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From the Herald archives: The Gary Hart story: How it happened

FILE--Senator Gary Hart, right, walks away from Miami Herald reporter Jim McGee May 2, 1987, after talking with Herald reporters about the identity of a woman (Donna Rice) staying in his townhouse on Capitol Hill in Washington.
FILE--Senator Gary Hart, right, walks away from Miami Herald reporter Jim McGee May 2, 1987, after talking with Herald reporters about the identity of a woman (Donna Rice) staying in his townhouse on Capitol Hill in Washington. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the Miami Herald on May 10, 1987.

“You know, you said in the paper that there were rumors that Gary Hart is a womanizer, “ the woman told Miami Herald Political Editor Tom Fiedler.

“Those aren’t rumors. How much do you guys pay for pictures?”

Gary Hart, 50, announced his quest for the presidency April 13 at the foot of the Rocky Mountains with a promise as lofty as the backdrop: “All of us must try to hold ourselves to the very highest standards of integrity and ethics, and soundness of judgment . . .”

He began as the front-runner with everything in his favor. Polls showed him not only winning the Democratic nomination, but handily beating George Bush -- the GOP’s early favorite -- in a theoretical matchup.

The former Colorado senator surrounded himself with the brightest minds in politics. He showed a new surefootedness, the product of having run the course once before, in 1984. The gold ring seemed within reach.

And the voice on the telephone was offering evidence to The Herald that could undo it all.

The call was the beginning of one of the fastest, most shocking unravelings of a presidential campaign in American history. The saga has elements of a prime-time soap opera: the Marlboro-man handsome candidate, the long-suffering wife, the lust for power, the blond poster model from Miami Vice, the overnight trip to Bimini -- capped by a weekend in Washington.

The story also epitomized the painful collision between a person’s privacy and the voters’ need to know. In following a tip, The Herald involved itself in a controversial stakeout. Later, while The Herald concentrated on reporting what it saw, Hart’s followers focused on what the reporters might have missed. Even now, the newspaper concedes that the watch was not airtight.

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When the end to Hart’s campaign came at noon Friday, there remained the elements of Greek tragedy. The gifted hero who had taunted the press to “follow me around . . . it will be boring” was felledby hubris.

“Gary Hart is having an affair with a friend of mine, “ the caller said, leveling a charge that the pair has denied. “We don’t need another president who lies like that.”

1. RUMORS OF WOMANIZING

The story behind the story began two weeks before the call, on the day Hart formally announced that he was a candidate. A profile in Newsweek that week made passing reference to his troubled 28-year marriage to Lee and to rumors of infidelity. A former adviser was quoted as saying that Hart could have a problem in this campaign “if he can’t keep his pants on.”

The article triggered a barrage of similar stories in other newspapers. Suddenly, the candidate who promised to fashion a campaign on the power of his intellect was dealing with charges about the power of his libido.

Yet no article backed up the allegation with an accusation. “It’s hard to disprove rumors if you don’t know where they come from, “ Hart complained to Fiedler, who has covered him since 1984.

Fiedler, 41, is a 16-year veteran journalist who first tasted national politics when assigned to cover part of the 1972 George Wallace campaign. He dealt with both Hart’s problem and the journalistic ethical questions it raised in a lengthy front- page article. On balance, the Monday, April 27, article was sympathetic to Hart’s plight:

“If I was editing Newsweek, “ it quoted journalism professor Bruce Swain as saying, “I might have put a reporter on (the womanizing rumors) for a week to see if we could either report it directly, or dispatch it.”

Fiedler wrote: “In a harsh light, the media reports themselves are rumor-mongering, pure and simple.”

2. THE CALLER

Fiedler stayed later than normal that Monday wading through papers accumulated from a routine political reporting trip to several cities. He was about to leave about 8 p.m. when his telephone rang.

At first the caller seemed to be taunting him, refusing to give her name but hinting that she had a secret she might let him share. The caller had read the article and seemed alternately outraged and amused by Hart’s statements of being an innocent victim of rumors.

She had proof that Hart was having an affair, she said. Then, with a nervous laugh, she asked how much The Herald was willing to pay for a picture. To Fiedler, this was just another crank call he was in no mood to take.

He told her he resented her mocking tone. If what she said was true, Fiedler said, then she had better pause and consider the gravity of her charge.

She asked whether Hart might win the nomination and the election. He told her about the polls. She asked whether she could stay anonymous. He said he saw no need to learn her name if she gave him information that he could confirm independently.

Fiedler told her to sleep on it and call him back if she wanted to proceed on that basis.

On Tuesday morning at 10:30, his telephone rang again. It was the caller. There was no jocularity. She was nervous but intent on helping. She was a “liberal Democrat, “ she said, but she couldn’t tolerate someone who would say one thing publicly and do another privately. The nation had just seen that happen with President Reagan and the Iranian arms sales, she said.

