Democratic presidential nominee Michael S. Dukakis personally apologized to Vice President George Bush Thursday evening after an aide publicly said "George Bush owes it to the American people to fess up" about a rumor concerning an extramarital affair that rippled through Wall Street on Wednesday.
Dukakis made his apology when he met Bush briefly before the annual Alfred E. Smith Dinner, the Catholic archdiocese's fund-raising dinner in Manhattan, according to staff members from both campaigns.
The aide, Donna Brazile, resigned, saying "today I made certain comments which I deeply regret."
Bush's spokeswoman, Sheila Tate, said: "The Bush campaign has no comment, no reaction."
Deputy Field Director
Brazile, 28, a deputy field director who helped serve as a liaison to the black community, earlier in the day had told reporters accompanying Dukakis that "the American people have every right to know if Barbara Bush will share that bed with him in the White House.
"I'm talking about George Bush and somebody with the initials J. F. or whatever the names are," she said. She was apparently alluding to a story published by the L.A. Weekly in Los Angeles, which quoted unidentified sources as saying Bush had had a longstanding affair with a member of his staff and also had an affair during the mid-1970s with another woman.
The rumor first cropped up in 1987, prompting this colorful denial from George Bush Jr.: "The answer to the big A question is N.O."
Wall Street analysts attributed Wednesday's abrupt market decline to a rumor that the Washington Post planned to publish a damaging story about Bush. The Post had no such story, and Brazile said she did not know personally of the accuracy of the Bush rumors.
'Racist Code Words'
In her conversation with reporters, Brazile also said the Bush campaign deliberately emphasized issues like the ACLU, gun control, murderer Willie Horton and prison furloughs, as "racist code words."
Noting that Horton was a black man who raped a white woman, she added: "They use every code word and racial symbol to package their little racist campaign." Those remarks were offered with reporters aboard a bus from New Haven to New York City.
Brazile repeatedly insisted she was speaking for herself and not the campaign. Later, Dukakis spokesman Dayton Duncan tersely announced that Brazile "wasn't speaking on behalf of the campaign in any way whatsoever." Dukakis campaign chairman Paul P. Brountas said later that he "would not accuse" the Bush campaign of being racist.
Brazile, a native of New Orleans, was the chief organizer of the 1983 20th Anniversary March on Washington that drew several hundred thousand people. She was an aide to the Rev. Jesse Jackson in the 1984 presidential campaign. She joined Dukakis after working last spring for the unsuccessful campaign of Missouri Rep. Richard A. Gephardt.
Staff writers James Gerstenzang and David Lauter contributed to this story.