A White House spokesman today repeated President Reagan's intention to fight discrimination against women, but refused to address the charge from a Justice Department official that the administration has made "a sham" of an effort to rid federal laws and regulations of gender discrimination.
Presidential spokesman Larry Speakes, meeting with reporters here, would not respond to allegations by Justice Department official Barbara Honegger that the administration's effort to eliminate gender discrimination from federal laws has been beset by bureaucratic roadblocks. Instead, Speakes reviewed Reagan's record on women's issues and his appointment of women.
"This president more than any other president has set into motion a systematic and detailed review of every federal and state statute in a determined effort to root out every semblance of discrimination against women," Speakes said. "He has set up a task force to accomplish this, and it is an ongoing effort that we are confident will eliminate sexual discrimination wherever it may exist," he added.
Honegger, in an article published today on The Washington Post's opinion page, claimed that the effort to remove gender discrimination from federal laws has been stalled.
Honegger, who has been part of that effort at the Justice Department, wrote, "I don't think Ronald Reagan gives a damn" about fighting discrimination against women.
"I'm not addressing her criticism," Speakes said today when asked about her charges. "I'm giving you the record of this administration."
Speakes read to reporters a list of presidential appointments of women.
He said that in cooperation with Sen. Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.), Reagan is seeking changes in more than 100 laws that discriminate against women. He also cited the White House task force headed by deputy chief of staff Michael K. Deaver that is studying possible administration initiatives on women's issues.
The Honegger criticism came as Reagan prepared to leave his ranch today for a few days of reelection campaigning, even though he has yet to declare himself an official candidate. Reagan is scheduled to speak to the American Legion in Seattle on Tuesday, meet with Hispanic business organizations in Los Angeles on Thursday and speak to a GOP women's group in San Diego on Friday.
Reagan was to have met today with top political advisers to discuss plans for his reelection effort, but he canceled the session because it had received too much media attention and the list of those who wanted to attend had grown unwieldly.
In Los Angeles today, however, White House chief of staff James A. Baker III and Republican political consultant Stuart K. Spencer met for lunch and had what Baker later called "a routine political discussion."