White House officials have silenced outspoken political director Edward J. Rollins and his staff until after the 1982 campaigns, placing a "moratorium" on any contacts between Rollins and the press.
At the same time, President Reagan's Cabinet members have demanded that Reagan stop the flow of criticism directed at them in the press from unidentified White House aides. Reagan reportedly agreed to muzzle his staff and reaffirmed his confidence in "a darn good Cabinet." The two incidents are not related, administration officials said.
A spokesman for Rollins said yesterday that he is not giving interviews or answering questions from reporters about the 1982 campaign because of a "moratorium" on such contacts. All campaign questions were referred to the Republican National Committee, the Republican congressional campaign committees or to White House chief of staff James A. Baker III and communications director David Gergen.
No explanation for the "moratorium" was immediately available, and Rollins wasn't talking.
The moratorium was begun last week and applies to all "press interviews and responses to questions," the Rollins aide said.
The controversial Rollins, who took over from long-time Reagan political aide Lyn Nofziger last November, has stirred the ire of some Republicans in Congress with assertions that party members disloyal to the president would be punished in the fall campaigns.
In a comment that earned him a rebuke from Reagan in April, Rollins suggested that Republicans who are "jumping ship" from the president's programs should be "disciplined." Rollins also touched off a furor when he was quoted earlier as saying the White House had muscled Sen. Roger W. Jepsen (R-Iowa) into voting for selling the Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft to Saudi Arabia.
The apparent muzzling of Rollins comes as Reagan's Cabinet members have demanded a halt to what they believe is sniping at their performance by unidentified White House aides.
The complaints were first delivered last week by several Cabinet members who told White House counselor Edwin Meese III at a breakfast meeting that they were fed up with the critical comments they have seen regularly in the press.
"They told Meese that if he didn't go to the president they would do it directly," said one administration official, who did not want to be identified.
The Cabinet members were said to be upset about a string of recent criticisms, including but not limited to an assessment of their performance published in The Washington Post.
"They felt they have been loyal" and did not deserve the barbs they were getting from Reagan's White House aides, the official said.
Reagan reportedly responded later that day with a pledge to stop the criticism. He reaffirmed his support for the Cabinet and, according to Newsweek magazine, he promised that if he caught any of the aides who had talked he would "put my foot in the same places where he's giving me a pain."