Black and Hispanic House members yesterday urged President Reagan to fire Marianne Mele Hall, chairman of the Copyright Royalty Tribunal, because of her association with a 1982 book that says black Americans "insist on preserving their jungle freedoms, their women, their avoidance of personal responsibility and their abhorrence of the work ethic."
Hall again attempted to distance herself from the book that she once said she "coauthored" and now says she only edited for punctuation and grammar.
In a brief statement, which she delivered to House Republicans late yesterday, Hall said she "advised" the author not to print the disparaging chapter about blacks "because I felt it was inflammatory, explosive, repugnant and distasteful."
"In my limited capacity, I voiced my sentiments as strongly as I could," Hall said in the statement, according to House staff members who received it. "Dr. Lawrence Hafstad the author decided to publish it regardless."
Hall also said the chapter about blacks did not appear in a draft of the book she saw when she agreed to take the job.
"The controversial material appeared at the end of the project, as it appeared at the end of the book," she said.
Hall did not report to her office yesterday and could not be reached for comment. An aide said Hall had left no statement as to whether she would resign.
The White House declined comment. Another White House source said that since Hall was confirmed by the Senate April 2 to the seven-year, $70,000-a-year job, Reagan does not have the authority to fire her.
The copyright tribunal, which sets royalty rates cable television operators must pay, is an independent agency and Hall can be forceably removed only through impeachment, the White House source said.
In a related action, Sen. Charles McC. Mathias Jr. (R-Md), chairman of the copyright subcommittee, is seeking the White House personnel records and FBI files on Hall, as part of a subcommittee investigation into Hall's nomination. Mathias sent a letter to Judiciary Chairman Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) asking Thurmond to make the official request to the White House.
The members of Congress who demanded that Hall quit, all Democrats, said the episode raised serious questions about the appointments process and embarrasses both Reagan, who nominated Hall, and the Senate Judiciary Committee, which approved the appointment after only a cursory investigation.
Rep. Mickey Leland (D-Tex.), the Congressional Black Caucus chairman, said at a news conference that Hall's work on the book, "Foundations of Sand," was "an indictment on her judgment and in and of itself is grounds for dismissal."
Leland and the others blasted the administration on a wide range of appointments that Leland called "indicative of its insensitivity to minorities . . . . That's what we predicted during the 1984 campaign, that President Reagan would have a freer hand in appointing people. The event is not a surprising one."
Rep. Vic Fazio (D-Calif.), chairman of the committee that oversees the tribunal's budget, said Reagan is staffing the administration with "ideologues who might not have fit in the first four years."
Several congressmen linked the Hall episode to another recent appointment, that of Eileen Marie Gardner, who was forced to resign as a special assistant in the Education Department following publicity over her view that handicapped people had "selfishly drained resources from the normal school population."
"Two weeks ago, there was an aide at the Department of Education who was forced to resign," said Rep. Howard E. Wolpe (D-Mich.). "Now the president is in Germany about to visit the graves of storm troopers. Now we have this latest indignity . . . . I hope that this episode will become a catalyst for a period of self-examination by the administration."