PHOENIX — The publisher of Arizona's two largest newspapers resigned Thursday after admitting that for years he falsely claimed to have been a decorated Air Force fighter pilot.
Darrow (Duke) Tully announced his resignation shortly after Maricopa County Atty. Tom Collins told a news conference that he could find nothing to support Tully's claims.
Collins made the statement while charging that the newspapers had run an "orchestrated smear campaign" against him in articles related to his travel expenses and other matters.
Tully, 53, who had been publisher of Phoenix Newspapers Inc., which publishes the Arizona Republic and the Phoenix Gazette, issued a statement that said in part: "I have never been in the Air Force or any branch of the Armed Services. I regret this deception deeply . . . . I am glad this regrettable situation has finally surfaced, and I can put it behind me."
In another statement released shortly thereafter by Bill Shover, director of the company's corporate and community services, Tully said: "In the interest of preserving the integrity of the Arizona Republic-the Phoenix Gazette, I have tendered my resignation effective immediately."
Shover said the resignation had been accepted.
Eugene S. Pulliam, Phoenix Newspapers Inc. president and publisher of the Indianapolis Star and Indianapolis News, refused to comment at his Indianapolis office.
Collins showed reporters a resume that said Tully had served in Korea and Vietnam, was retired as a lieutenant colonel and had received a number of awards, including the Distinguished Flying Cross.
However, Collins said Air Force military records centers in St. Louis and near Denver and San Antonio reported that they had no record of Tully's having been in the service.
Shover said Tully "has been doing this for 30 years, and he's been trying to get out of the story, but it just kept building and building." He said Tully had recently been removing all military references from his biographies and all military pictures from his home.
"Several months ago, I disclosed this matter to several close friends and associates, including my minister," Tully's statement said. "I apologize to all veterans and members of the military and to my friends and associates."
The Phoenix Gazette reported that a new biography of Tully, released Oct. 24, did not mention military service.
Last May, Tully told the American Fighter Aces Assn. meeting in Phoenix that military personnel should avoid controversy, and he said: "I found this difficult in Korea and damn near impossible in Vietnam."
Collins began his campaign against Tully and the two newspapers because, he said, they had published lies about him and that the time to fight back in public had arrived.
News Conference Statement
"I bring this issue to your attention because, if true, the person who has been leading these attacks against me does not deserve his position as a community leader," Collins told a news conference.
The Republic reported in July that Collins and Chief Deputy Norm Keyt had spent about $30,000 in public funds and 191 days during the last several years traveling to out-of-state meetings apparently unrelated to prosecutions.
Collins said the travel involved justifiable business trips, many related to his tenure as vice president of the National District Attorneys' Assn.
The county attorney said a county audit of the travel showed that the county owed him $64.50.