Embattled political consultant Michael Berman on Thursday suggested that Mayor Tom Bradley was guilty of using a double standard this week when the mayor condemned political memos Berman and a colleague had written for Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky.
Berman told radio talk show host Michael Jackson that he had worked for Bradley during campaigns in 1969 and 1973. Berman said he had given Bradley the same kind of biting, irreverent advice that plunged the consultant and his partner, Carl D'Agostino, into a furor Tuesday when The Times published excerpts from memos the two did for Yaroslavsky, who is expected to run against Bradley next year.
Asked by Jackson if his advice to then-Councilman Bradley contained the type of "flavor" found in the two memos discussing what it would take for Yaroslavsky to win the mayor's race, Berman replied:
"The same sort of flavor about the opposition, about himself and the same sort of irreverent humor, I'm afraid. He seemed to like it then.
"In fact, I briefed him before his debate with (then-Mayor) Sam Yorty in 1973 and he seemed to like our sense of humor then," Berman said. "His laugh seemed to indicate that it was of some use to him to loosen up before that debate."
Berman said he had also done memos for Bradley laced with the same kind of jokes he used in the Yaroslavsky memos.
The memos done for Yaroslavsky said the councilman had a higher IQ than the mayor and dwelt at length on the need for Yaroslavsky to pressure wealthy Jewish contributors for money.
On Tuesday, Bradley said he found the approach taken in the memos "absolutely unacceptable" and said he "wouldn't tolerate (it) in my campaign staffs." The mayor's deputy, Michael Gage, called portions of the memos "racist."
Responding to Berman's talk show comments on Thursday, Gage said Bradley does not recall any strong Berman involvement in his mayoral campaigns or receiving any memos from Berman. Gage said he spoke to Bradley on Thursday by telephone from Honolulu, where the mayor is attending a business conference.
Bradley said that "if there were memos, they were probably to campaign managers, not to him . . . and if (Berman) participated in a briefing prior to a debate, you can bet it was with a dozen other people in the room," according to Gage.
Two other veterans of the 1973 campaign--state Controller Gray Davis and former Deputy Mayor Maurice Weiner--said they recall that Berman worked on voter demographics and direct mail. Campaign records show that Berman was hired by Bradley as a consultant in 1973.
Publication of the Berman-D'Agostino memo excerpts sparked a political crisis for Yaroslavsky from which he has yet to fully recover despite his disavowal of them and a subsequent decision to reject the Berman-D'Agostino firm for his upcoming campaign.
Only hours after Bradley urged Yaroslavsky to "fire" the Berman-D'Agostino firm, the councilman distanced himself from the consultants, calling their memos "offensive, contemptuous and insulting."
After the radio show Thursday, Berman refused to elaborate on his role in the early Bradley races.
Former Deputy Mayor Weiner recalled that Berman was involved in gathering demographic information for the mayor's 1973 campaign, but Weiner did not remember the political consultant playing a key advisory role.
"I remember from then and since then (Berman) as being someone who joked around a lot," Weiner said. "He's always joking, but I don't remember the kind of racist material that has been quoted in the L.A. Times."
On the KABC radio show, Berman and D'Agostino used measured tones in defending their consulting style and repeatedly insisted that despite the blunt nature of their memos, they are neither racist--as critics have charged--nor meant for their advice to be taken at face value. And during the show, a number of former BAD clients--including Los Angeles-area Democratic Congressmen Mervyn Dymally, Mel Levine, Matthew Martinez and Julian Dixon--called in to voice their support for the consultants.
The BAD clients, including black officeholders Dymally, Dixon and Assemblywoman Gwen Moore, also said they were unanimous in believing that the consulting team was not racist. They added that they had received similar irreverent advice from the two consultants as was contained in the Yaroslavsky memos.
Insisting that Yaroslavsky never saw the copies of what they called "draft memos" meant to "stimulate discussion," the veteran consultants insisted that they are not racist despite charges by a number of critics. Among the passages cited as racist by Gage and other Bradley supporters are one questioning Bradley's IQ and another that suggests that whites vote for him to ease their consciences.
Berman and D'Agostino repeatedly said they have nothing but respect for the mayor and believe that it is wrong to vote for a candidate "based on the color of their skin or religious preference."