By Juliet Eilperin
Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) offered to resign from the committee last week after public disclosure that he had had a five-year extramarital affair during the 1960s, Republican sources said yesterday. The offer was tendered to House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), who rejected it.
Disclosure of Hyde's liaison provoked a storm of controversy in the House, with some Republican members accusing the White House of trying to smear Hyde -- who is overseeing an investigation of President Clinton's affair with Monica S. Lewinsky -- as part of a "scorched earth" policy against Clinton's accusers.
The White House categorically denied being the source of the article, which first was published by Salon, a left-leaning Internet magazine, and said anyone involved in disseminating such information would be fired. Gingrich and other House GOP leaders sent a letter to FBI director Louis J. Freeh on Thursday asking him to investigate any personal attacks on members of Congress, including Hyde, that are aimed at intimidating them.
"It is a sign of the depth of Chairman Hyde's integrity that he would automatically offer a resignation over a 30-year-old story," said Gingrich spokeswoman Christina Martin. "The speaker did not consider the resignation because he can think of no one who has earned more respect or affection from the House. Henry Hyde is a man of dignity who has handled the situation well."
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company