Foster's Label of Critics Called a Misstatement

From a Times Staff Writer

The White House said Monday that Henry W. Foster Jr. "misspoke" when he declared over the weekend that his nomination as surgeon general was under attack by "white right-wing extremists."

Mike McCurry, the White House press secretary, said that the Tennessee physician had not intended to include the word "white" when he spoke to his church in Nashville. "It was a slip of the tongue," McCurry said.

Reading from a text, Foster asked the First Baptist Church Capitol Hill congregation for its prayers and help "to fight the latest attack from the white right-wing extremists that are using my nomination to achieve their radical goals."

White House officials and their congressional allies have been hoping that the early opposition to Foster would subside as more people get to know the obstetrician-gynecologist. But the slip could raise anew the questions of how well Foster will stand up under upcoming Senate hearings.

With his FBI background check now nearly complete, Foster's nomination is expected to be formally sent to Capitol Hill within the next few days.

However, an aide to Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum (R-Kan.), who chairs the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, predicted that the Foster hearings would take place between mid-March and late April.

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