White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater Tuesday sharply criticized his predecessor, Larry Speakes, for falsely attributing remarks to President Reagan and vowed that he would never follow such a practice himself.
"It's a damned outrage, that's what it is," Fitzwater told reporters at his regular daily briefing.When reporters bombarded Fitzwater with questions about Speakes' statements, made in his book "Speaking Out," the spokesman said the questions illustrated "why I resent it so much."
"To make up quotes casts aspersions on the presidency and on my position, and the questions you just asked are the best reasons why it's wrong, why he shouldn't have done it and why I won't do it," he said.
"Everyone is appalled that he made up quotes," Fitzwater added.
Fitzwater said he takes notes during presidential meetings and, "If he didnt' say it, I won't say he said it. I never have."
Fitzwater said he had not talked to the president about the matter, but "I am sure he would be upset about it. I am sure he is."
The spokesman also said he had not talked with Mark Weinberg, an assistant press secretary who Speakes said helped him make up quotations to attribute to Reagan during his 1985 summit meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
"I don't know what his role was there," he said of Weinberg.
Fitzwater was a deputy under Speakes but had left the White House and was Vice President George Bush's press secretary at the time of the incidents described by the former spokesman.
Speakes says that after a Korean Air Lines plane carrying 61 Americans was shot down in 1983, he credited statements made by Secretary of State George Schultz to Reagan.
And he says that during Reagan's summit meeting with Gorbachev in Geneva he attributed to Reagan remarks that he and Weinberg had manufactured.
Speakes often boasted that he never lied to the press during his six years as Reagan's chief spokesman.
Reagan met with the National Security Council and with congressional leaders after a Soviet plane shot down the KAL aircraft in 1983.
Speakes says Shultz declared during the congressional leaders' meeting that the incident was not a problem between the United States and the Soviet Union but "a Soviet vs. the world problem."
"Since the president had had almost nothing to say during the National Security and congressional leadership meetings, I made presidential quotes out of Shultz's comment about the incident pitting the whole world against the Soviet Union, as well as some of Shultz's suggestions about what retaliatory steps we should take," Speakes writes.
"My decision to put Shultz's words in Reagan's mouth played well, and neither of them complained."