They Call Attacks Unfair : 5 Quit Bush Panel Over Bias, Fascism Charges
Five supporters of Vice President George Bush’s presidential campaign resigned Monday from a campaign committee in the wake of allegations that they had engaged in anti-Semitic activities in the past or were linked to fascist groups.
The acceptance of the resignations reflected the Bush campaign’s desire to quickly put a potentially embarrassing episode behind it.
Compiled List of Jews
The problem was compounded by the disclosure over the weekend that Frederic V. Malek, operations director at the Republican National Committee, had compiled a list of Jewish officials in a government agency at the behest of President Richard M. Nixon in 1971 when Malek was a White House aide. Malek has resigned from the committee.
In a written statement made public by the Bush campaign as the vice president arrived in this southern Illinois city for a campaign rally Monday evening, the five said that they were quitting the Coalition of American Nationalities because they had been “attacked unfairly by George Bush’s political opponents.”
The five are Philip Guarino, Laszlo Pastor, Florian Galdau, Ignatius Bilinsky and Bohdon Fedorak.
Another panel member, Jerome A. Bentar, was dismissed on Thursday after it was disclosed that he had been active in efforts to defend John Demjanjuk, the former Cleveland auto worker who has been sentenced to death in Israel after being found guilty of committing atrocities at the Treblinka death camp in Poland during World War II.
The campaign maintained that the five who resigned on Monday had done nothing wrong.
Bush, asked why the campaign was “giving in” and accepting their resignations, told reporters as he arrived in Alton:
“Nobody’s giving in. Nobody’s giving in. These people left of their own volition. We’re not accusing anybody of anything.
“We’re getting into a very peculiar deal where some people are accusing people,” he said. “I don’t like it a bit.”
Bush Defends Malek
Earlier in the day, the vice president had said about Malek: “I know this man, and I know him to be without one ounce of bigotry or prejudice in his makeup.”
The Coalition of American Nationalities is an advisory group, originally made up of 88 members, formed to drum up support for Bush among the diverse ethnic groups in the American electorate.
The allegations against Brentar and the other members of the coalition were raised by the Washington Jewish Week, a weekly Jewish newspaper circulating in the Washington, D.C., area, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, which specializes in Holocaust research.
Among the allegations was a charge that Guarino, a vice chairman of the panel, had been a member of a group in Italy led by a known Fascist. Pastor, according to the Washington Jewish Week article, had as a young man served in Hungary’s pro-Nazi government as a junior envoy to Berlin.
In their statement, the coalition members who resigned on Monday said that “these Sasso-like attacks are aimed at neutralizing the strong support which George Bush has and will continue to have in the ethnic community.”
John Sasso is Gov. Michael S. Dukakis’ senior campaign aide who has a reputation for orchestrating tough approaches in political campaigns.
“George Bush is not a newcomer to ethnics,” the statement said. “George Bush is our friend, and we do not want our friend to be hurt by those politically motivated attacks. We will continue to support his candidacy.”
Probe Finds No Evidence
Alixe Glen, a campaign spokesman, said that the campaign had investigated the allegations and found “no evidence to substantiate charges made against any of these individuals.”
“Their decision that they should resign from the coalition was purely so as not to fuel the fire,” she said. “They have done the right thing by resigning themselves from this controversy.”
Another campaign official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, acknowledged that the Bush organization was glad the five had departed quickly, saying that “it’s one of those nettlesome things that distracts. It distracts from everything we’re trying to do.”