The details of the alleged relationship emerged during that 90-minute call, terminated only because she had an appointment to keep. She placed Hart and an “older man named Bill who said he was Hart’s lawyer” at a yacht party several weeks before.

As many as 50 people -- most of them involved in acting, modeling or the music business -- partied on the yacht, she said. “They weren’t the kind of people you would think a presidential candidate would want to be around, “ the caller said, admitting that she was among them.

Hart was initially attracted to her, the caller said, but she rebuffed him, disgusted by his demeanor. Her friend, however, seemed fascinated by him.

“They spent a lot of time together that day, and when we left she gave him her phone number, “ the caller said.

Hart acted on the gesture. He called and invited the friend out on “a cruise, “ she said. They went somewhere and stopped in a port overnight, but the caller didn’t know where. She knew only that her friend was by then enthralled with Hart and in the weeks that followed eagerly displayed pictures of the pair together at that port.

These were the pictures she wanted to sell the night before, she said. Fiedler still declined. “Politicians have their pictures taken with strangers all the time, “ he said. “It proves nothing.”

Then, the woman said, there were all the telephone calls. Hart called frequently from the campaign trail, saying each time where he was and where he was headed. The caller knew the places from which the calls came: Georgia, Alabama, Kansas. She knew the dates.

In the most recent calls, the woman said, Hart had invited her friend to spend the coming weekend with him at his townhouse in Washington. They were to meet Friday night.

The caller demanded to stay out of the story and continued to withhold her name. But she was sure that if Fiedler would only meet her friend and chat for about 20 minutes, the friend would tell him everything about her fling with Hart. “She’s really outgoing, “ the caller said. “Maybe you could fly to Washington on the plane and get the seat next to her?”

Fine, Fiedler said. He asked for the flight information.

“I’ll get it and call you back, “ she said. It was 12:15 p.m. Tuesday. She didn’t call back.

3. CHECKING IT OUT

Fiedler began checking the caller’s information against Hart’s schedule. Every date and place squared. Hart, indeed, had stayed in Miami the weekend of the yacht party following a fund- raiser at the home of Miami lawyer Joel Karp.

The caller fixed the date of the yacht party by remembering she had attended the movie premier of Making Mr. Right on Miami Beach the night before.

Fiedler was impressed with the accuracy of much of what he had been given. But he knew it remained conceivable that a campaign dirty trickster could have gotten Hart’s schedule and elaborately fabricated the story.

There remained three points that seemed wrong to him.

First, the caller said Hart and her friend were to meet in Washington on Friday night and would be at Hart’s townhouse. The copy of Hart’s schedule available to Fiedler showed that Hart was to be in Iowa on Friday and in Kentucky on Saturday for a Kentucky Derby party.

Second, Fiedler also thought Hart lived in Bethesda, Md., not in Washington.

And third, he was baffled by the caller’s description of “Bill, “ the man with Hart. Normally, Hart travels with Bill Shore, a man in his mid-30s. The caller said this Bill was “really old looking.”

Nonetheless, Fiedler informed City Editor John Brecher and Investigations Editor James Savage of the call. He let his doubts go, expecting another call.

By Friday, the continuing silence became tormenting. Fiedler was tethered to his phone, hoping it would ring. He decided to try to assuage his minor doubts. Fiedler telephoned Hart headquarters in Denver and asked for the candidate’s weekend schedule, saying that he might want to go to the Kentucky event to cover Hart.

The Kentucky stop has been scrubbed, Hart’s scheduler said. “Where is he going to be this weekend?” Fiedler asked.

“He’s going to take some time off in Washington, “ came the reply.

“Where does he stay in Washington? Does he still have his house in Bethesda?” Fiedler asked.

“No. They’ve sold that. They have a townhouse on Capitol Hill.”

Fiedler’s mind pictured a slot machine with everything lining up. He rushed to pass the information on to Savage.

4. GO OR NO GO?

What Fiedler learned from the caller persuaded Savage, 47, that the tip was worth pursuing. But without a flight number -- indeed, without the address of Hart’s townhouse -- it wasn’t clear how to pursue it. There were five flights between Miami and Washington that Friday night. The woman was to be on one of them.

But which one? How do you spot her? The caller said she was blond, in her late 20s, with a rich Southern drawl. She was an actress with an appearance on Miami Vice to her credit. That was not enough to go on. And even if she is seen on the plane, what then?

Savage summoned investigative reporter Jim McGee, 34, into his office a few minutes before 5 p.m. that Friday. By then, Hart was in the air between Iowa to Washington. If the caller was right, the Miami woman would be leaving at any time to join him.

