HANOVER, N.H. — Lee Hart, ending three days of silence over her husband's controversial weekend with actress-model Donna Rice, flew to New Hampshire on Wednesday to campaign at the side of Gary Hart, saying: "I know Gary better than anyone else. When Gary says nothing happened, nothing happened."
"I love my husband very much," she said before departing from Denver. "My support is as strong today as I have always given to him."
She joined Hart at a town meeting in Littleton, about 35 miles north of Hanover, where about 100 citizens and a like number of reporters and photographers jammed into the small meeting room.
Lee Hart stood a few feet away from her husband, who introduced her as "the greatest wife in theworld. She has been the first lady of the Hart campaign and over the past few days she has become the first lady of the nation."
Hart added: "She is here and this campaign will go forward."
But at the same time, Hart canceled appearances tonight and Friday to fly home to Denver, "where he will spend time with his family," his campaign staff announced.
In a further effort to deal with the shock waves created by disclosure of his encounters over two months with Rice, Hart told a crowded news conference here that "I have nothing to hide."
Hart said he considers adultery immoral, but when asked whether he had ever committed adultery, he said: "I do not have to answer that question because you get into some fairly fine definitions."
He also refused to answer a question as to whether his 28-year-long marriage had been monogamous. But Hart flatly denied ever having having sexual relations with Rice, the 29-year old Miami woman who spent time with Hart last weekend.
Hart said he and his wife do not have an understanding that would allow them to have affairs. "We have an understanding of faithfulness, fidelity and loyalty," he said.
On Sunday, the Miami Herald reported that Rice and Hart stayed at Hart's town house much of the weekend while Lee Hart was in Colorado. Rice subsequently told reporters that the weekend was an innocent one, and Hart told the nation's newspaper publishers in a speech on Tuesday that he had done nothing immoral and denounced the story as false.
In an appearance that political analysts said was essential to Hart's beleaguered campaign, Lee Hart, 51, said she stood by her husband's account "absolutely."
"I have no doubt in my mind. I have lived with Gary 28 years. I know him very, very well," she said, adding:
"He said, 'I did nothing,' and I know he did nothing. In all honesty, if it (Hart spending time with Rice) doesn't bother me, I don't think it ought to bother anyone else."
According to campaign aides in Denver, Mrs. Hart has had an ear infection and had been taking antibiotics for five days. Her doctors had told her not to fly until Wednesday, and that is why she canceled appearances with Hart. She said she knew that Hart had gone to Bimini in March. Hart sailed aboard the yacht Monkey Business with his friend William Broadhurst, Rice and a friend of Rice's, Lynn Armandt--the same quartet that spent time together in Washington last weekend.
Lee Hart did not make it clear whether she knew that Rice was with Hart during the Bimini trip. Rice said the day trip turned into an overnight trip, but the women slept on a separate boat from the men.
Rice said Broadhurst said they would have to stay overnight because Bahamian customs was closed and he could not file the required departure documents. However, Bahamian customs officials said the yacht could have left and returned the documents by mail later.
"I do not ask Gary what he is doing every moment of his life, nor does he ask me," Mrs. Hart said. "I do not ask him what phone calls he has made."
Hart has said that he phoned Rice half a dozen times or more in the last two months to talk about politics and Rice's possible participation in fund-raising for the Hart campaign.
Asked what effect the relationship with Rice will have on Hart's campaign, Mrs. Hart said: "The American people will have to respond to that."
At his press conference, Hart responded patiently and calmly to questions about his marriage and Rice. In an effort to make his denials more convincing, he said: "If I had intended a relationship with this woman, believe me--I have written spy novels--I am not stupid. If I wanted to bring someone into a house or an apartment or meet with a woman in secret, I wouldn't have done it this way."
As further evidence of the innocence of his behavior, he said that he, Rice, Broadhurst and Armandt had twice entered the house in broad daylight through the front door, having driven up in a bright red car. This was at a time when the Herald reporting team believed that he and Rice were inside.