Newspaper Stakeout Infuriates Hart
Report on Female House Guest Called 'Character Assassination'
By James R. Dickenson and Paul Taylor
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, May 4, 1987; Page A01
The Miami Herald reported yesterday that a news team that staked out
Democratic presidential front-runner Gary Hart's Capitol Hill town house
determined that a young woman from Miami spent Friday night and Saturday
with him while his wife was in Denver.
Hart, whose campaign has been debating for three weeks how to deal
with questions of alleged "womanizing," denounced the story as
"preposterous" and "inaccurate." He said he is the victim of "character
assassination" by unethical and "outrageous" journalism that is "reduced
to hiding in bushes, peeking in windows and personal harassment."
The paper, which spread the story across the top of its front page,
said that a team of five Herald and Knight-Ridder reporters kept the
front and rear entrances of Hart's town house under surveillance from
Friday evening until Saturday night, except for a period between 3 a.m.
and 5 a.m. They said they saw Hart and the woman enter the house about
11:15 p.m. Friday and saw no one leave or enter until Hart and the woman
came out at about 8:40 p.m. Saturday.
Members of the Herald team said they would have seen anyone entering
or leaving the house during those hours, except for the predawn period.
According to one of them, they "napped" during that time.
Approached by the reporters later Saturday night, Hart denied having
any "personal relationship" with the woman, denied that she had spent
the night at his house and said that she had come to Washington to visit
friends. He said that the woman, identified by the Hart campaign as
Donna Rice, was in his town house for only a few minutes and that she
and a female friend from Miami had stayed at the home of William
Broadhurst, a Washington attorney and friend of Hart. Telephones at
Broadhurst's office and home were not answered yesterday.
Hart told the reporters, however, that he had called Rice in Miami
several times in the past two months from campaign stops around the
country. He described the calls as "casual, political." Hart said he did
not know what Rice's occupation is.
"The story in its facts and in its inferences is totally inaccurate,"
Hart's campaign manager, William Dixon, said in a statement. "Gary Hart
will not dignify it with a comment because it's character assassination.
It's harassment. He's offended and he's outraged. He's furious. He's a
victim. Someone has got to say at some point that enough is enough . . .
"As you know, Mr. Hart has suggested the press follow him to disprove
the allegations on womanizing," Herald Executive Editor Heath Meriwether
replied in a statement. "We observed Hart's town house for more than 24
hours from a respectable distance and we conducted ourselves in a
professional manner throughout. We never engaged in the practices
suggested by Mr. Dixon. The womanizing issue has become a major one in
Hart's campaign because it raises questions concerning the candidate's
judgment and integrity. That's why we reported on this story."
The story appeared just three weeks after Hart formally announced his
candidacy. During that time, he was faced with questions about
womanizing and his unpaid $1.3 million debt from his 1984 presidential
race. His advisers had hoped that the focus would move on to substantive
The story's publication also coincided with an Iowa Poll showing that
Hart has increased his enormous lead over rivals in that state, which
will hold the first 1988 presidential caucus. His share of the vote
increased to 65 percent from 59 percent, followed by Jesse L. Jackson
with 9 percent, Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) with 7 percent and Gov.
Michael S. Dukakis of Massachusetts with 3 percent.
Yesterday's New York Times magazine also featured a cover story about
Hart that quotes him on the womanizing issue:
"Follow me around . . . . I'm serious. If anybody wants to put a tail
on me, go ahead. They'd be very bored."
Hart supporters speculated that a great deal now depends on the
reaction of Hart's wife, Lee.
"If it's true, it's incredibly self-destructive because it means he's
been womanizing all the time he was denying it," said one supporter and
Dixon, Hart's campaign manager, expressed confidence that the voters
would see the story as false and react accordingly.
"If fair people are given the opportunity to reach a fair conclusion,
then we're not afraid of it," he said. "This raises the whole question
of journalistic ethics. It raises a question of at what point the
question becomes character assassination."
Dixon said yesterday that Hart apparently met Rice last New Year's
Eve in Aspen, Colo., at a party hosted by Don Henley, a member of the
Eagles rock group. He said that Lee Hart was with Hart at the party.