McGee asked Fiedler to describe the phone call again.

“Do you believe her?” McGee asked.

“Yes, “ Fiedler said.

McGee went back to Savage.

“It feels right, “ McGee said. “I say let’s do it.”

Savage said, “Let’s go.”

Of the five flights, only two were nonstop. McGee guessed that the woman would catch one of those, narrowing the odds. The first left Miami at 5:30; the next at 7:40. It was then 5 p.m.

With just a credit card and the clothes he wore, McGee ran out of the Herald building and, luckily, immediately saw an empty cab at the nearest intersection. “If there had been two red lights, he would have missed the plane, “ Savage said later.

Meanwhile, Fiedler was coming up dry in finding Hart’s address. His calls kept coming back, “Bethesda.” Then, as McGee raced to the airport, a Senate staff member called Fiedler on an unrelated matter.

“By the way, do you know where Gary Hart lives?” Fiedler asked Ken Klein, press secretary to Sen. Bob Graham.

“Sure, “ Klein said. “Buddy Shorestein (Graham’s chief of staff) rents the basement apartment from him.”

5. FLIGHT TO WASHINGTON

McGee ran through Miami International Airport and reached the gate in time to hear the final boarding call for Eastern Flight 996.

That’s when he first saw the woman with shoulder-length blond hair. She was standing at the ticket counter, and she was stunning. Hanging from her arms was a bulky, distinctive purse, with shiny stripes across a dark background. She seemed to be in the company of another young woman, also blond, but not as attractive.

On the airplane, McGee sat in seat 19D. Across the aisle and a few rows ahead sat the blond woman with the purse. Farther forward, near the bulkhead, sat her friend from the counter. McGee noticed a third blond woman on the plane who was also attractive, but seemed younger.

McGee figured that either the woman with the purse or the younger woman was most likely to be an actress. He wondered how he would decide which woman to follow.

During the flight, McGee walked up the aisle twice, passing each woman slowly to fix her face in his mind. At one point, the woman with the purse rose from her seat and walked toward her friend near the bulkhead. They arranged to sit next to each other and for the rest of the flight talked animatedly.

The jet landed at 8:01 p.m. at Washington’s National Airport. McGee caught up with the blond woman with the purse as she reached the baggage claim area. She was greeted by a woman friend, a brunet.

The younger blond was met by a young man in his 20s. They joined in a passionate embrace.

There was no Gary Hart. No chauffeur. Nobody who looked like a campaign aide. McGee feared he had taken the wrong flight.

He walked to a pay telephone and dialed the Knight-Ridder Bureau in Washington. He was put through to News Editor Douglas Clifton, 44, who had just transferred to Washington from The Herald. Fiedler had given Clifton the Hart townhouse address, and Clifton relayed it to McGee. He told him he would help watch Hart’s home. Clifton agreed to meet him later in the evening.

McGee took a cab from the airport and got out at Sixth and E, SE. He walked around the block once and came up the back alley behind Hart’s house.

From what he could see, it would not be easy to remain undetected while watching Hart’s house. It sat in the middle of a dense row of townhouses that sat back from a picturesque, but intimate, residential street. It was brightly lit by street lights. People walked their dogs at all hours. And there was a steady flow of car traffic.

There was a city park one block away with benches positioned so that McGee could see whether anyone came or went from the front of Hart’s townhouse. Facing the park was a District of Columbia police station.

6. THE OBSERVATIONS

About 9:30 p.m., McGee was across the street and roughly six doors from Hart’s home when he heard a sound. It might have been the front door opening.

From Hart’s townhouse emerged a trim, well-built man with black hair. He wore a white long-sleeve dress shirt and dark slacks. With him was a blond woman.

McGee could see the woman clearly. She had the same blond hair he had seen up close at the ticket counter in Miami. She was wearing the same clothes he had seen on the plane. She was carrying the same purse.

The man was Gary Hart.

McGee, who had never expected to see the woman from the plane again, was stunned. He couldn’t believe it was the same woman.

The anonymous tip was becoming a news story. And events were moving faster than anyone had anticipated.

McGee rushed toward a pay telephone a block away to call editors in Miami. It was 9:33 p.m.

McGee reached Executive Editor Heath Meriwether at home. The tip was checking out, McGee said. Was McGee sure? Yes, he said, he had just seen Hart with a woman who had flown from Miami on his flight. She fit the description given by the source. We need more reporters, McGee said; we need a photographer.

McGee called Savage, who wasn’t home, and Fiedler, who was dumbfounded by the news. Fiedler said he’d get on the next plane out. But there were no more flights to Washington that night. There would be no additional help until the next day.

