WASHINGTON — Backing down from potentially embarrassing plans to honor an incendiary talk-show host, the National Republican Senatorial Committee on Monday canceled a scheduled appearance by G. Gordon Liddy at a GOP fund-raiser.
Liddy, who has been condemned by the Oklahoma Senate and others for advising his listeners on how to shoot federal agents if they attack, had been scheduled to appear today as one of two keynote speakers at a "Salute to Talk Radio" dinner here for about 300 contributors to the GOP's campaign committee.
But his statements on shooting federal agents are "clearly and unequivocally wrong," said John D. Heubusch, executive director of the campaign committee in announcing that the invitation to Liddy had been withdrawn one day before the event.
However, asked earlier about Liddy's place on the GOP program, campaign committee spokesmen defended their invitation.
"This committee, like most Americans, are strong supporters of the First Amendment and the freedom to express one's views," Gordon Hensley, spokesman for the campaign committee, said Friday.
In announcing the withdrawal of the invitation, Hensley denied Monday that the committee had acted because it feared bad publicity but said it was simply acting under the orders of Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato (R-N.Y.), the campaign committee's chairman.
Don Foley, who heads the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, earlier had urged the GOP to cancel Liddy's appearance, saying that the GOP campaign committee "should be ashamed of itself for paying tribute to someone who promotes hatred and fear mongering."
Controversy over Liddy mounted after the Oklahoma bombing, amid debate about whether talk radio had helped inspire violence against the government.
That debate has put Republicans in the awkward position of keeping their distance from far-right fringe elements while attempting to maintain a hold on their conservative base.
Liddy, a convicted Watergate burglar who spent more time behind bars than any other Watergate defendant, has gained notoriety more recently as a syndicated radio talk show host broadcasting from suburban Washington.
He recently acknowledged that he once drew stick figures on rifle targets and named them Bill and Hillary because he "thought it might improve my aim."
Liddy has also told listeners that, if they are being raided by federal agents with lethal force, they should shoot at agents' heads because they usually wear protective vests.
Last Tuesday, Liddy amended his advice and told listeners that if the head shot didn't work, "then shoot to the groin area."
In response, the Oklahoma Senate has passed a resolution calling on sponsors of the Liddy show to withdraw their support.
"We feel that kind of rhetoric is an encouragement to violence," said Democratic Oklahoma State Sen. Gene Steipe.