On the anniversary of White House aide Vincent Foster’s suicide, his family Wednesday joined the White House in denouncing Republican Rep. Dan Burton’s declaration from the House floor that blond hairs found on Foster’s body, and other evidence, merit further investigation of the death.
One week before the start of Whitewater hearings in Congress that may explore the subject, Foster’s wife, sister and children broke a yearlong silence to say they were “particularly appalled by the shameful statements . . . of a legislator . . . purposefully employing outrageous innuendo and speculation for partisan ends.”
The White House called statements by the Indiana Republican outrageous and portrayed them as part of a concerted effort by conservatives to increase the publicity about the Whitewater controversy.
The former White House deputy counsel, one of the Clintons’ closest friends, was found dead of a pistol wound July 20, 1993, in Ft. Marcy Park in Virginia, just across the Potomac from Washington. Robert B. Fiske Jr., the independent counsel charged with investigating Whitewater, found in a report June 30 that the evidence “overwhelmingly supports” the original police finding of suicide.
The White House statement, underscoring Administration officials’ genuine distaste at continuing questions about the death, also seemed designed to throw the opposition on the defensive by highlighting comments that even some Republicans have privately questioned.
Burton, in a speech last week, pointed to a variety of evidence that he said is insufficiently explained. It included blond and light-brown head hairs found on Foster’s undershirt, pants, belt, socks and shoes, and multicolored carpet fibers found on his clothing and shoes.
The significance of this evidence, if any, was not directly addressed in the Fiske report. A White House aide said the hair could have come from fair-haired members of Foster’s family.
The White House also said Fiske has asked for all files connected to the Foster death in an effort to clear up lingering questions about his suicide. Joel Klein, deputy White House counsel, directed the White House staff to turn over all such documents by close of business Thursday.
In a memorandum, Klein said staff members should turn over “all documents in your custody, possession or control relating to any activities or events in connection with Vincent Foster’s death, or the search of his office following his death or the disposition of any documents in his office or in the safe” in the office of then-White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum.
In their statement, Foster’s widow, Lisa, sister, Sheila Foster Anthony, and children said there was “no justification for the painful, repetitious examination of the issues,” which appeared to be “chiefly motivated by mean-spirited partisanship.”
“Also despicable are the speculations about Vince’s death being spread by those calling themselves Christian ministers,” it said. “It is so unfair for the family’s privacy and emotions to be part of a partisan struggle.”
In response, Burton insisted Wednesday that he had been “very careful throughout this whole process not to make any irresponsible accusations or unsubstantiated allegations.” He said in a statement that, although he had “a great deal of compassion” for Foster’s family, “I believe that getting answers to these questions is very important.”
Since issuance of the Fiske report, some conservative Republicans, columnists and talk-show hosts have assailed the investigation as a cover-up and clamored for a broadened look in the upcoming hearings in the House and Senate.
The televised hearings that begin next week are to be limited to two topics: the propriety of contacts between White House officials and federal banking regulators looking into the Clintons’ Whitewater Development Corp. investment, and Foster’s death.