The Rev. B. Samuel Hart, the controversial Philadelphia minister nominated to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission by the Reagan administration, told broadcast interviewers here today that his views have been distorted by the media and that even he "wouldn't want the bigot described in the press in such a position."
In a live, 15-minute interview with KYW-TV and KYW Radio, the black evangelist accused the press of exaggerating and distorting his views on such subjects as homosexuality, equal rights for women and prayer in the public schools.
Near the close of the session, Hart was asked whether he would withdraw as a candidate for the commission if asked to by President Reagan. "I will not make a comment on that at this time," he said.
Leaders of 22 conservative, religious and right-wing organizations have urged Reagan to stand behind Hart, but other groups and individuals, including Pennsylvania's two GOP senators, John Heinz and Arlen Specter, have expressed doubts about his civil rights credentials.
A coalition of leading civil rights groups, in a news conference today in Washington, denounced Hart's selection and urged the Senate to reject him. The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, representing 163 groups, called his nomination "an insult."
Asked in the television interview about his apparent lack of involvement in civil rights issues, Hart said that "any black minister" knows about discrimination. "Should the nomination be confirmed," he said, "I pledge my full support to the black community and to our black leaders to work diligently with them on their behalf.
He also spoke of civil rights for homosexuals: "A homosexual has civil rights. Every person has civil rights. Mr. A over here. He has civil rights. But let's say he's a liar. He still has civil rights. But lying is not a civil rights issue. Let's say he's an adulterer. He has civil rights. A homosexual, as a person, has every civil right. But homosexuality is a moral issue, not a civil rights issue. . .the majority of Americans, and certainly the godly among us, see homosexuality as most immoral and sinful, and they have rights, too."