The nomination of Warren Richardson as assistant secretary of health and human services appeared in jeopardy yesterday because of allegations of anti-Semitism.
Richardson denied the charges, but a department spokesman said the department is looking into them and will decide whether to withdraw the nomination.
The allegations were made by Rep. Samuel Gejdenson (D-Conn.), who cited a May 18, 1971, article by Richardson in The New York Times and Richardson's four-year stint (1969 to 1973) as general counsel of the Liberty Lobby organization.
The Liberty Lobby has described itself as a political and lobbying organization that is "pro-American and anti-communist," and dedicated to "constitutional responsibility and fiscal responsibility."
Nathan Perlmutter, national director of the Anti-Defamation League of B"nai B'rith, said in a telephone interview from New York that his organization opposes the nomination because it believes the Liberty Lobby has been anti-Semitic and anti-black for the past 20 years -- including the period Richardson served there.
Perlmutter said the ADL had raised objections to the nomination with David Newhall, the key personnel adviser to HHS Secretary Richard S. Schweiker, and also with the White House.
Perlmutter voiced the opinion that "in view of Mr. Richardson's role in the . . . Liberty Lobby, his appointment to Health and Human Services is akin to designating a paranoid to be in charge of a mental asylum."
Gejdenson, in denouncing the choice of Richardson, who has not been formally nominated but has been designated for the assistant secretary for legislation post, said a sentence in a New York Times article by Richarson, opposing U.S. intervention in the Mideast, read: "Liberty Lobby will not tag along with the cowards who would rather countenance another national disaster than brave the screams of the pro-Zionist 'free press' in America."
In a statement issued through HHS, Richardson said, "I am not now nor have I been anit-Semitic. I am deeply concerned and upset over these allegations and will do everything I can to prove they are untrue."
Newhall, in a separate statement, said Richardson had told him "he did not author the unconscionable paragraph that has been cited . . . that it was added [by someone else] to his essay before submission to The New York Times and that he was unaware of this until publication."
However, Newhall added that a regard to objections to Richardson's nomination from the ADL and the American Jewish Committee, Schweiker "has the highest respect for these organizations, having worked with them in the past." Newhall, Schweiker's top aide, added that "I have today initiated a thorough and prompt review of the Warren Richardson nomination."
Aides to Gejdenson, who was born in a displaced-persons camp in Europe and whose father was held in a Nazi concentration camp, said Liberty Lobby publications written while Richardson was general counsel of the organization had used phrases in connection with school desegregation such as "they won't be happy until all races are melted into the U.N. brown man."
Perlmutter said a March 1973 Liberty Lobby newsletter had scored "Israel-firsts, America-lasts split-loyalist hypocrites" and suggested that then-senators James Buckley and Jacob K. Javits of New York should be given "one-way tickets" to the Mideast. Perlmutter said "America First," a 1971 Liberty Lobby pamphlet, blamed Zionism for getting the United States involved in World Wars I and II, and conniving with Presidents Wilson and Truman.
Lois Peterson, secretary of the board of policy of Liberty Lobby, said, "We're pro-American. . . . We're not anti-Semitic, but anytime you criticize Zionism they say you're anit-Semitic."
She said it is time for an investigation of alleged anti-Semitism in America because Jews have so much power that even black activist Stokely Carmichael had been barred from speaking at the University of California at Berkeley because of his critical views on Israel.
She also said that Jews themselves say "the lack of anti-Semitism could well be [their] demise" because, in the absence of fears of anti-Semitism, they have trouble collecting money at bond rallies.
She noted that there is a $50,000 reward for anyone who can disprove the contention that the Nazis did not murder 6 million Jews.