An article last Thursday said the boards of the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family called presidential candidate Gary Bauer to discuss campaign staffers' allegations that Bauer's dealings with a female aide were inappropriate. In fact, individual board members of the two organizations contacted Bauer, according to campaign officials, but the boards took no action. (Published 10/05/1999)
Two former top officials in Gary Bauer's presidential organization disclosed yesterday that they resigned in protest of what they considered Bauer's "inappropriate" behavior in spending time alone with a 27-year-old deputy campaign manager.
Charles Jarvis, the former Bauer campaign chairman who defected to the campaign of Steve Forbes, and Tim McDonald, former chief of advance operations, said Bauer spent hours behind closed doors with her and traveled alone with her, violating the strict rules they believe govern conservative Christian married men in their dealings with women.
Their comments, along with the privately voiced concerns of other religious right leaders, have produced a growing firestorm threatening to damage Bauer's underdog bid for the GOP nomination, which is based largely on his strong standing among Christian conservative activists.
With his wife and three children at his side, Bauer yesterday called a news conference to try to damp down the controversy, which he charged was being whipped up by an unnamed rival campaign. Aides later said he was referring to the Forbes campaign.
"The core idea of this rumor campaign is that I have violated the vows I made to my wife 27 years ago," Bauer said. "These rumors and character assassination are disgusting, outrageous, evil and sick. They are trash-can politics at its worst. . . . I have not violated my vows."
Bill Dal Col, Forbes's manager, denied the suggestion that the Forbes campaign was spreading rumors and said he would fire anyone who promoted allegations of sexual impropriety.
Instead of putting the issue to rest, Bauer's news conference prompted Jarvis and McDonald to go public with their concerns. In addition, sources said the boards of two organizations with strong ties to Bauer, the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family, both warned the candidate that he should stop having extended closed-door meetings with his staff member and should not travel alone with her.
The dissident staffers and board members complained that his contacts with the deputy campaign manager lent themselves to gossip and rumor. "As a pro-family and pro-life leader, Gary is held to a higher standard. Meeting hour after hour alone [with the deputy manager], as a married man, candidate and as a pro-family, pro-life leader, he has no business creating that kind of appearance of impropriety," Jarvis said in a telephone interview.
But at the news conference, Bauer suggested he should not be held to such a standard. "I am not a minister," he said. "I am not a pastor."
Asked if staff members had complained about behavior other than an affair, Bauer said he could "not imagine that anybody in a campaign would object to me having a meeting behind closed doors with a professional woman. Such meetings take place all over Washington, D.C., every day between congressmen, senators, other presidential candidates."
Jarvis sharply disputed Bauer: "People have confronted Gary about the appearance of impropriety.
McDonald, who is now out of politics, said he also confronted Bauer about his contacts. McDonald said he found it "really dispiriting that Gary would blame it [the rumors] on someone else when that is just not what took place. The rumors were inside the campaign."
The Bauer deputy campaign manager cited by the former staff members, Melissa McClard, did not return phone calls seeking comment.
James Guth, a Furman University political scientist who has studied Christian right politics, warned that Bauer could be fatally wounded, in political terms, by the dispute. Conservative evangelical voters take very seriously the importance of maintaining public standards of behavior especially in the case of someone "who has made his career being purer than Caesar's wife," Guth said.
But Lyman Kellstedt, a Wheaton College political scientist, said Bauer could help himself by saying " 'I wish I wouldn't have put myself in this kind of situation, I'm sorry and I apologize,' I'd say most people in the evangelical community would be forgiving," he said.
Christian politicians and evangelical leaders commonly follow an unspoken rule not to meet behind closed doors with female staff members or travel alone with them. The Rev. Billy Graham, for example, has famously refused to be alone in a room with any woman except his wife since he married her in the 1940s.
Rep. Steve Largent (R-Okla.), a Christian conservative, insists a male staff member is present whenever he meets with a woman, his spokesman said. John Ensign, who is running for Senate in Nevada, will not be alone in a car with a woman.
D. James Kennedy, pastor at Coral Ridge Ministries, said he will meet with a woman behind closed doors as long as it is clear his secretary is free to walk into the room at any time.
Staff researcher Ben White contributed to this report.
CAPTION: Gary Bauer, with his wife, Carol, defended meetings and travel with a female staff member as appropriate.