Republican Mike Curb apologized to a radio talk show host Friday, a day after his campaign manager made up a false name, disguised his voice and posed as a voter to heckle Curb's election opponent, Democratic Lt. Gov. Leo T. McCarthy, over the air.
"That certainly is not the style of our campaign. Maybe the heat of the campaign caused him to do something really out of character for him," Curb told KABC talk show host Michael Jackson.
The apology came at the start of Jackson's popular radio show.
Curb told Jackson that Fred Karger, who identified himself as "Tony" on the call-in show Thursday morning, acted without his knowledge. "I didn't know of it and obviously I didn't approve of it," he said.
When asked whether he would make the same apology to McCarthy, Curb said, "Certainly we would," but he then declined when Jackson suggested that he talk to the Democratic incumbent on the show.
Curb, who has repeatedly refused to meet McCarthy face to face, said he wanted "to leave it as it is. I don't want to turn this into a forum."
On Thursday night, nine hours after the incident, Curb told reporters at a campaign stop in San Marino that he did not think the incident was serious enough to cause him to fire Karger.
"If he had to do it all over again, I think he would have identified himself," said Curb, who served as lieutenant governor for one term before stepping down in 1982 to run unsuccessfully for governor. Curb said that Karger, who works for campaign director Bill Roberts, has done "a very, very good job" overall.
McCarthy, contacted by Jackson after Curb made his apology, said Curb did not owe him an apology. "I think it's appropriate that he apologized to you, Michael, and to your listening audience," McCarthy said.
In another development, a committee of Republicans supporting McCarthy chose the eve of a pre-election statewide tour by Gov. George Deukmejian, Curb and other Republican candidates to revive 1982 television ads done by the governor attacking Curb at the end of their bitter primary campaign.
The ads were played for reporters at a Los Angeles news conference. In one, a narrator claims "Mike Curb will do just about anything to get your vote." Another, featuring Deukmejian talking directly to a camera, accuses Curb of a "smear campaign" that "deliberately misleads voters."
McCarthy supporters hope to counter the help that Deukmejian has been giving to Curb. The governor has filmed a television commercial with Curb, helped him raise money and defended a series of controversial exploitation movies the former lieutenant governor worked on when he was writing music in Hollywood during the late 1960s.
Los Angeles attorney John Liebman, chairman of the McCarthy committee, is a member of the state World Trade Commission, where he serves with the lieutenant governor. He described himself as a lifelong Republican who supported Deukmejian with financial contributions in 1982 and again this year and said he has helped various Republican congressional candidates over the years.
"I think the voters of this state should know that Mike Curb has not always been viewed with great regard by members of his own party," said Liebman, who also released a series of quotes from other Republican officeholders attacking Curb.
Roberts, Curb's campaign chief, managed Deukmejian's 1982 primary election race before being fired in the late stages of the campaign and had a hand in developing the slogan that Curb will "do just about anything for your vote." He said he did not want to talk about the race of four years ago. "That was that campaign, this is this campaign," he said.
'Shabby, Shoddy Campaign'
Roberts said the Republican group claimed by McCarthy was "a limited, pathetically small group." He accused McCarthy of running "a very shabby, shoddy campaign."
"I've been around campaigns a long time and I don't think I've ever seen a seedier campaign than the one he's running," Roberts said.
During a news conference sponsored by the Curb campaign, Hollywood actress Constance Towers and composer Lalo Schifrin assailed McCarthy for his attacks on Curb's composing of music for B movies. Towers, who said she was a personal friend of Curb's, called the Republican candidate "squeaky clean" and said it was unfair to judge him today by what he did 20 years ago when he was starting his career.
Schifrin, who worked with Curb in composing music for the 1970 Clint Eastwood film "Kelley's Heroes," accused McCarthy of going on "a witch hunt." "Most of the people who start in this business have to do exploitation movies, B movies," he said.