Regan Regrets Slur on Women : Apologizes for Saying They Lack Understanding

Times Staff Writer

White House Chief of Staff Donald T. Regan offered a televised apology Sunday for his comment before last week’s summit meeting that most women would be interested only in the human side of the meeting and did not understand arms control or other issues discussed in Geneva.

“It was not intended as a put-down of any woman, and if anyone feels offended by it, I apologize,” Regan said when interviewer Lesley Stahl braced him with the question during an appearance on CBS News’ televised “Face the Nation.”

Conceding that the quotation as published in a Washington Post interview left an “implication . . . that I didn’t think women understood it,” Regan said that on the contrary “I know women understand--many women understand--these things.”


“A lot of men don’t understand it, as well as women,” Regan continued, “and all I was trying to say was that those who don’t understand it would have an interest in the human side of what was going on in Geneva.”

The quotation in question developed during an interview which Regan said took place last October and was dropped into a Post story about First Lady Nancy Reagan’s schedule at the summit meeting. The words that drew protests from women’s groups from coast to coast were:

“They’re not going to understand (missile) throw-weights or what is happening in Afghanistan or what is happening in human rights. Some women will, but most women --believe me, your readers for the most part if you took a poll--would rather read the human interest stuff.”

Asked about his reference to polling, Regan volunteered: “Women are more interested in peace and things of that nature. I don’t think most women are interested in the nitty-gritty of what is happening in the Geneva armament talks, but . . . “

“Are most men?” Stahl cut in.

Says He Misspoke

“No,” Regan replied. “Most people--let’s put it that way.”

Then, Stahl asked, why did Regan draw a gender distinction?

“I misspoke, very frankly,” Regan replied, adding in a paraphrase of a line first uttered 40 years ago by then New York Mayor F.H. La Guardia: “And when I misspoke, apparently it was a beaut.”

Regan took pains to protect his boss from any fallout generated by his remark.

“That was Don Regan talking,” he said. “It was not Ronald Reagan and he has nothing to do with it.”


President Not Angry

Regan said the President was not angry about the controversy, “because I explained it to him exactly as I’m explaining it to you . . . that was not my intent, to downplay women or to suggest that women don’t understand these things.”

Regan said he had not talked to Mrs. Reagan about it.

Commenting on another topic, Regan said the farm bill approved by the Senate over the weekend is “an awful lot of money” and President Reagan has not decided whether he could accept it.