President Bush Friday denied visiting Paris in 1980 to help Ronald Reagan's presidential campaign cut a deal with Iran to delay the release of American hostages until after the election.
The president, in his first public comments on the resurgent allegations, called news accounts suggesting such a deal took place "sickening."Even as Bush sought to quell the controversy, his administration granted a visa to former Iranian president Abolhassan Bani-Sadr to enter the United States to promote his book charging that just such a mid-campaign deal was struck to delay the hostages' release.
Bani-Sadr is likely to meet with congressional Democrats considering an investigation of the allegations. Bush spokesman Marlin Fitzwater, as part of the White House's response to the allegations, said such a review would make Democrats "look foolish."
At an Oval Office photo session, the president refused to answer when asked if anyone in the Reagan campaign brokered an arms-for-hostages deal with Iran but said the resurgence of stories alleging such a deal was "rumor mongering."
Some accounts alleging such a deal was cut have said Bush, Reagan's vice presidential nominee, traveled to Paris in 1980 to help seal the deal.
When asked Friday if he visited Paris in 1980, Bush said: "Was I ever in Paris? Definitively, definitely no."
The president refused to take any further questions about the so-called "October surprise" of the 1980 campaign. "That's all I'm going to tell you, that's all," Bush said. "But print it, please. Let's try to stop all the rumor mongering that is going on."
Such a deal has been rumored in the past.
The story got new life two weeks ago when a former Jimmy Carter administration official, Gary Sick, published an article in which he said two years of research had uncovered considerable circumstantial evidence that the Reagan campaign brokered a deal with Iran. But Sick said he found no conclusive proof.