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Bush's disparaging remark about reporter picked up by microphone

George W. Bush made a disparaging remark about a reporter from The New York Times that was picked up by a live microphone. News Update, 05/09/00, 11:49

George W. Bush made a disparaging remark about a reporter from The New York Times that was picked up by a live microphone.

As Bush stood on the podium waiting for music to finish today, he turned to running mate Dick Cheney and used an obscenity to describe reporter Adam Clymer in the nearby press area. Cheney agreed with Bush's assessment.

Both men thought their remarks were off–mike. When asked about the comment at a brief airport news conference in Allentown, Pennsylvania, late Monday, Bush said: "I regret that a private comment I made to the vice presidential candidate made it through the public airways."

Asked if he felt he owed Clymer an apology, Bush did not answer directly, only saying, "I regret everybody heard what I said."

Karen Hughes, Bush's spokeswoman, said the remarks were "a whispered aside to his running mate. It was not intended as a public comment."

Clymer said: "I'm disappointed in the governor's language."

Cheney refused to discuss it. "The governor made a private comment to me. It was a private comment, and I don't plan to say anything about it," he told reporters later in Chicago.

Earlier, opening his fall campaign with a weeklong tour, Mr Bush taunted rival Al Gore for rejecting his offer of three presidential debates.

"All of a sudden the words 'anytime, anywhere' don't mean anything," Bush told a rally.

Gore, coming off a 27–hour campaign sprint through several states, tried to keep the focus on his pitch to working families that he would be the better steward of the economy and work harder for Americans.

"We've got a lot at stake, our economy in particular," Gore said in Pittsburgh Monday. "Working people have done better and there are more jobs."

As for Bush's $1.3tr tax–cut plan, Gore told supporters at the Louisville Motor Speedway in Kentucky, "I'd veto that in a minute."

Gore, the Democratic presidential candidate, and his running mate Joseph Lieberman appealed to working class voters with a six–state weekend tour. The two campaigned together in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida, then Gore hit the trail on his own in Kentucky while Lieberman made solo stops in Ohio and Illinois.

Bush, the Texas governor, and running mate Dick Cheney together opened a campaign push through six Midwest battlegrounds: Illinois and Michigan on Monday with Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio to follow later this week.

The Republican presidential candidate kept up the pressure on Gore to agree to Bush's proposed debate schedule as the Gore campaign held open the possibility for negotiations over the three prime–time matchups.

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"Just yesterday, we had an interesting example of Washington doublespeak," Bush told a rally in this heavily Republican Chicago suburb before he and Cheney walked in a parade.

"My opponent said he would debate me any place, anytime, anywhere," Bush continued. "I said fine, why don't we just show up ... and discuss our differences."

Two of the debates Bush accepted would be 60–minute appearances, one Sept. 12 on a special prime–time edition of NBC network's "Meet the Press" and Oct. 3 from Los Angeles on CNN's "Larry King Live."

The Gore campaign wants three 90–minute debates as recommended by a bipartisan commission, saying those will reach the widest audience.

Gore said Bush must agree to the commission debates before any others.

"It's become a tradition to get all the networks together and give all of the American people the right to see three 90–minute, prime–time debates," the vice president said on NBC's "Today."

Lieberman told reporters, "I think Governor Bush is making an end run around the rules of the debate commission."

Gore has accepted the invitation from the Commission on Presidential Debates to negotiate further this week over a debate schedule.

Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said the commission's offer to negotiate further would not change Bush's intention to accept only one of its venues – an 17 October debate at Washington University in St. Louis.

On the trail, a Gore–Lieberman 27–hour campaign sprint took the candidates to greet laborers in Philadelphia; Flint, Michigan and Tampa, Florida. Gore then marched in a Pittsburgh parade and rallied at the speedway in Louisville, Kentucky. Lieberman sandwiched a Toledo (Ohio) Mud Hens baseball game between visits to union members in Detroit and Peoria, Illinois.

Later in the day Bush went to a Michigan's annual peach festival in Romeo, Michigan, while Cheney went to a Polish food fair, where he danced the polka with a Polish beauty queen and served up hot cabbage rolls with tomato sauce from behind a steam table.

Cheney told the crowd that one of his proudest moments was meeting Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, saying he "lit a spark in Poland that lit a prairie fire of freedom." He ended his remarks with a hearty "Sto Lat!" – a Polish congratulatory expression that means "May you live 100 years."

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