By Edward Walsh
In a written statement released to the Indianapolis Star and News, Burton said he was making the disclosure to end harassment of the child's mother and others by news organizations. He also sought to link interest in his private life by news organizations to his role in investigating 1996 campaign fund-raising abuses by Clinton's reelection committee and the Democratic National Committee.
"There was a relationship many years ago from which a child was born," Burton said in the statement. "I am the father. With my wife's knowledge, I have fulfilled my responsibilities as the father."
"I'm not going to talk any more about my personal life," the Indiana Republican added. "I've hurt some people that I love very much. Enough is enough."
Burton provided no details about the woman or the child. But in its editions today, the Star and News reported that Burton had the extramarital relationship with the woman and fathered the child in the early 1980s, when he was a member of the Indiana Senate and the woman worked for a state agency. The newspaper said the woman, who is married, and her teenage son live in central Indiana but did not disclose their names or exact location.
Burton's admission ended days of intense speculation over possible embarrassing news stories dealing with his private life. Earlier this week, the Indianapolis paper reported that Burton had been warning people in his district, which includes parts of Indianapolis and its northern suburbs, that Vanity Fair magazine was about to publish a "scandal story" about his personal life.
The disclosure comes as Burton and his House colleagues await a report from independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr on Clinton's admitted sexual relationship with former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky. Some Republicans have warned that the White House planned a "scorched earth" defense, delving into the private lives of congressional Republicans as a way to shield Clinton from the consequences of the Lewinsky scandal.
The White House has denied any such intention and specifically denied that it played any role in the investigations of Burton's private life by news organizations. Vic Caleca, deputy managing editor of the Indianapolis Star and News, said Burton acknowledged the illegiti mate son in an interview yesterday morning after realizing that the paper had enough evidence to publish today's story.
Asked why the story was newsworthy, Caleca said: "Congressman Burton has consistently gotten high marks from the Christian Coalition. He certainly has put himself to the fore in the Clinton investigation. It's a sad fact of the '90s that for someone who's spoken out and positioned himself on family values kinds of issues, we think it's relevant. It's a character issue."
Caleca said that the woman and the boy had "rebuffed" the paper in several interview attempts and that the Star and News will not name them. "What put it over the top was that he had actually fathered a child," he said.
Burton is one of the House's most conservative Republicans and, as chairman of the House committee that has been investigating campaign finance abuses, one of Clinton's most dogged pursuers. In April, he called the president "a scumbag" and said that was why he was "out to get" Clinton.
Burton began his statement acknowledging his out-of-wedlock child by referring to his role in the campaign fund-raising investigation, which he said had brought him "under attack from people inside and outside the Clinton administration. I was prepared for this, and I made a promise to the American people that I would never allow these attacks to deter my efforts to uncover the truth."
Without mentioning Clinton, Burton also sought to contrast his admission with allegations that have been made against the president in the Lewinsky investigation. "I have never perjured myself," he said. "I have never committed obstruction of justice. I have been as straight as an arrow in my public duty. But this is private."
Burton said that his wife, Barbara, was aware of the child and that he had apologized to her and their family.
Burton told the Indianapolis Star and News that he had paid child support to the mother of his child over the years.
"I have tried to be as straight as I could be with my family on all this," Burton told the newspaper. "I tried to keep it between my family and this lady's family."
According to the Star and News, Burton has been in Indiana the last two days discussing the situation with the woman, their child, his family and closest friends.
"What bothers me the most is not about me," Burton told the newspaper. "I know this is hard for someone to believe about a politician, but I have watched everybody's hearts being ripped out today. I just don't want anybody to be hurt any more than they are going to be hurt. I made a mistake."
Staff writer Howard Kurtz contributed to this report.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company