Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush is not apologizing for an off-color remark he made about a New York Times reporter.
Talking to running mate Dick Cheney before a Labor Day speech Monday in Naperville, Ill. — in which he talked about the need for “plainspoken Americans in the White House” — Bush was pretty blunt himself. The Texas governor used an expletive when referring to the New York Times’ Adam Clymer, one of the reporters who has been covering his campaign.
Unaware he was speaking into an open microphone, Bush leaned over to Cheney and said, “There’s Adam Clymer, major-league a------ from the New York Times.”
Cheney responded, “Oh yeah, he is, big time.”
The two candidates for the highest offices in the land did not know their remarks were being broadcast to members of the audience and to the press corps. The comment has been replayed on network, cable and local news shows.
But when Bush was asked later on Monday if he would apologize for the comment, he said only, “I regret that it made it to the airwaves.”
Clymer told The Associated Press on Monday, “I’m disappointed in the governor’s language.”
Bush spokeswoman Karen Hughes later said the remarks were “a whispered aside to his running mate. It was not intended as a public comment.”
Hughes also indicated that Bush was unhappy with numerous articles Clymer has written.
The New York Times’ executive editor, Joseph Lelyveld, defended Clymer in today’s editions of the paper, saying the reporter’s “work is both fair and accurate. The Times has never heard from the Bush campaign about Adam. If they have a complaint, they should convey it to us and we will review it as we do all serious complaints about our coverage.”
Cheney refused to discuss the matter.
“The governor made a private comment to me,” he told reporters later Monday in Chicago. “It was a private comment, and I don’t plan to say anything about it.”
Democrats Enjoy Gaffe
But Bush’s Democratic opponent, Al Gore, quickly picked up on the gaffe, publicly praising the press corps during a speech Monday in Pittsburgh.
“I want to thank the working press corps who are working on Labor Day,” Gore said.
At a White House briefing this morning, President Clinton and his chief of staff, John Podesta, had some fun with Bush’s remark.
“Is this mike on?” asked Podesta at the start of the news conference. “You can never be too careful these days.”
Clinton, laughing, told the assembled journalists, “We like all of you.”
ABCNEWS’ John Berman and Dana Hill and The Associated Press contributed to this report.