Bert Lance has suggested that the "Jewish ownership of the press" may be behind the intense media coverage of oil-rich Arabs who invest heavily in the U.S. economy.

Lance was quoted in a magazine article published Sunday in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The Arab tycoon on the magazine's cover was Gaith R. Pharoan, the wealthy Saudi financier who bailed President Carter former budget director out of his heavy debt by purchasing Lance's National Bank of Georgia stock for $2.4 million.

Lance, who resigned over questionable financing dealings at NBG and the Calhoun, Ga., bank he once headed, scoffed at the mystique that has grown up around the mushrooming power and influence Arab oil money has come to play in the world.

"Multinational investments have been a strong part of the American economy for a long time," Lance told reporter Margaret Shannon. "I understand the concerns, but circumstances have changed. There's no special significance to the word Arab .

"I don't know whether all the hurrah stems from the great Jewish ownership of the press or not."

Shannon said Lance's comment was spontaneous, without bitterness and uttered in a "good-ole-boy" conversational tone.