McGee returned to Hart’s street. Clifton, the Knight-Ridder news editor, arrived about 10 p.m. and took up a position in the rear.

An hour passed. McGee and Clifton conferred and decided that two men hanging around a neighborhood were too obvious. Clifton took a cab to National Airport to rent a car.

McGee called Savage, who was arranging for photographer Brian Smith and Fiedler to join Savage on the first plane in the morning.

As he spoke on the telephone, McGee caught sight of something moving out of the corner of his eye. He glanced up the street, and the series of coincidences that drove the story continued.

McGee spotted Hart’s car driving slowly through the intersection.

“I think I see them again, “ he told Savage. He hung up the phone and ran back to the street.

McGee slowed to a quick stroll as he approached Hart’s house. It was 11:17 p.m.

Hart had parked his car around the corner and was walking toward the front door with the blond woman. McGee, walking toward him but on the other side of the street, could distinctly see Hart and the blond woman. The same purse glinted under the street light.

Hart said later that the woman left in 15 to 20 minutes. McGee was alone outside. He did not see her leave from the front entrance. Clifton was returning from the airport with the rental car.

7. THE WATCH

Saturday dawned as a bright spring day, warm with the scent of flowers in the air. The neighborhood around Hart’s townhouse awoke early.

In the early hours, Clifton watched the front while McGee watched the back street.

Investigations Editor Savage, photographer Smith and reporter Fiedler caught pre-dawn flights to Washington and discussed their objectives during the flight. Fiedler circled a passage in a New York Times Magazine article slated for Sunday publication and handed it to Savage.

“Follow me around, I don’t care, “ Hart was quoted as saying. “I’m serious. If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They’d be very bored.”

They arrived in Washington at 10:05 a.m. and reached the street in front of Hart’s townhouse about 11. Smith and Savage parked on opposite corners with a clear view of Hart’s car, but a partially obstructed view of the front door. Fiedler parked on the street behind the townhouse, where he could watch the alley entrance.

The reporters considered it crucial that at least one other staff member identify Hart and the woman to confirm what McGee had seen the night before.

Later, Hart denounced the watch as “spotty.” McGee was alone while Clifton went for the car Friday night, no one was watching the townhouse from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m., the back entrance wasn’t covered at all times, and the view of the front door was sometimes blocked.

The reporters never considered the stakeout airtight. The words “around the clock” surveillance were struck from the story’s initial draft.

“It’s possible” the woman could have slipped out of the house, Savage later told The New York Times.

In midafternoon, there was a flurry of activity outside the Hart townhouse involving a maroon sedan that double-parked in front. Smith hurriedly took up pursuit of the car.

It traveled a few blocks and parked in front of a church. A couple -- definitely not Hart and the blond woman -- got out. “False alarm, “ Smith said.

8. THE DISCOVERY

At 8:40 p.m., the front of the townhouse was bathed in the orange glow of security lighting. The back street remained dark, shaded by large trees. McGee strolled toward the rear alley driveway.

He stopped in his tracks as he saw Hart and the blond woman emerge from the alley that led to Hart’s garage entrance. McGee turned on his heels, picked up his pace, walked past the alley and headed toward the corner where Hart’s car was parked.

As he rounded the corner, Fiedler, who had changed into a running outfit, jogged by him. “He’s right behind me, “ McGee whispered hoarsely. Fiedler, who knows Hart from the campaign trail, crossed the street to the park to avoid recognition.

Hart’s hands were thrust in his pockets, and he looked rapidly about the neighborhood. The blond woman clutched his right arm as they walked.

Hart appeared on guard. He walked a few feet, stopped, then walked on. When he and the woman reached his car, instead of getting inside, they turned and retreated down the block and into the front entrance.

“He might have recognized me from last night, “ McGee told Savage.

Minutes later, Hart emerged alone, strode directly to his car, got in and pulled into traffic. Smith, the photographer, followed Hart in his car.

Hart went only a few blocks more before parking and walking back toward his block, although not directly. He walked down a side street, turned a corner and promptly sat down. Clifton, following about 50 feet behind him, turned the corner and encountered Hart looking directly at him. Clifton continued on.

Hart again circled the block, this time approaching his townhouse toward his front door. He walked directly past the car in which McGee and Savage sat. To them, he seemed agitated. He appeared to yell over his shoulder toward someone on the other side of the street.

When Hart entered the alley behind his townhouse, Savage turned to McGee. “I think we should talk to him right now.” Hart clearly knew he was being watched.

“It’s your call, “ Savage said.

“Let’s do it, “ said McGee.

9. THE CONFRONTATION

McGee and Savage walked up the dark alley following Hart. McGee turned the corner at the end of the alley and flinched in surprise. Gary Hart stood directly around the corner, leaning against a brick fence. Both men were startled.

