- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 12, 2000

A Georgia congresswoman who last week accused Vice President Gore of having a low "Negro tolerance level" yesterday retracted the accusation, saying her comment was "never intended for public distribution."
Rep. Cynthia A. McKinney, a four-term Democrat, said accusations concerning Mr. Gore's lack of racial tolerance posted Aug. 31 as a news story on her congressional Web page were part of a press release still "in the editing process."
In a statement issued yesterday, Mrs. McKinney said her comments were never meant for public release, but she does not explain how they found their way to her Web site, nor does she deny making the accusations. It also was not clear whether she was pressured by anyone, including the Gore campaign, to issue the new statement.
"I disclaim all of those comments," she said in the statement. "And let me warn any Republicans who might be tempted to use the comments that were attributed to me, which I have now disclaimed and retracted, to divide and confuse the voters: I will not stand for it."
Mrs. McKinney's Washington office yesterday said the congresswoman was not available for comment. Mr. Gore's campaign did not return calls in response to questions on the McKinney statement.
Last week, Mrs. McKinney's press secretary, Sean Nichols, confirmed that his boss planned to vigorously pursue a lawsuit filed by black U.S. Secret Service agents who said a limit had been placed on the number of them who could serve on Mr. Gore's security detail.
Mr. Nichols verified the contents of the Web page story, including comments on suspected racism on Mr. Gore's security detail.
He said Mrs. McKinney was "very concerned" and was "going to take a hard look at this." He also was unavailable yesterday for comment.
In the Web page story, Mrs. McKinney said "Gore's Negro tolerance level has never been too high," saying she had never known him to "have more than one black person around him at any given time."
In her statement yesterday, Mrs. McKinney voiced her support for Mr. Gore, but said he "owes it to those Secret Service agents and the American public to make a clear statement that he wants the Secret Service to make sure there is no discrimination in promotion practices, hiring decisions or assignments within that organization." She did not elaborate.
Last week, Mr. Gore's campaign defended the vice president's record on race, saying he has "a 25-year-plus record of fighting for African Americans." Spokesman Chris Lehane referred questions about the agents' complaints to the Secret Service.
In a lawsuit filed in February, the Secret Service was accused of failing to promote black agents to management positions despite qualifying performance ratings. It said black agents were subjected to discrimination involving transfers, assignments and training.
During an Aug. 29 news conference, 10 black agents named in the suit called on Mr. Gore to show the "moral leadership" to end racial discrimination in the Secret Service.
They said Mr. Gore was aware of complaints of racial problems within the agency and on his security detail, but made no effort to address them.
On her Web page, Mrs. McKinney, who is black, said she was troubled that the black agents had received no response from Mr. Gore or his staff about their concerns even after they had been advised.
"That these black officers had no response from Gore's staff is symptomatic of a larger problem," she said. "Gore would like these problems to just go away, but they'll never go away if they're not addressed."
Mrs. McKinney also said the contempt white agents hold for black agents "and black people in general" was evidenced by their attendance at annual whites-only "Good O' Boys Roundups" in Tennessee Mr. Gore's home state.
She said she also had been "discriminated against at the White House by the very same people these Secret Service officers are complaining about."
Secret Service spokesman Jim Mackin declined to discuss the suit, saying the agency would respond in court which he called the "appropriate venue."
But he said the Secret Service had "actively engaged in ensuring a diverse work environment and affording equal opportunity."

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