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Dukakis Says His Campaign Chief Helped Topple Biden : 2 Aides Quit After Gov.'s Disclosure

September 30, 1987|From Times Wire Services

BOSTON — The two top officials in the Democratic presidential campaign of Gov. Michael S. Dukakis resigned today after admitting involvement in preparing videotapes instrumental in sinking rival Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr.'s bid for the White House.

Dukakis accepted the resignations of campaign manager John Sasso, who said he prepared the tapes, and Paul Tully, national political director, who was aware Sasso provided the tapes.

Tully had been hired from Gary Hart's failed campaign.

"It was a serious lack of judgment on my part," a visibly shaken Sasso told reporters. "I have apologized to the governor, I apologize to the public and apologize to Senator Biden, his family and supporters."

Accepted 'With Regret'

Dukakis, who earlier in the day told a news conference of Sasso's ties with the tapes but refused to accept Sasso's first resignation offer, said he accepted it "with regret" when offered again after a firestorm of reaction.

Sasso said he made tapes--splicing a Biden speech with a remarkably similar campaign ad by British Labor candidate Neil Kinnock--and gave them to media outlets without telling Dukakis "because I knew it would hurt him."

Sasso, 40, said when he saw reports of Dukakis' news conference Monday denying any knowledge of the tapes, "I knew at that time I was going to have to tell him. In the end I couldn't lie to Mike Dukakis."

Sasso earlier served as campaign manager for former Rep. Geraldine A. Ferraro when she was the 1984 Democratic vice presidential nominee.

'A Very Serious Mistake'

"John had to make this decision himself, and I accepted it with regret," Dukakis said. "He was a superb public servant, but he made a very serious mistake. John and I have been very close. It is a sad afternoon."

No replacements were immediately named for Sasso or Tully.

Biden (D-Del.) withdrew from the race last week amid controversy over the tape and other incidents of borrowed rhetoric, and over disclosures that he had misrepresented his law school career.

Biden is chairman of the Judiciary Committee and was at the confirmation hearings on Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork in Washington when Dukakis made his statement.

Asked for comment, Biden said: "I think you ought to talk to the governor. I have no comment at all."

A grim Dukakis, at a hastily called news conference, said, "Although I had no knowledge of this as a candidate in this campaign, I accept full responsibility for it. I'm running for the presidency, not against anybody."

Apology to Biden

Dukakis said that he spoke by telephone to Biden earlier today and expressed his regrets.

"I want to publicly apologize to him, his family and his friends for what happened and for the involvement of my campaign," the governor said.

"I regret very, very much that my campaign or any one in it contributed to that pain," Dukakis added.

Two days ago, Dukakis faced reporters to respond to a report in Time magazine that quoted sources as saying the Dukakis campaign was responsible for sending out the video. At that time, Dukakis said: "We have no knowledge of it. We don't believe it happened. We would be astonished if somebody--whether a volunteer or otherwise--did it."

Asked today whether the disclosure would harm his presidential effort, Dukakis said: "I don't know. I think it's important when you learn something like this to disclose it as quickly as possible, and I have done so."

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