“Good evening, Senator, “ McGee said. “I’m a reporter from The Miami Herald. We’d like to talk to you.” Savage introduced himself.

Hart said nothing. He held his arms around his midsection and leaned forward slightly with his back against the brick wall. He was wearing a white sweater jacket and slacks.

We’d like to ask you about the young woman staying in your house, McGee said.

“No one is staying in my house, “ Hart said.

We saw a woman go in your house at 8:40 p.m. You passed me on the street here, McGee said.

“I may or may not have, “ Hart said.

What is your relationship with the woman in your townhouse? McGee asked.

“I’m not involved in any relationship, “ Hart said.

So why did we just see her and you go back into the townhouse?

“The obvious reason is I’m being set up, “ Hart said. His voice quivered.

Is she in your house, Senator?

“She may or may not be” Hart said.

Savage asked whether they could go to his house to meet the young woman and continue the interview. Hart refused.

If she is not in your house, how did she leave? Is she staying with you?

“She’s been here in Washington over the weekend, “ Hart said.

Senator, let me explain, McGee said. We’ve had your house under surveillance since early last evening. I was standing near the front of your house last night at 9:30 p.m. I saw you come out of your house with a blond woman. You got into your car, you drove up the street, you got stopped at the red light. I walked alongside your car.

Hart listened, occasionally nodding his head.

Senator, where were you going?

“I was on my way to take her to a place where she was staying, “ Hart said.

Savage cut in: How long have you known her?

“Several months, “ Hart said.

What is her name?

“I would suppose you would find that out.”

McGee: Senator, at 11:17 p.m. I was again directly across from the front of your house and I saw you come walking up the street with the blond woman. You had parked your car at the corner and you walked up the street and entered your house.

“She came back to pick up some things that she had left, “ Hart said.

How long did she stay?

“Ten or 15 minutes, “ Hart said.”

How did she leave? Savage asked.

“I don’t remember.”

Senator, this is important. Can you remember how she left? Is it possible you called a cab for her? Savage asked.

“I don’t remember” Hart said.

Who is this woman? McGee asked.

“She is a friend of a friend of mine, “ Hart said. “ . . . A guest of a friend of mine.”

McGee said he didn’t understand. He went over the last observation again. Tell us again why they returned together.

“She left some things in the house, “ Hart said.

Savage broke in: What is the nature of your relationship? “I have no relationship with the woman, “ Hart said. “She is not staying with me.” It was, he said, “nothing personal.”

Hart seemed to gain composure as he spoke. Fiedler joined the interview.

“Hi, Tom, “ Hart said.

We know you made telephone calls to this woman from around the country, McGee said, from various campaign stops.

What did you talk about?

“Nothing, “ Hart said.

Were they political? McGee asked.

“It was casual, political, “ Hart said. “General conversation.”

Savage asked when he first met her.

“To my recollection I don’t remember where I met her, “ Hart said.

Did he know her occupation?

“I don’t know that, either.”

Fiedler said the reporters knew that he was with her on a yacht, a trip he took after a campaign stop in Gainesville.

“I don’t remember, “ Hart said.

You have never been on that yacht then? McGee asked.

“I didn’t say that, “ Hart said.

During the next few minutes, first Fiedler and then McGee reminded Hart of his challenge to the press to follow him around. They pointed out that after the Newsweek article he had said he could only respond to specifics, not rumors. The reporters were now asking about a specific incident. Fiedler, who had covered the opening of his campaign in Colorado, reminded him that he had promised to conduct his campaign on the highest moral plane.

He implored Hart to offer evidence that would clarify the situation. He said, “You, of all people, know the sensitivity of this.” And he told Hart that The Herald intended to publish an account of what the reporters had witnessed and what Hart had confirmed. Please be forthcoming, Fiedler said.

“I’ve been very forthcoming, “ Hart said.

What is your relationship with the blond woman?

“I have no personal relationship with the individual you are following, “ Hart said.

Are you denying that you met her on the yacht? McGee asked.

“I’m not denying anything, “ Hart said heatedly.

Savage asked Hart whether he would allow reporters to talk with the woman in his house. That would clear up the questions. Hart said he did not want to violate her privacy. How about the friend she is visiting? Savage asked. Same problem, Hart said.

McGee explained that if there was an innocent explanation, produce the woman. Let us talk to her.

“I don’t have to produce anyone, “ Hart said.

McGee had long ago learned to save the least pleasant question for last. Hart acted as if he were close to ending the interview.

Have you had sex with the woman I saw with you on the street? McGee asked.

“The answer is no, “ Hart said. “I’m not going to get into all that.”

Hart abruptly terminated the interview by turning and walking back toward the entrance to his house.

