New York Times
July 17, 2000

Mrs. Clinton Denies She Made a Slur Back in 1974


CHAPPAQUA, N.Y -- Hillary Rodham Clinton summoned reporters to a rare news conference outside her home here today to denounce as "absolutely false" an accusation in a new book saying that she used an anti-Semitic slur in a heated conversation with her husband's campaign manager after Bill Clinton lost his first race for Congress in 1974.

Her face taut, her voice trembling and her eyes welling with tears, Mrs. Clinton said that she had never used the profanity-ridden slur against the campaign manager, Paul Fray, who is Baptist and whose paternal great-grandmother was Jewish. Mrs. Clinton challenged the credibility of three Arkansas people cited as sources for the incident in the book "State of a Union: Inside the Complex Marriage of Bill and Hillary Clinton" by Jerry Oppenheimer, an author who has also been a reporter for The National Enquirer.

"It did not happen," Mrs. Clinton said, adding: "I have never said anything like that. Ever. Ever."

Mrs. Clinton said she did not recall the meeting, said to be a tense election-night post-mortem involving the Clintons, Mr. Fray and his wife, Mary Lee, that has been mentioned in several books about the Clintons.

President Clinton issued a statement from Camp David, where he was overseeing Middle East peace talks, backing up his wife.

"I was there on election night in 1974, and this charge is simply not true," Mr. Clinton said. "It did not happen."

The three sources named in the book, which is being published this week by HarperCollins, were Mr. Fray, Mrs. Fray, and an Arkansas political consultant who said he overheard the exchange while standing outside the door. Mr. and Mrs. Fray said tonight that they stood by their accounts.

In making such a public statement, Mrs. Clinton risked drawing more attention to a report that so far has received relatively little coverage. Her decision reflected concern that the report could damage her standing among Jewish voters in her race against Representative Rick A. Lazio, a Republican of Long Island.

"My policy for the last eight years has largely been just to absorb whatever insult, whatever charge, whatever accusation anybody said," she said. "Not respond, because they are so outrageous and so unfair. I mean, I've been accused of everything from complicity in murder to, you know, you name it, people have been out there saying it."

Mrs. Clinton released a copy of a hand-written letter that she said had been written to her by Mr. Fray on July 1, 1997, apologizing for negative things he had said about her to people writing critical books and articles about the Clintons.

"At one point in my life, I would say things without thinking, without factual foundation, and without rhyme or remedy until it furthered my own agenda," the letter writer said. "I was wrong and I have wronged you. I ask for your forgiveness."

Mr. Fray said tonight that he had written a letter of forgiveness to Mrs. Clinton, but added that he needed to see it to determine whether what she released was what he wrote.

He said he stood by the account in the book. Asked about the remark in the letter about saying things "without a factual foundation," he said: "You know, I don't recall, to be honest with you. I'm like her: She doesn't recall there being a meeting up there, or so I've heard."

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