Herschensohn Claims Boxer Orchestrated Allegations : Senate race: Democrat denies role in revelation that GOP foe patronized strip joint and adult newsstand.


Stung by accusations that he patronized a Hollywood nude dance club and an adult newsstand, U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Herschensohn issued a seething condemnation of his opponent Saturday, calling Democrat Barbara Boxer a “coward” and accusing her of orchestrating an eleventh-hour attempt to discredit him.

“It is trash, it’s slime, it’s sleaze, it is smearing and it is selective spying,” Herschensohn said at a hastily called news conference in San Diego during which he acknowledged visiting the two establishments. “Barbara Boxer to me represents the worst of political life.”

Boxer, campaigning in Sacramento, denied any role in the incident and said the issue has no place in the race.


“I’m very distressed about this whole thing,” Boxer said. “I had nothing to do with it. And this issue has nothing to do with this campaign.”

Herschensohn, seeking to take the offensive as the bizarre revelation threatened to dominate the last few days of the close contest, sent Boxer a telegram accusing her of authorizing the “last-minute smear tactic” and challenging her to meet him face to face. But he offered no evidence linking Boxer to the accusations, which were aired Friday by a high-ranking official of the state Democratic Party.

That official, political director Bob Mulholland, was suspended indefinitely without pay for acting without the party’s approval, state Democratic Chairman Phil Angelides said Saturday.

The bitter recriminations from Herschensohn, who has embraced the GOP “family values” platform and who receives support from the religious right, came during a busy day of campaigning as California heads toward a historic double Senate election. In addition to the neck-and-neck Boxer-Herschensohn contest, Democrat Dianne Feinstein is running against appointed Sen. John Seymour, a Republican, for the other Senate seat.

Boxer and Feinstein spent Saturday hopscotching from San Diego to Sacramento for a series of boisterous rallies promoting abortion rights.

“We will fight, stand tall, and articulate the woman’s right to choose,” Feinstein proclaimed to more than 1,000 women and men gathered behind the Federal Building in Westwood. Under a bright fall sun, the crowd chanted and waved signs saying “I Vote Pro-Choice” and “Elect Women for a Change.”


Similar crowds showed up in San Diego and at the new Public Library Galleria in downtown Sacramento. Feinstein and Boxer criticized their opponents’ positions on abortion. Herschensohn, they said, is “anti-choice” while Seymour is “multiple-choice”--a reference to his reversal on the issue in 1989, when he decided to favor abortion rights.

With Feinstein enjoying a comfortable lead over her opponent, she turned her attention Saturday to giving a boost to the rest of the Democratic ticket.

“An individual can make a difference; a team can make a change,” she told the Los Angeles crowd. “We need the votes in the House. We need the votes in the Senate. We need a President who will respond.”

Feinstein is making several appearances this weekend on behalf of other candidates, such as Anita Perez-Ferguson and Anthony Beilenson, both of whom are running for Congress. And the joint stumping with Boxer, which will continue today and Monday, is clearly intended to bolster the Marin County congresswoman’s flagging campaign.

Seymour also campaigned Saturday on an abortion rights theme, meeting in the back yard of a supporter’s Santa Monica home with about 30 people, many from Republicans for Choice.

“Yes, you can be conservative and pro-choice,” he told the group. “You and I both know that government should stay out of this issue. It should be left up to a woman, her family, her doctors and her God. Government should stay out of it entirely.”


Seymour, who has not been able to draw much closer to Feinstein in statewide polls, seemed dispirited. Although he said he believed he was still within “striking distance” of Feinstein, his campaign seemed to offer little hope. In contrast to the other candidates, Seymour has scheduled only one public event today, and his press spokesman took the weekend off.

Seymour dedicated a portion of his remarks to Feinstein, seeming almost in awe of her. He said that at one time during the Democratic Convention in New York, he turned on his television and had to change channels twice to avoid having to watch Feinstein.

Herschensohn campaigned in Orange County and San Diego, where he spoke to about 100 supporters at the city’s Republican headquarters and later held a news conference. It was at the news conference that, for the second day in a row, the nude bar accusations received attention.

Critics have suggested that Herschensohn’s actions were hypocritical because of his support for the Republican Party platform, which he openly embraced at the GOP convention in Houston this summer, and for the financial help he receives from the religious right. Herschensohn has not made family values a centerpiece of most of his campaign, however.

At the news conference, Herschensohn appeared angry and stern-faced as he told reporters that he had visited the Seventh Veil strip club on Sunset Boulevard once--but said it was nothing to be ashamed of. With his girlfriend, Jan Bresnahan, looking on, Herschensohn said the two of them and another couple--whom he identified as KABC radio talk show host Ken Minyard and his wife, Jackie--stopped at the club one night after dinner.

“We were having a real good time,” he said. “We were driving around and said: ‘Hey, let’s stop there.’ . . . We went in. We had a very good time. Some of the people there came up and said they were fans and all of that.”

Herschensohn also acknowledged that he is a regular customer at the Centerfold Newsstand on Fairfax Avenue, which carries mainstream and adult publications. The only sexually oriented publications he bought, he later told a reporter, were Playboy and Penthouse magazines.


“I don’t know of any comprehensive newsstand in Los Angeles that doesn’t have an adult section,” he said at the news conference. “And if anyone expects I am going to ask that question prior to the time I am buying magazines, they are simply mistaken.”

In an appeal to voters, Herschensohn asked that the accusations be weighed against the manner in which they were revealed. If “anyone puts importance on these charges without her facing me directly, it is a statement that sleaze works, and that it is legitimate,” he said. “Those who are going to vote for her, I want you to think it over. Think it over. Think of the message that you are sending about using these kinds of tactics.”

Herschensohn’s campaign manager, Ken Khachigian, on Saturday referred to Mulholland, the party official who aired the allegations, as a “walking stink bomb” who acted as “authorized proxy” for Boxer. Like Herschensohn, Khachigian offered no proof, but demanded Mulholland be fired.

Angelides, the Democratic chairman, said it was “ludicrous” to suggest that Boxer, Mulholland and the party had conspired to smear Herschensohn. Angelides did say that the Democratic Party knew about the Herschensohn strip joint visit for “two or three” weeks but did not consider it an appropriate issue to raise.

Boxer said she was responding to Herschensohn in writing regarding his accusation that she orchestrated the disclosures. Asked if the issue was a legitimate one to raise, she said:

“Not in my opinion, no. This issue has nothing to do with this campaign and I’m glad Phil Angelides put Bob Mulholland on unpaid leave, because he should have.


“It was unauthorized. It was the wrong thing to do.”

Times staff writers Douglas P. Shuit and Bill Stall contributed to this story.