The July 21 Robert D. Novak op-ed column attacked Bettilou Taylor, who is one of the Senate's most respected and revered staffers, having served 16 years. She has been my top aide on the Senate appropriations subcommittee that I chair.

The column falsely and maliciously accused her of conflict of interest by orchestrating a hearing to grill Kenneth Tomlinson, chairman of the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), while her husband consulted for the Association of Public Television Stations.

I decided to hold the hearing to determine whether proposed cuts in the CPB budget by the House were warranted. Had Novak taken the time to call me, the false accusation could have been avoided, or, at least, the other side could have been given.

Contrary to Novak's minimizing of Tomlinson's expenditure of $25,000 for lobbying when a phone call could have avoided that expenditure, the CPB can make better use of its budget.

The column also accuses me of being "unprepared." The word "unprepared" is not in my vocabulary. I am accustomed to criticism, but it is inexcusable to defame a well-respected public servant such as Bettilou Taylor.

-- Arlen Specter


The writer is a Republican senator from Pennsylvania.