White House officials and Sen. Roger W. Jepsen (R-Iowa) came to an uneasy truce yesterday without disciplinary action against presidential adviser Edward Rollins.
Jepsen had sought to have Rollins fired for public comments about how the administration won Jepsen's backing on sale of airborne warning and control system (AWACS) planes and equipment to Saudi Arabia.
After a peace-making meeting between Jepsen and Rollins, the White House and the Iowa conservative jointly turned on a third target: The Des Moines Register reporter whose article ignited the controversy.
The White House issued a statement attacking the accuracy of quotes attributed to "a White House official" last October in an article headlined "How White House Won Jepsen's AWACS Vote."
The White House, in announcing that the matter is considered closed, said:
"Quotes used in the story . . .including . . . 'We just beat his brains out' and other statements in a similar vein are not an accurate rendition of what Mr. Rollins said .
"Moreover, the quotes place Sen. Jepsen's vote in a totally inaccurate light. The senator's vote was cast without coercion from the White House and was, in his words, 'a vote of conscience.' "
The reporter had attended a Georgetown University seminar at which Rollins had been asked how Jepsen had been converted to support of the AWACS sale.
The teacher and several students have confirmed that Rollins did say, "We beat his brains in," or something similar, but that he was not speaking derogatorily of Jepsen.
When the newspaper report appeared, Jepsen complained to the White House, and President Reagan said through a spokesman that he was "outraged" at the unattributed quotes.
Months later, after Jepsen aides heard that Rollins was the source of the quotes, Jepsen demanded that Rollins be disciplined.
White House chief of staff James A. Baker III met with Jepsen and then with Rollins and urged an amicable resolution. Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Howard H. Baker Jr. (R-Tenn.) served as intermediary in the meeting of Jepsen and Rollins.
"Sen. Jepsen and I made up," Rollins said last night. "We both realize we've been victimized a little bit. We're all in the same boat, and he wants to work with me."