Sen. William L. Scott (R-Va.) turned to the comics yesterday to denounce a newspaper report about his most recent trip aboard, to Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.
In a speech on the Senate floor, Virginia's junior senator compared himself to the misunderstood King of Id, who, when warned that failure to explain the purpose of a trip could cause him trouble with a reporter, responded, " so let it be . . . freedom of the press is not a pretty thing."
Scott told a nearly empty Senate chamber that "only recently I returned from a trip to Southern Asia and learned of the denunciation and misrepresentation of the trip by some of the media." He said "a serious trip (was) made subject to ridicule, with the headline 'Senator Scott to Conquer Khyber Pass,"
Scott was referring to a headline in The Washington Post on Nov 4. The story quoted a State Department official as saying that Scott interrupted a briefing on his 24-day trip to India, Pakistan and Afghanistan to ask, "Now where is this Khyber Pass?"
"The facts are," Scott told Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), "I had no intention of traveling through the pass when the visit was authorized, but one of our ambassadors suggested the 200-to-300-mile trip by automobile rather than air, knowing it to be the most direct land route between the capitals, and also believing it would add to my knowledge of the northern portions of the two countries."
Although he did not draw the comparison during his speech, Scott's instructions to his staff paralleled the orders the mythical King of Id gave to his staff.
Scott told the Senate that after the king directed his knight to tell a reporter he had gone fish-the knight protested1 that "the king could not just leave the reporter waiting, alleging that he would get angry, that he would make up all kinds of stories and insinuations, that he would castigate the king and would rip him apart."
A secretary in Scott's office told a reporter earlier this month that Scott told her not to answer questions about his trip, but instead give reporters a letter from Sen. James O. Eastland (D-Miss.) authorizing the trip.
When Eastland was asked the purpose of Scott's trip, Eastland said, "Hell, I don't know. He told me, but I forgot."
Scott said yesterday that Eastland had approved the trip so that Scott could investigate "allegations that the Soviet Union might seek to realize is long-held desire for a warm water port by fomenting trouble in the Pakistan-Afghanistan area to gain direct access to the Indian Ocean."
The trip, from which he returned last week, was "highly successful," Scott said. He reported that he met with the acting secretary of foreign affairs in India and the presidents and principal ministers and secretaries in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Scott did not reveal what, if anything, he learned during those discussions, saying, "of course, their confidence must be respected." He said information from his "fact-finding" mission "would be made available to the Armed Services Committee in closed session."
Scott, who has announced he will retire from the Senate early in 1979 after serving one six-year term, said yesterday that "circumstances have dictated my traveling abroad more this year than usual.
"However, since election to Congress in 1966 (he served three terms in the House), I have made a total of 10 official trips abroad. These 10 visits in 11 years have sometimes been exagerrated by adding together all of the countries visited," Scott said.
At last count, Scott has visited 37 nations, some of them several times, during his five years in the Senate. He has visited the Panama Canal twice this year.
On his most recent trip, on which he was accompanied by his wife, Inex, Scott said "most of the trip was on O-141 cargo planes, on regular schedules, loaded with freight, although seats were placed in the front portion of the plane for a number of individuals."
Scott said he will reimburse the Army for his wife's portion of the air fare, and that he already has paid for the portion of her trip made by commercial aircraft.
"No staff member or military escort accompanied me," Scott added.