- The Washington Times - Monday, June 11, 2001

House Democrats do not plan any disciplinary action against Democratic Rep. Pete Stark of California, who has accused Republican Conference Chairman J.C. Watts Jr. of Oklahoma of fathering all his children out of wedlock.
"We dont get involved in things like that unless theres an ethics complaint," said Kori Bernards, spokeswoman for House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri. "We cant control what happens between our members, whether we think its right or wrong."
The episode has some House Republicans seething about a double standard, saying Mr. Starks comment was racist and that Democrats would be crying foul if a white Republican had uttered such a remark about a black Democrat.
Mr. Watts, the fourth-ranking House Republican, is the partys lone black in the chamber.
"If youre going to talk the talk, you ought to walk the walk," said one Republican staffer.
Mr. Stark, who has not apologized to Mr. Watts, made his remark May 22 at a Ways and Means subcommittee hearing on the correlation between marriage and welfare. According to a transcript, the California Democrat said the subject was ironic because of a "current House Republican Conference chairman whose children were all born out of wedlock."
He also said the two previous Republican House speakers "both had extramarital affairs." Mr. Stark apparently was referring to former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has acknowledged having an affair while in office, and former Speaker-designate Robert Livingston, who resigned amid similar accusations in 1998.
"So you have got the leadership from the right group to lead you," Mr. Stark told a group of witnesses at the hearing.
Two days later, Mr. Watts confronted Mr. Stark on the House floor, according to witnesses. Mr. Watts angrily asked Mr. Stark why he had used his children to try to score political points. Observers said Mr. Stark was unapologetic.
Several House members intervened and led Mr. Watts away from the confrontation.
"J.C. wanted to deck him," said a top Republican aide. "He should have."
Mr. Watts first child was born out of wedlock and was adopted by an uncle. He has five other children with his wife, Frankie.
The incident apparently prompted a sarcastic taunt from Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, in a hallway encounter at the Capitol last week.
Mr. McCain was speaking to a group of journalists when Mr. Watts happened to walk by. Mr. Watts, seeing Mr. McCain holding court, said to reporters with a smile, "Dont believe a word he says."
Mr. McCain rejoined, "Theres a good family man." Mr. Watts appeared stunned by the remark; Mr. McCain tried to laugh it off by engaging Mr. Watts in light banter and nothing more was said about it.
On Thursday, Mr. Watts was honored as the distinguished Christian statesman of the year by the D. James Kennedy Center for Christian Statesmanship in Washington.
Mr. Watts and his office have declined to comment on the entire matter. One House Republican leadership source said Mr. Watts did not want to "stoop" to Mr. Starks level.
Mr. Stark is something of a legend in the House for making offensive remarks. He has accused Rep. Nancy L. Johnson, Connecticut Republican, of learning about health care from "pillow talk" with her husband, a doctor. In 1991 he blamed "Jewish colleagues" for supporting the Persian Gulf war and called Rep. Stephen Solarz, New York Democrat, as "Field Marshal Solarz in the pro-Israel forces."

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