Exchange With Reporters in San Francisco, California.
REPORTER. Mr. President, as Jimmy Carter was leaving the auditorium here he said that he thought that your insensitivity towards blacks for not apologizing for the Earl Butz affair made that a legitimate issue for this foreign policy debate. How do you answer that?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, it seems to me that Governor Carter ought to think back to his comment about ethnic purity, which was interpreted to be a slur against blacks, and his subsequent apology. So, I don't think his record is clear in itself. I think we took the appropriate action in the way we handled the Butz matter.
Q. No apology was appropriate, then?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, Earl Butz did apologize. Earl Butz did get a reprimand by me. That was done several days before his resignation. But I think it's appropriate to bring up the fact that a few months ago Governor Carter, with his ethnic purity comment, did slur blacks, and he apologized. Earl Butz did likewise.
Q. Mr. President, Jimmy Carter says that when you two debate tonight, you will be debating as equals. Do you agree with that?
THE PRESIDENT. I will let the American people decide that.
Q. Mr. President, some of your aides have indicated that you, as President of the United States, will have more constraints on you tonight than Jimmy Carter will. I don't understand why this is so. Can you explain? Or do you believe that?
THE PRESIDENT. I will speak very frankly. I believe that a President, under these circumstances, who has got a good record can speak forthrightly, straight-
forwardly, and frankly. And I intend to do that.
Q. So you see no constraints?
THE PRESIDENT. I don't see any.
Q. Do you plan to make any new announcements tonight in terms of foreign policy and defense initiatives?
THE PRESIDENT. Listen carefully.
Q. That's a hint, Mr. President, isn't it?
Q. Are you going to be more aggressive tonight than you were at the other debate?
THE PRESIDENT. Ann [Ann Compton, ABC News], we will wait and see.
Q. What is the answer to Helen's [Helen Thomas, United Press International] question?
Q. It sounds like you have got something new up your sleeve.
THE PRESIDENT. I just said that you should listen carefully.
Q. Mr. President, how do you feel about this report by the congressional investigators, the General Accounting Office, criticizing your handling of the Mayaguez incident?
THE PRESIDENT. It is always very easy for someone 18 months after a very critical issue has taken place to write a report. Of course, none of those "Johnny-come-lately" Monday morning critics were there when the incident happened. So, they didn't have to make the minute-by-minute decision. I can't help but feel that the issuance of that report at this time is another example of partisan politics, and I don't believe the American people will believe somebody who, with the luxury of 18 months afterwards, can sit back and write a report. I think they will believe a President who was there and had to make the tough decisions on an incident that was important to the American foreign policy.
Q. How important is tonight's debate in the overall campaign?
THE PRESIDENT. They are all very, very important. And I look at this one as important, and I look at the one on the 22d as important.
Q. This one has no special significance?
THE PRESIDENT. They are all very important.
REPORTER. Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: The exchange began at 12:19 p.m. in the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, following audiovisual tests for the Presidential campaign debate to be held that evening.
As printed above, this item follows the text of the White House press release.
Gerald R. Ford, Exchange With Reporters in San Francisco, California. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/241611