“We don’t need any of that, “ Hart said, starting up the alley to his house, as photographer Smith snapped several shots.

10. PUBLISH OR HOLD BACK

By now it was after 10 p.m., fast approaching deadline for the bulk of The Herald’s Sunday press run. In the confrontation interview, Hart had confirmed the essential elements that the reporters felt were needed to confirm the personal relationship that the caller had said existed.

Hart had adamantly refused to allow the reporters to talk with the woman to support his claim that she was merely a “friend of a friend.” He said the woman was staying at a friend’s house but refused to name that friend.

Fiedler, Savage and McGee went directly back to Fiedler’s room at the Quality Inn and marshaled their notes to produce a story. At the hotel, McGee telephoned Meriwether in Miami and outlined what the reporters felt they could produce. Meriwether drove to The Herald to oversee its publication.

The story was written by Fiedler as McGee transcribed notes from the Hart interview. Fiedler sat down at his portable computer terminal and typed a hard and blunt opening paragraph that Hart “spent Friday night and most of Saturday” with a young woman from Miami. The lead brought the newspaper intense criticism.

While Fiedler and McGee wrote, Savage answered the phone. A man, identifying himself as Bill Broadhurst, demanded to speak with Fiedler. He said he could vouch for Hart.

He said the woman was his houseguest, not Hart’s.

The situation was “innocent, “ he told Savage. The blond seen with Hart was in Washington to accompany a second Miami woman who was staying at Broadhurst’s home while considering taking a job with him as a social director for his lobbying and entertaining operations.

Savage ordered Broadhurst’s version included in the story. Broadhurst refused to name the women.

Savage attempted to get Broadhurst to provide details about the movements of Hart and his woman friend from Broadhurst’s house to Hart’s.

“You have now told me three times that the two women spent the night at your house. We’ll include that in the story. Now I just want you to take me step by step through what happened since Friday, “ Savage told Broadhurst.

Again, Broadhurst repeated that the woman had left Hart’s house Friday night, had spent the night at his house with her friend. He declined to provide additional details; he wanted to talk to Fiedler.

When Savage asked him to detail their movements Saturday, Broadhurst said he “had not worn his watch Saturday” and was therefore unable to provide any details of when he and the two women came to or left from Hart’s townhouse.

Savage asked Broadhurst to put the women on the phone. Broadhurst refused.

Savage decided that the only thing Broadhurst was willing to provide for the story was the general statement that the two women had stayed with him. He turned the phone over to Fiedler.

Broadhurst, 48, a powerful lawyer with political connections in Louisiana and Washington, wanted to negotiate a delay in the story. Fiedler took the phone while the story was being edited. Broadhurst urged him to come over to his Capitol Hill townhouse to talk things out.

This conversation formed the basis of sharp disagreement. Broadhurst told Fiedler that, if he came right over, “the girls” would be there. Broadhurst claimed later that he offered to let the reporters interview the women.

Fiedler, however, felt Broadhurst’s offer came with a huge escape clause -- the women might be there, but they would refuse to answer questions. Broadhurst was evasive when asked about that point. He said he could not compel them to talk.

Fiedler told Broadhurst he would call him back later.

In Miami, Meriwether gave the go-ahead. “The key was the interview with Hart and our entreaties to him to please let us talk to the woman or anyone else who could explain what we had seen. . . . (Hart) didn’t need 24 hours to explain what we’d seen.”

Meanwhile, the lone unanswered doubt raised by Fiedler’s original woman caller vanished with Broadhurst’s call. The lawyer known to friends as “Billy B” was the “old-looking Bill” who had been with Hart at the Miami yacht party.

11. HART CAMPAIGN REACTS

Minutes after the story cleared, Fiedler called Broadhurst and asked to come over to meet the houseguests. Broadhurst balked: “Your story is already written. I don’t see any point in that, “ he said. Besides, he added, the women now were asleep.

He offered instead to pick up the reporters and join them for dinner at an all-night restaurant. Broadhurst arrived minutes later. The four found their way to Washington’s Chinatown. Broadhurst conceded that he and Hart were with the two women on the yacht in Miami. He said it was a coincidence that Hart and the blond ended up together in Washington over the weekend, something Hart himself and she would contradict later.

But Broadhurst was clear on several points. The blond woman was invited to Washington for the weekend by his guest, a second woman who was interviewing for a job on his staff. Broadhurst, a man with an engaging Louisiana drawl, said he was unaware of the telephone calls Hart admitted making to the woman.

“God damn, “ he said, sitting back in his chair at the Chinese restaurant. “I hear you. I can only speak to you of her presence here in Washington.”

