Gingrich had known of historian's views, aide says

January 11, 1995|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- Speaker Newt Gingrich, who dismissed the House historian Monday over her comments about an educational program on the Holocaust, knew about those statements before he hired her, an assistant to the former historian said on yesterday.

But Mr. Gingrich said he did not know about the comments made by the former historian, Christina Jeffrey, in 1986.

Dr. Jeffrey was hired quietly by Mr. Gingrich as House historian in mid-December and started work last week. She did not appear at her Washington office yesterday and did not respond to numerous telephone messages left at her home.

But Lois Kubal, her assistant, appearing red-eyed and exhausted in the doorway to the historian's office, said "absolutely" that Mr. Gingrich had been aware that, in 1986, Dr. Jeffrey had objected to the program on the Holocaust because it did not include the perspective of the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.

"Through his press secretary, he was well-advised of it," Ms. Kubal said. She said that the press secretary, Tony Blankley, "was told in early December." She added, "It was not a big deal then and it is not a big deal now."

She then told reporters to leave or she would call the police.

On Monday night, Mr. Blankley said that Mr. Gingrich was informed of the Nazi statement only that night and decided to dismiss Dr. Jeffrey "as soon as he found out."

In a letter made public yesterday but dated Monday and timed at 9:15 p.m., Mr. Gingrich requested Dr. Jeffrey's resignation.

"I sincerely appreciate your willingness and eagerness to assume the position of House historian," the letter said. "However, I do not feel that it would be prudent or beneficial for you or your family nor for the House of Representatives to continue your employment at this time."

The letter was signed, "Your friend, Newt."

Mr. Gingrich said yesterday that "it's not true" that he had known about the comments before he hired Dr. Jeffrey. He referred further questions to Mr. Blankley.

Mr. Blankley told reporters that Ms. Kubal "is not someone we know," but added, "She's mistaken, and that's the nicest word I can use."

As word of Dr. Jeffrey's comments about Nazis spread Monday, numerous Jewish groups expressed outrage and Democrats on Capitol Hill called for her resignation.

Dr. Jeffrey issued a brief statement yesterday morning saying that the concerns raised about her comments "are slanderous and outrageous" and added:

"I frankly do not know what my status is now. In due course, I will write a review of this matter for publication."

She left the impression that she might not resign and referred reporters to her brother, who is a lawyer in South Carolina. He did not return calls, either.

But Ms. Kubal said yesterday afternoon that Dr. Jeffrey would return to Georgia, where she had taken a leave of absence from her post as an associate professor of political science at Kennesaw State College.

Mr. Gingrich and Dr. Jeffrey became friends in 1993 when he taught a course at Kennesaw. His course became controversial because of its links to the speaker's political action committee.

Dr. Jeffrey defended him in the face of strong opposition on campus, where other professors said the partisan officeholder should not be given such a platform at a publicly financed college.

The Georgia Board of Regents eventually barred Mr. Gingrich from teaching at Kennesaw, and he moved the course to Reinhardt College, a private college that is in his district north of Atlanta.

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