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Bush won't apologize for remarks about Bob Jones

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© St. Petersburg Times, published March 4, 2000

Gov. Jeb Bush attempted Friday to clarify his comments concerning his brother's visit to Bob Jones University but did not apologize for saying he would be willing to speak at the controversial South Carolina school.

Bush said in a six-paragraph statement that some of his comments "have been taken out of context and misinterpreted."

The governor's brother, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, has been criticized for speaking last month at Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C. The school had banned interracial dating and opposes the Roman Catholic Church's doctrines.

Bush appeared Tuesday on NBC's Today, where he defended his brother and said he also would be willing to speak at the university.

"I would, and I wouldn't feel that I was lending credence to a view by going to speak to different groups," he said. "I have spoken in places where people are not supportive of my views and I am not supportive of theirs, but as a public servant I think it's my responsibility and as a candidate I have done the same thing."

Through a spokesman, Bush cited three examples to the St. Petersburg Times: a recent public hearing in Miami on the One Florida initiative to replace affirmative action programs in university admissions and public contracting; a campaign visit to a synagogue in South Florida; and a campaign visit to an AFL-CIO union hall.

On Thursday, 16 black and Jewish Democrats in the Legislature demanded that Bush apologize and recant his remarks. Rep. Bob Henriquez, D-Tampa, did not sign the letter but is sponsoring a resolution condemning Bob Jones University.

In a statement Friday, Bush said that he never compared his brother's speech at Bob Jones University to giving a speech at a synagogue.

"To clarify the record," he wrote, "on the Today show I said that it is acceptable for political figures to go to places where their views are not shared. I was defending my brother's visit to Bob Jones University, a university visited by the current governor of South Carolina (a Democrat), former President Ronald Reagan and other leading figures."

Bush, who is Catholic, said he made it clear in the television interview that he did not agree with the "university administration's reprehensible views on marriage and religion."

"I have been cordially received in many places, including synagogues, where my political views aren't necessarily shared," the governor's statement said.

"I consider it a healthy experience for all candidates and public officials to do so."

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