An attorney in a letter made available to the press, has said that The New York Times "appears to be cruelly sacrificing the principles of individual human rights" in "forcing" the resignation of Laura Foreman, a reporter in The Times' Washington bureau and called for her reinstatement.
The Times expressed surprise that the letter was made public but would not comment on its contents. The Times said A.M. Rosenthal to whom the letter was addressed had not yet received it.
Foreman resigned from The Times Sept. 12 Following a story by The Philadelphia inquirer that said that while Foreman was an Inquirer reporter in 1975 and 1976 she received about $10,000 in gifts from a Philadelphia politician of statewide influence with whom she was romantically involved.
The politician, State Sen. Henry J. Cianfrani, 54, yesterday pleaded innocent to 110 charges of reacketeering, mail fraud, obstruction of justice and income tax evasion and was released on $5,000 bail. The charges were unrelated to Foreman and her resignation.
In a three-paragraph article on Sept. 13 announcing Foreman's resignation. The Times said that she had "acknowledged the relationship with Mr. Cianfrani but maintained she never wrote anything for The Inquirer that violated her professional integrity."
Washington attorney Robert McCandles, in his letter to Times executive editor A.M. Rosenthal, said that "late last month when the story broke that Senator Cianfrani was about to be indicted, that he had been having a relationship with Mrs. Foreman, and that he had given her gifts - you and The Times panicked."
McCandless called Foreman "a scrupulous and conscientious professional" and said that she "resigned under your wrongful and unremitting pressure and has suffered a mental and emotional collapse. She has been hospitalized since Sept. 14 . . . She is now very ill and her doctors do not know when she will recover." He said The Times was apparently concerned "with its own 'precious prestige' and 'image.'"
A spokesman for The Times said Rosenthal had not yet received the letter but said that an earlier letter from McCandless "called for this to be treated in confidence. We are somewhat stunned by the fact that he has gone public with something he wanted treated in confidence." The spokesman said The Times would have no further comment.
Eugene L. Roberts, executive editor of The Inquirer, issued a statement citing what he called inaccuracies in the McCandless letter. For example, he said, The Inquirer "never exposed a statewide nursing home scandal through information Cianfrani gave Ms. Foreman," as the letter indicated.
McCandless, who said that he had a hand-delivered letter sent to The Times Washington bureau in addition to mailing one to Rosenthal in New York, admitted that he earlier had requested that the matter be handled in confidence. But he said he made the letter public because The Times "forced the issue of severance in a very crual fashion."
McCandless, who said he is representing Foreman and her family, said The TImes had sent Foreman, in addition to a severance check, "a form . . . requiring her signature to continue her insurance benefits." He said Foreman was too sick to sign, but she wouldn't know what that meant," McCandless said, adding that it was "a very cruel thing when people can't respond for themselves." He would not say where Foreman is hospitalized.