135Bush Sr. Threatened Lawsuit Over W's Drug Use Report
- Dec 25, 2000Bush, Sr. Threatened Lawsuit Over Drug Allegations about W.
Former President Bush has considered legal action against a
discredited book that claimed he attempted years ago to quash a drug
arrest of his son Gov. George W. Bush of Texas, the front-runner for
the Republican presidential nomination. In an interview taped last
week and aired on Fox News Sunday, the former president said he
was "so outraged" by the allegations in the book that he consulted
his attorney, "something I seldom do."
The interview was apparently taped before St. Martin's Press took
action against its book Fortunate Son: the Making of an American
President by J.H. Hatfield.
On Thursday, St. Martin's halted distribution of the book and on
Friday ordered all copies to be returned so they could be destroyed.
The publisher's action came after aides at the Bush campaign said the
governor was seeking advice on legal moves that could be taken
against the book. Hatfield, in a final chapter that St. Martin's said
was added at the last minute, said that in 1972 the younger Bush was
arrested in Harris County for possession of cocaine. He said the
arrest was expunged after the elder Bush arranged through a friendly
Republican judge to have his son perform public service.
Both Bushes vehemently deny the allegation, and Hatfield's account
has several factual problems, including that there were no Republican
judges in Harris County in 1972 and that the law allowing arrests in
Texas to be expunged was not enacted until later in the 1970s. Carol
Vance, a Democrat who was district attorney in 1972, said the
allegations are baseless.
St. Martin's, without commenting directly on Hatfield's allegations,
moved against the book after learning that Hatfield had been
convicted 11 years ago of hiring a hit man in an unsuccessful car
bombing against his boss. The elder Bush said his attorney, whom he
did not name, made further legal inquiries, although the former
president did not make clear if the contact was with representatives
of the author or publisher or both. At any rate, he said: "They just
brushed us off."
"I may not be finished with this yet, even though I'm a public
figure. It's outrageous," Bush said. He referred to a legal standard
that makes it more difficult for public figures to sustain a libel
action unless they can prove that false statements were made with
malicious intent. Bush said the book was "a fraud and ugly." "You
know," Bush said, "I debated whether to say anything, but frankly,
that book accused me of being anti-Semitic. It accused me of
obstructing the justice system by going to a judge and having a
narcotics charge dropped and have George do community service.
"It's a lie. It was a vicious lie. And I'll tell you, it's one of the
things that makes a lot of people stay out of public service. Who
wants to have books written that are totally false?"