An article in yesterday's editions reported that Sen. Edward M. Kennedy had said President Carter's implication that the senator blamed the United States rather than the Arabs was "ridiculous and untrue." It should have read "Iranians," not "Arabs."
Warming to his fight with an incumbent president, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy today escalated it another notch with a steely counterassault on Jimmy Carter's veracity.
The Massachusetts senator said the president had "misused the office to launch a personal political attack that was factually inaccurate" and "without precedent in the history of presidential news conferences."
Referring to the charges made against him by the president in a news conference Wednesday night. Kenndy said, "Those who so relentlessly use the word truth should at least respect the truth in their own campaign."
Carter also had "misused the president's access to the television network," Kennedy said.
"I believe the networks have an obligation to redress the balance and I am today filing a request with the networks and the Federal Communications Commission requesting equal time for a reply."
He based the claim in part on a published report that the president's press conference had been called on the advice "not of the secretary of state, but of the president's campaign managers in New Hampshire." He leveled a point-by-point attack on each accusation Carter mad against him. The president had accused Kennedy of making erroneous statements about Carter's foeign policy and of damaging the country's interests by speaking out.
"I have been criticizing President Carter because his policy has disserved the national interest," Kennedy told an enthusiastic crowd of students which filled the Exeter High School gymnasium.
"No particular president is identified with patriotism."
Kennedy spoke from a prepared text and kept his voice more controlled and deliberate than his usual stump bellow.
Kennedy repeated his call for a debate with Carter on the issues. "It is time to stop using the Department of State as a campaign forum. It is time to stop the parade of surrogates and the abuse of federal grants to purchase votes in the primaries."
On the hostage question which had set the charges flying, Kennedy called Carter's implication that the senator blamed the United States rather than the Arabs "ridiculous and "untrue."
Kennedy said he had only pointed out that there had been ample warning of the dangers in Iran but that the administration had established "no effective contigency plan to protect our diplomats."
At the White House, presidential press secretary Jody Powell said "common sense" supported Carter's allegation that Kennedy's criticism has been "very damaging" to the efforts to free the hostages.
But under intensive questioning, Powell could not cite specific evidence of the damage.
"It seems to me on the face of it that for a high, well-known public official to misstake, with full knowledge that he was misstaking foreign policy is not helpful," he said.
"It is hardly helpful to have a high public official state that the continued holding of the hostages is the result of American intransigence. This is not a question of dissent. Dissent is one thing. Misstating thte actions of this government is something else."
Kennedy's campaign organizers were "delighted" by Carter's harsh atack, according to Kennedy aide Tom Southwick.
The president "completely destroyed the image he was trying to create of being presidential and above the political fray," Southwick said.
Kennedy spent much of the day trading pleasantries and valentines with plant workers at a shoe factory, senior citizens, students and others in several small picture postcard communities.
Many citizens seemed more concerned about the price of home heating oil and other closer-to-home problems than with the blossoming way between the Democratic candidates -- until Kennedy, with relish, brought it up.