Most important, Broadhurst insisted that the blond woman seen entering the townhouse with Hart on Friday night had left minutes later with Broadhurst and the second woman through a garage that opened onto the rear alley behind Hart’s townhouse. That was during the time Clifton was getting the rental car.

Broadhurst said he came and went twice that night through the rear garage, which was operated by an electronic key he kept in his car.

“If you have access to a garage at the rear of Hart’s house, how come we saw him driving around looking for a parking space on the street? And why does he park his own car overnight on the street?” Savage asked.

“I don’t know, “ Broadhurst said.

Possible comings and goings through the rear alley garage -- out of the sight of reporters for part of the time -- became central to the Hart campaign’s attack against The Herald’s story.

While Herald reporters wrote a second-day story to fix the focus on the movements they saw, not those they might have missed, the Hart campaign pounded on movements they say they made and that went unobserved.

The reporters and Broadhurst talked until almost 5 a.m. before turning in. Instead of producing the women, Broadhurst refused even to identify them. He said he would tell the women in the morning that The Herald wanted to talk to them.

At 11 a.m., McGee knocked on the front door of Broadhurst’s townhouse. No one answered the knock. Hart’s townhouse was similarly empty.

McGee spotted a Denver Post Washington bureau reporter knocking on Broadhurst’s door. He provided the first indication of media attention to come. It built from skepticism and ambivalence -- The New York Times played its first account on Page 12 beneath the headline Hart and paper in dispute over article -- to a raging controversy, sweeping both Hart and The Herald before it.

12. DONNA RICE EMERGES

In those first-day accounts, she was merely the “mysterious blond” from Miami seen with the Democratic Party’s leading contender. It was the Hart campaign that identified her as Donna Rice, 29, and revealed that Hart had previously met her at a New Year’s Eve party that he attended with his wife.

In the confrontation interview, Hart had adamantly refused to divulge her name. As for his wife Lee knowing the blond, he had said: “I don’t know. She might.”

The scramble was on to find her; some quickly did.

Throughout Sunday, Herald reporters prepared a profile of a Miami actress named Donna Rice. But then they decided not to run the story in Monday’s editions because they were not sure it was the same Donna Rice seen with Hart.

But the world couldn’t wait. The volatile elements of sex, power and politics exploded Monday. Suddenly, there were scores of pictures of a sultry-eyed Donna Rice: modeling swimsuits, posing in ads for hotels, standing in a redneck bar draped in a Confederate flag with a breast exposed.

The New York Post adorned its Tuesday cover with a suggestive photo of Rice and the screaming headline: I didn’t sleep with Gary Hart. In The New York Daily News, she was in a swimsuit next to the words: “Gary is not my lover.”

Even The New York Times bumped the story to the front page, albeit under the measured headline: “An actress in turmoil.” By now the Hart saga led the network evening news shows. The Herald was bathed in the same fire. Its stakeout was the target of particular criticism. Hart remained behind tightly closed doors in Washington.

Then appeared Donna Rice. And Bimini.

Within the protective care of lawyer Tom McAliley, a drawling good ol’ boy who had known Hart since 1972, Rice agreed to meet the press. McAliley invited a hand-picked group of reporters to come to his office. She appeared wearing a navy blue dress and pumps and the look of a wronged Southern belle. She and “Gary” were just friends, Rice said. They had not made love; she preferred younger men.

Under McAliley’s guidance, she gave her account of how the two couples moved innocently back and forth between the Capitol Hill townhouses, unseen by reporters. And, like Broadhurst, she insisted that the Herald team missed them leaving from Hart’s townhouse Saturday afternoon to take a drive in suburban Virginia.

But she also undermined the Hart defenses in other ways, large and small. Rice, for example, described phone calls in which Hart would unload his woes to her about the treatment he was facing on the “womanizing” issue.

Hart, who originally said the calls were about “nothing, “ later said they talked about her joining his campaign as some kind of liaison with rock-music groups.

And she provided fresh details of the yacht party at which she and Hart met.

“All right. OK. Here we go, “ she said when asked about the meeting. “I was at a party, at a resort here, and a number of people . . . decided to go aboard a boat that (belonged to) a friend of ours that was docked outside, having no idea it had been chartered, obviously. So we walked on the boat and, lo and behold, there were two gentlemen there who came to be known as Bill Broadhurst and Gary Hart.”

Mostly, however, there was Bimini.

The voyage to Bimini exploded into the headlines like cymbals clashing. Rice volunteered that the same foursome -- Hart, Broadhurst and Broadhurst’s job seeker, Lynn Armandt -- had traveled there several weeks before and spent a night. They slept on separate boats, she said. She saw nothing unusual about such a trip with two married men and two single women.

Hart had called and invited her, Rice said, contradicting his later account. The yacht had had to stay overnight because the Customs office in Bimini had closed, both Rice and Hart said.

