Bert Lance has publicly apologized for [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] press" might be to blame for intense media suggesting that "Jewish ownership of the coverage of oil-rich Arabs seeking U.S. investments.
"I did not perceive this to be an offensive remark and if, to the contrary, my statement offended anyone in any way whatsoever, I truly regret it," Lance said yesterday in a statement he planned to read last night during his regular broadcast as a commentator for WXIA-TV in Atlanta.
In an Atlanta Journal-Constitution Magazine article Sunday on Gaith R. Pharoan, the wealthy Saudi financier who bailed President Carter's friend and former budget director out of serious debt by purchasing Lance's National Bank of Georgia stock for $2.4 million, Lance was quoted as saying:
"Multinational investments have been a strong part of the American economy for a long time. I understand the concerns, but circustances 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.
The comments stirred concern among Atlanta's Jewish community, and local Anti-Defamation League Director Charles Wittenstein spent two hours with Lance yesterday at Lance's Atlanta mansion. It was after their meeting that Lance clarified his remarks.
"I sincerely hope that in no way such a statement would give encouragement to those who feel any prejudice towards the Jewish people," said Lance. "It is neither relevant nor constructive to talk about the religious affiliation of people in the media or any other vocation or profession, and that was the point I was trying to make . . . I've tried always to speak out against prejudice . . ."