WASHINGTON — The Miami Herald today conceded that there was a five-hour gap in its reporters' stakeout of Gary Hart's capital town house and that a young woman it said spent Friday night there with Hart while his wife was in Denver could have left the home undetected.
The paper said that "there were opportunities between approximately midnight and 5 a.m. (Saturday) for her to depart undetected via the unwatched rear entrance" of Hart's house. And no one from the paper watched the house at all from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m.
Hart has denied the story claiming he spent the night with a Donna Rice, an actress from Miami. His campaign manager, William Dixon, called the story character assassination, based on "hiding in bushes, peeking in windows and personal harassment." (Story on Page 12.)
A Herald executive said the newspaper stands behind its Sunday story, which told how its reporters followed Rice from Miami to Washington and saw her at Hart's town house. The newspaper said she "spent Friday night and most of Saturday" with Hart.
Information From Caller
The Herald said in today's editions that its work on the story began a week ago with a call from a woman who said the candidate was having an affair with a Miami woman. The caller promised to provide information about the woman's trip to Washington, but failed to do so. A Herald reporter caught Eastern Airlines Flight 996, where he saw two women matching the description of Rice and a companion.
The reporter went directly to Hart's townhouse Friday, where he watched Hart and the woman leave his town house at 9:30 p.m. and return at 11:17 p.m., the Herald said.
Hart told the Herald that they had returned because "she had left some things at the house" and that she left again 10 or 15 minutes later.
The issue of "womanizing" has hounded Hart since he began his first race for the presidential nomination in 1983 and has become a key part of the so-called "character" problem that has followed him.
'Follow Me Around'
Hart, in an article in Sunday's editions of the New York Times Magazine, was quoted as saying, "Follow me around. I don't care. I'm serious. If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They'd be very bored."
On Saturday night, Hart told the Herald reporters he had no "personal relationship" with Rice, and denied that she had spent the night in his house.
"No one was staying in my apartment," Hart said. "I have no personal relationship with the individual you are following."
Hart's story was backed up by William Broadhurst, a friend and a campaign adviser, who said that Rice and another woman spent Friday night at his town house seven blocks away and that Hart joined them for dinner. On Saturday, Broadhurst said he, Hart and the two women spent five hours apartment-hunting in suburban Alexandria.