Frank Moore, President Carter's assistant for congressional relations, was pulled off the campaign trail yesterday in reaction to his statement on Tuesday that Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was dying of cancer of the colon.
Moore's campaign schedule for the Carter-Mondale ticket has been "canceled indefinitely," said Linda Peek, a spokesman for the Carter-Mondale committee, last night.
Confirming that Moore has been withdrawn from the campaign, White House press secretary Jody Powell told reporters in Columbia, S.C., "He obviously couldn't do any good when all you people wanted to talk about was the ayatollah's colon."
White House and campaign committee sources said that Moore, an assistant to Carter when he was governor of Georgia, may be asked to resign his White House post after the election.
White House and State Department officials were stunned Wednesday when they learned that Moore had told the editor and two reporters with the Shreveport (La.) Journal in an interview Tuesday that Khomeini would not "last long" and would be replaced by the Iranian military, including some officers now in exile.
The hour-long interview was taped and a transcript published in the paper yesterday afternoon.
Moore has not been available for comment. The White House issued a statement Wednesday saying that he was not a spokesman on Iranian affairs.
In Iran, a spokesman for Khomeini called Moore's statements "too funny to comment on."
Powell told reporters yesterday that despite Moore's remarks he still considered his fellow Georgian worthy of remaining on the White House staff. cAsked if the statements had damaged efforts to free the 52 American hostages, Powell said, "Not that I'm aware of."
Moore has been Carter's chief spokesman on Capitol Hill, and from the beginning of the Carter administration drew criticism for his handling of legislative matters.
In its statement yesterday, the White House said: "The administration has no information suggesting Ayatollah Khomeini is terminally ill. As a matter of policy, the administration does not speculate on the course of internal developments in Iran."