Nixon defender, panel spokesman

DeVan Shumway, 77, the spokesman for the Committee to Re-Elect the President who staunchly defended the Nixon administration throughout the Watergate scandal, died April 23 of lung disease at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He was a resident of Fairfax County, Va.

Shumway employed what became known as "nondenial denials," in which administration officials sounded as if they were denying charges without actually doing so. He was the main public contact for President Nixon's reelection committee while reporters tracked down who ordered the 1972 burglary of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington. The coverup led to Richard Nixon's resignation in 1974.

When the Washington Post reported that the FBI had linked the burglary to political spying and sabotage by Nixon's reelection campaign, Shumway called the story in 1972 "not only fiction but a collection of absurdities." Reacting to a New York Times story months after the break-in that detailed continuing ties between the burglary suspects and the committee, Shumway called the charges "outrageously false and preposterous." They were later established as true.

Born in Blanding, Utah, in 1930, Shumway attended the University of Utah and served in the Marine Corps during the Korean War. He was a longtime West Coast bureau chief for what became United Press International and a White House assistant director of communications before joining the reelection committee in 1972. He left the committee in 1973.

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