Tags: Texas | Reporter | Says | Bush | Denied | Arrest

Texas Reporter Says Bush Denied Arrest

Friday, 03 November 2000 12:00 AM

Acknowledging the 1976 incident Thursday evening, Bush said he had been "very candid" about his history of drinking problems, though he never revealed the arrest, which happened in Kennebunkport, Maine.

But Wayne Slater, a Dallas Morning News reporter traveling with the Bush campaign, said the governor denied being arrested to him during an impromptu interview in 1998 on the sidelines of a news conference in Austin, Texas. Slater said he asked Bush whether the governor had been arrested after 1968, when Bush had been arrested for being involved in a fraternity prank. Slater said Bush said, "No."

"That's the way it happened," Slater said, speaking to fellow reporters aboard Bush's plane as it prepared to leave Milwaukee for a campaign stop in Grand Rapids.

"There's no equivocation," Slater said.

As Slater spoke, Karen Hughes, Bush's communication director, joined the conversation, at first questioning whether Bush and Slater's conversation was for public use and then disputing Slater's account.

"That conversation was off the record, wasn't it, Wayne?" Hughes asked in a tense moment as a crush of reporters surrounded Slater and Hughes in the aisle of the plane as Bush settled into the front cabin nearby.

Slater said the conversation was on the record.

Hughes didn't press the issue, but she did refute Slater's account of his conversation with Bush, which Hughes interrupted and cut short in 1998.

"The governor disagrees with that," said Hughes, referring to Bush's denial of the arrest. "He was hinting that something had happened. That's why I stopped the conversation."

Slater said he believed the governor was about to amend his statement and perhaps acknowledge the unknown arrest when Hughes stopped the conversation.

Later, when Bush's plane landed in Grand Rapids for the day's campaign stop, Hughes stood before cameras and addressed the issue, saying Bush showed candor by leaving Slater with the impression that the governor may have had another arrest on his record.

She also said Bush aired the issue in 1996 when asked publicly if he had ever been arrested.

"I do not have a perfect record as a youth," Bush said then.

Bush and his wife, Laura, called their daughters from a Chicago campaign stop to tell them about the arrest as the story first broke on national television from Maine, where Bush was arrested in 1976 in Kennebunkport after drinking with his sister Dorothy and two other friends at an area bar. Reports Friday said the reporter came upon the story after hearing some people speaking among themselves at a courthouse. One of those individuals was later identified as a lawyer and Democratic Party activist.

Hughes said Thursday she had known about the arrest for many years.

"In September of 1976, in Kennebunkport, Maine, where he was visiting his parents, Gov. Bush was stopped after leaving a bar where he had had several beers and was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol," Hughes said in a statement Thursday night.

Hughes said Bush pleaded guilty to misdemeanor drunken-driving charges. He paid a $150 fine and had his driver's license suspended in Maine but did not spend a night in jail, Hughes said.

"I hope that a mistake the governor made 24 years ago would not have an impact on the final days of this election," Hughes said after the story broke.

Bush, who has acknowledged a history of drinking problems, said he never disclosed the incident because he did not want to set a bad example for his 18-year-old twin daughters.

"It's become clear to America in the course of this campaign that I've made mistakes in my life," Bush said Friday to thousands of supporters gathered for a rally at a Grand Rapids community college. "But I'm proud to tell you I've learned from those mistakes."

Copyright 2000 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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Acknowledging the 1976 incident Thursday evening, Bush said he had been very candid about his history of drinking problems, though he never revealed the arrest, which happened in Kennebunkport, Maine. But Wayne Slater, a Dallas Morning News reporter traveling with the...
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Friday, 03 November 2000 12:00 AM
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