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Fired Historian Refutes Remark

Date: Tue, 10 Jan 95 10:10:22 PST

WASHINGTON (AP)—Fired by Speaker Newt Gingrich as House historian because she complained Nazi views weren't represented in a Holocaust course, Christina Jeffrey said Tuesday that allegations against her "are slanderous and outrageous."

In a statement the morning after her firing, Jeffrey, who was hired less than a week ago, also said she was "fired in the press."

Reporters, who received materials from Democratic sources, began making inquiries to Gingrich's office after learning of Jeffrey's review of the Holocaust course in 1986.

House Democrats quickly pounced on her eight-year-old review, one saying it bordered on Holocaust revision.

Gingrich, in a letter signed "your friend Newt," said he appreciated her "willingness and eagerness" to serve. "However, I do not feel that it would be prudent nor beneficial for you or your family nor for the House of Representatives to continue your employment at this time," he wrote.

The letter, released Tuesday, was dated Monday and included a time, 9:15 p.m.

Jeffrey said in her written statement that she did not want to be interviewed at this time but would "write a review of this matter for publication."

Jeffrey, hired at $85,000 a year, headed a panel that reviewed the Holocaust course for the Republican-run U.S. Department of Education. The panel recommended against a federal grant for the course and the department – insisting the decision was its own – declined funding in 1986 and again the next two years.

Concluding her remarks on "Facing History and Ourselves", a course designed for eighth and ninth graders, Jeffrey wrote: "The program gives no evidence of balance or objectivity. The Nazi point of view, however unpopular, is still a point of view and is not presented, nor is that of the Ku Klux Klan."

At the White House, presidential Press Secretary Mike McCurry said it was "hard to imagine how someone with those extreme views would have been considered in the first place, but the speaker quickly recognized that and made a decision that strikes us as appropriate." He added that it was largely a House matter.

A friend of Jeffrey and a fellow college professor defended her.

Barry Friedman, professor of political science at North Georgia College, said she doesn't harbor any anti-Semitic feelings.

"It really bothers me because I am Jewish and the son of a Holocaust survivor ... and these are grave accusations made against someone who doesn't deserve them," he said. "It's terribly unreasonable ... I don't think she even got five minutes to give an explanation."

Gingrich won quick praise from Abraham H. Foxman, Anti-Defamation League national director, who wrote: "I ... commend you on your swift and decisive action ... The criticism she expressed regarding the exclusion of Nazi and Ku Klux Klan views from the Facing History and Ourselves Holocaust curriculum was misguided and profoundly offensive."

In her written statement, Jeffrey said, "I seem to have been fired in the press" -- a reference to inquiries by reporters Monday about her review.

"Let me say that the charges against me at slanderous and outrageous. I have nothing to say at this time."

Gingrich and his staff said the congressman did not know about Jeffrey's comments until Monday, although they were widely reported in 1988.

"As soon as he corroborated those facts, he asked for her resignation, effective (Monday) evening," said Tony Blankley, a spokesman for Gingrich.

Nevertheless, the spokesman added, "He still holds her in high esteem."

This is the second time in recent weeks that Gingrich acted with dispatch to cut his political losses. After controversy erupted over his acceptance of a $4.5 million book advance, Gingrich changed the deal so he would only receive a percentage of profits on books actually sold.

The controversy over Jeffrey, named by Gingrich to replace a University of Maryland historian hired by Democrats, grew Monday as the day wore on.

Early in the afternoon, Reps. Patricia Schroeder, D-Colo., and Albert Wynn, D-Md., criticized Jeffrey's views that most campaign finance disclosure laws should be eliminated. "He (Gingrich) found the only historian in America who prefers secrecy to revelation," Schroeder said.

Later in the day, Democrats circulated the 1988 clippings, including the Holocaust quotes from Christina Price -- Jeffrey's name at the time.

After learning of Jeffrey's background, Democrats stepped up the attack.

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif. said that Gingrich "appointed someone to be House historian who ... decided the views of Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan should be taught to school children."

Shortly afterward, the new historian was gone.

Questioned on her review in 1988, Jeffrey said at the time, "I have not got an anti-Semitic bone in my body."

Blankley said he spoke to her about the review shortly before Gingrich fired her.

"She indicated she was asked to assess the project for balance," Blankley said. "She made a flip comment that you have to include the Nazi point of view as a way of pointing out you couldn't have balance in a Holocaust story. She said she and 14 others (on the panel) thought (the course) wasn't good history."

The course was taught to thousands of students without the federal funding.

Now on leave from Kennesaw State College, Jeffrey is a supporter of the controversial college course Gingrich teaches, "Renewing American Civilization."