Hart and Rice met again in March -- March 1, according to the Miami
Herald -- when Hart and Broadhurst were in Miami, where Hart had a
fund-raising event. They were on a chartered boat, and Rice and a
friend, Lynn Armandt, came on board for about an hour, Dixon said. He
said Hart did not remember Rice from the first meeting, so she said to
him, "Hey, I know you, you're Senator Hart."
At the time, Armandt told Broadhurst that she was looking for a job
in Washington and he offered to interview her as a caretaker for the
town houses he owns on Capitol Hill, Dixon said. Armandt came up last
Friday for the interview and asked Rice to accompany her because she
wasn't comfortable staying alone in the home of a stranger.
According to Dixon, Armandt's job interview took place mid-afternoon
Friday, then Broadhurst drove her to the airport to meet Rice.
Coincidentally, Hart flew in to National Airport about the same time and
the four of them drove back to Broadhurst's house where they had dinner
At about 11:15 p.m. the four walked to Hart's Capitol Hill town
house, which is about three blocks away on 6th Street SE, according to
Dixon. He said they wanted to see a deck being built on the top of
Hart's town house; then Broadhurst, Armandt and Rice returned to
Broadhurst's apartment while Hart stayed at his house alone.
This statement contradicts the Herald report.
The Herald said it was told by a "confidential source" that Hart was
interested in a Miami woman and that she planned to go to Washington for
the weekend. The Herald did not know Rice's name and had no information
beyond a general description of her as an attractive blond actress in
her late 20s, according to Jim Savage, a Knight-Ridder editor who was on
the surveillance team.
Investigative reporter Jim McGee boarded Eastern flight 996 last
Friday afternoon and saw two women on the plane who met the general
description. One was "lovingly" met in Washington by a boyfriend, and
McGee lost track of the second. After checking in with the Knight-Ridder
bureau, he went to Hart's house and saw the second woman emerge with
Hart at about 9:15 p.m., according to Savage.
"We almost didn't send anyone up to Washington because our informtion
was so minimal," Savage said. "It was just an informed coincidence that
Jim was on the same plane, and that's what got us charged up."
Herald reporter Tom Fiedler said the Herald team had the front and
rear entrance to Hart's Capitol Hill town house under surveillance from
about 9 p.m. Friday to about 10 p.m. Saturday.
The Herald surveillance team included reporters Fiedler and McGee,
editors Savage and Doug Clifton and photographer Brian Smith.
"We had three cars that we parked legally on the street, where we had
a view of the front and rear entrance of the town house," Fiedler said.
"There were a minimum of two people who watched through Friday night and
five of us at various times on Saturday." Fiedler said he joined the
group about 10 a.m. Saturday.
The Herald reporters parked one of their cars across the street from
Hart's town house. "We had a clear vantage point of his front door,"
Fiedler said. The second car was parked in the alley driveway that runs
by the rear door to the town house, he said. A third car was parked near
the corner of 6th and E streets, he said.
At 9:30 p.m., according to Fiedler, McGee saw Hart and the Miami
woman leave Hart's town house. McGee saw them return to the town house
at about 11:17 p.m. Friday.
The team of McGee and Clifton remained on surveillance until about
10:30 a.m. Saturday, when they were relieved by Fiedler, Savage and
McGee and Clifton, after napping and eating, returned to the Hart
town house at about 4 p.m. Saturday, Fiedler said.
"All five of us were there when Hart and the girl emerged at about
8:50 p.m. Saturday," Fiedler said. The pair left by the rear entrance
and walked around the block toward Hart's car. But instead of getting
into the car, the two returned to the town house by the front door.
Hart came out alone about 30 minutes later, drove around the block,
parked and walked several nearby streets.
Fiedler said that Hart apparently became aware that he was being
watched Saturday evening when he came out of the town house with the
woman. "That is when he seemed to get very spooked and dashed back into
the house, instead of getting into the car," Fiedler said.
At about 10 p.m. Saturday, as Hart was about to reenter his town
house, he was met by Fiedler, McGee and Savage. "We didn't go inside,"
Fiedler said. "We stood outside and interviewed him."
It was during this interview that Hart denied having a personal
relationship with Rice but acknowledged telephoning her from around the
Staff writers T.R. Reid, in Denver, and Molly Sinclair and researcher
Maralee Schwartz contributed to this report.
© The Washington Post Co.
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