized. The (Herald) story is extremely unfortunate.″
Alexander also said there was no truth to headlines about a possible Hart divorce, adding that Mrs. Hart ″has never felt better, except for the sinus infection.″
Hart is scheduled to speak Tuesday at the American Newspaper Publishers Association meeting.
Hart, whose presidential campaigns have been dogged by rumors about his personal life, has denied any ″personal relationship″ with Rice and denied he spent Friday night with anyone at his home.
Rice confirmed that she and a friend, Lynn Armandt, had traveled on a chartered boat to Bimini in the Bahamas with Hart and William Broadhurst, a friend of Hart’s, in March. She said the four stayed there overnight, and the two men slept on a different boat from the women.
Rice said she and Hart had talked on the phone ″a few times″ since the Bimini trip.
″We talked about how the press was beating on him,″ she said of the phone calls. ″He had a strong desire to get to the heart of the matter.″
She said her association with Hart ″was all very innocent.″
″If there was anything going on, we would have been cautious, but we had nothing to hide. Nobody did,″ Rice said in the interview with The Associated Press and other news organizations, her first since the story broke. ″We were all just pals. If there had been something fishy, we would have been sneaking around.
″That’s why I’m so surprised about this whole thing. It’s totally bizarre.″
Asked specifically if she had had sexual relations with Hart, she said ″No.″
Her voice shook at times during the one-and-a-half-hour interview at her attorney’s office. Wearing a borrowed navy blue dress, Rice said she had slept only two hours since Saturday night.
Rice, a former Miss South Carolina USA, said that she was interested in working on Hart’s campaign and she had traveled to Washington because a friend was going to a job interview with Broadhurst.
She said she spent Friday night at Broadhurst’s house, after having dinner with Hart, Broadhurst and Armandt at the Broadhurst residence.
She said she spent both Friday and Saturday nights at Broadhurst’s house and Sunday night in a Marriott hotel near Dulles Airport with Sue Casey, a member of Hart’s campaign staff who had flown in from Denver.
She said she spent both Friday and Saturday night sharing a guest bedroom at Broadhurst’s home with her friend Lynn.
″Lynn and I were guests at Bill Broadhurst’s home,″ she said. ″I slept in the same bed as Lynn.″
Rice explained that reporters for the Herald spotted her when she returned to Hart’s townhouse at 11 p.m. to get a book. She said she left Hart’s house after a brief stay and then returned to Broadhurst’s home.
Rice said Hart did not seem concerned about the appearances of their being seen together over the weekend.
″I didn’t think what anyone else would say if we were seen together,″ she said. ″It didn’t seem to be any concern of his. He’s the one running for president.″
She recalled Hart’s response when he realized reporters were watching their movements.
‴My God. They’re staking me out,‴ she recalled him saying. ″He was very upset.″
The Miami Herald said Monday that its reporters left the back entrance to Hart’s house uncovered for a time.
″There were opportunities between approximately midnight and 5 a.m. for her to depart undetected via the unwatched rear entrance″ of Hart’s house, the newspaper said in Monday’s editions. And no reporters ″watched the townhouse between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m.,″ the newspaper said.
The Miami lawyer who helped arrange Monday’s interview said he was angry about the reports about Rice.
″This lady has been trashed. I’d love to sue for invasion of this young lady’s privacy,″ said Thomas McAliley, an attorney who volunteered his services.
She told reporters that she met Hart in Aspen, Colo., at a New Year’s Eve party Dec. 31, 1986, at the home of former Eagles drummer Don Henley.
She said she met Hart again in March of this year and was a guest aboard a chartered boat that traveled from Florida to Bimini in the Bahamas. She, her friend Lynn, Hart and Broadhurst went over to Bimini on the charter along with the five-member crew of the boat.
She said they had planned on coming right back to North Miami Beach, but realized that Customs had closed so they cooked out on the dock and all stayed at Bimini overnight. Broadhurst had a yacht moored at Bimini, she said.
″The two men slept on Bill’s boat and Lynn and I slept on the boat we had come over on,″ she said. She said the crew members had their own quarters on the chartered boat.
She graduated in 1976 from Irmo High School in Irmo, S.C., a bedroom community of about 8,500 people outside Columbia. She said she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of South Carolina with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology.
She moved to Miami in 1983 to pursue a modeling career and work as a sales representative with Wyeth Laboratories Inc., according to her mother.
The Herald said it was tipped by an anonymous source about a week ago that Hart was having an affair with a Miami woman and that she had been invited to Washington last weekend. The source failed to follow through on a promise to provide details on the trip.
A Herald reporter caught an Eastern Airlines flight from Miami to Washington Friday night and noticed two women on the flight matching the description of the woman.
The reporter did not follow the women, but went to Hart’s townhouse. About 90 minutes later, at 9:30 p.m., the Herald reporter saw Hart and one of the women on the plane leave the townhouse, the newspaper reported. The two returned at 11:17 p.m., the Herald said.
The newspaper said the reporters next saw Hart and the woman at 8:40 p.m. Saturday, and interviewed Hart on the street about 30 minutes later.
Rice said when Hart noticed someone was tailing them Saturday, ″He just started acting very funny. He may have grabbed my arm at that time.″
Rice’s explanation was roughly the same as that told by Hart’s staff and friends, of ″a casual acquaintance and a simple dinner with three friends and political supporters,″ in the words of Hart campaign manager William Dixon. But there were differences.
Broadhurst said after the dinner the four walked back to Hart’s house to look at renovation being done on the house, but in two groups. Hart and Rice entered through the front door and Broadhurst and Armandt came slightly later through the unobserved rear entrance.
Shortly thereafter - 10 to 15 minutes in Hart’s estimation - Broadhurst and the two women left Hart’s house via the back door and returned to Broadhurst’s house, where the women spent the night, Broadhurst told the newspaper.
Broadhurst also told the Herald that the four spent most of Saturday afternoon driving around Alexandria, Va., sightseeing and relaxing.