It was later learned that the yacht had routinely checked through Bahamian Customs on arrival and left the next day without checking out. “Yachts need not clear out, “ said Garth Greene, assistant comptroller with Bahamian Customs in Nassau.

Meanwhile, Hart remained in seclusion in Washington. Lee Hart had not budged from Denver, unable to fly because of a sinus infection, aides said.

The following day, a noon news conference with Rice was abruptly canceled and she, too, went into hiding. The second woman, Lynn Armandt, has yet to meet with reporters, leaving one possibly important side of the story untold.

13. HART COUNTERATTACK

By late Monday, there were two stories: the story of Gary Hart struggling to save his candidacy, and the story of The Herald’s handling of the story. Herald Executive Editor Meriwether and Managing Editor Pete Weitzel spent Day Two of the Hart saga responding to questions about the Herald’s story and its ethics. Television crews tramped in and out of the news room. Meriwether’s day began with a radio interview at 7 a.m. and stretched through 11:30 p.m., when the nearly exhausted editor defended his decisions on ABC’s Nightline. The Herald even invited readers to call in their comments as to whether too much fuss was being made over the story.

By a 2-1 margin, the readers said yes.

But somewhere in that period, the tide of the debate seemed to turn and run away from Gary Hart.

The media’s feeding frenzy, heightened by Rice’s revelation of the Bimini trip and emerging inconsistencies between her account and that of Hart’s campaign, backed the candidate into a corner. Other rumored liaisons emerged, most of them without substance.

At the same time, there was new support for the Herald account. The Washington Times reported that Donna Rice had a book from Hart that was inscribed, “This is in lieu of flowers until we meet. Love, Gary.”

Since walking away from the Herald reporters in the alley Saturday night, Hart had sealed himself off, trying to save his wounded candidacy. But in an extraordinary and ironic coincidence, he was locked into delivering a speech to the American Newspaper Publishers Association in New York on Tuesday. It was here that Hart would make his stand.

His defense against the flood of allegations was to launch a bitter, frontal attack on the Herald reporters and the paper’s first-day story.

In an angry voice, Hart declared: “The story was written by reporters who, by their own admission, undertook a spotty surveillance, who reached inaccurate conclusions based on incomplete facts, who, after publishing a false story, now concede they may have gotten it wrong. And who, most outrageously, refused to interview the very people who could have given them the facts before filing their story.”

It was a bold attempt to discredit the accuser. But the audience, and the press, wasn’t persuaded. In a short question- and-answer session, two publishers demanded more details of his yacht trip and his phone calls.

Herald Publisher Richard G. Capen defended the “essential correctness of our story” and upbraided Hart. “Clearly, at a minimum, there was an appearance of impropriety.”

Other reporters mobbed Fiedler, who had gone to cover the speech and found himself a part of that day’s story. To Hart’s main point -- that The Herald had refused to interview “the very people who could have given them the facts” -- Fiedler told of the entreaties to Hart on Saturday night for the opportunity to speak with his acquaintances.

The attack on The Herald was lost in the gathering media storm. NBC gave Hart and Fiedler equal time in its report on the speech, then concluded by disclosing that the yacht on which Hart and Rice went to Bimini was called the Monkey Business.

The Hart campaign limped into New Hampshire the following day. The candidate was joined by Lee Hart for a brave attempt to press on in the face of adversity.

But the campaign was now trapped in a whirlpool of despair. At a 51-minute press conference at Dartmouth College on Wednesday -- ironically the site of his rise to prominence in the 1984 campaign -- Hart confronted the most hostile questioning of his career.

“Do you think adultery is immoral?” one asked.

“Yes, “ Hart said.

“Have you ever committed adultery?” came the follow-up.

“I don’t have to answer that question.”

Hart now stood alone to face the hurricane. It was The Washington Post that administered the coup de grce to the Hart campaign, presenting the candidate with evidence of yet another extramarital relationship.

A few hours later, Hart and his wife left New Hampshire to return to their home on Troublesome Gulch Road in Kittredge, Colo.

CBS, meanwhile, aired a tourist’s videotape that showed Hart on the Monkey Business with an unidentified blond woman, not Rice. The footage included the same woman strutting in a bikini before a crowd of wolf-whistlers during a “hot bod” contest at a South Florida bar.

POSTSCRIPT

At noon Friday, Meriwether invited McGee, Savage and Fiedler into his office to watch live coverage of Hart’s announcement. There was an uncomfortable silence as Hart aimed a final blast at the press for driving him from the race. Then he turned from the podium and left the room.

The Herald’s switchboard was immediately flooded with calls. All were answered with a one-line reply from Meriwether.

“We take no joy in the announcement Mr. Hart made today.”

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