Gary Hartgary-hart-donna-rice

What was the accusation?

An anonymous reporter contacted the Miami Herald in 1987 to tip them off to a rendezvous that was to occur between Senator Hart and a woman named Donna Rice at Hart’s Washington D.C. townhouse.  The reporters staked out Hart’s house and observed him spending the weekend with Rice.  They asked him about his relationship with her and he said he did not have one.  The Herald printed the story anyway, revealing the alleged affair.  Hart continued to deny that he had an extra-marital relationship and seemingly taunted the press saying, “Follow me around. I don’t care. I’m serious. If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They’ll be very bored.”  The story continued to receive national attention and Hart chose to suspend his campaign rather than subject his family to the continued invasiveness of the press into his private life.

Key Apologia Strategies:

Mortification, Attacking the Accuser, Bolstering

Video of Interview with Jim Lehrer

Transcript of Interview with Jim Lehrer

LEHRER: We go first tonight to a newsmaker interview with Gary Hart, the former Colorado Senator jarred the world of politics yesterday by reentering the race for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination just seven months after his relationship with Miami model Donna Rice cause him to withdraw. I talked to him earlier this evening from Public station WENH in Durham, New Hampshire.

Senator, welcome.

Sen. HART: Thank you.

LEHRER: It’s been 30 hours or so now since you reentered this race, was it the right decision?

Sen. HART: Yes, it was. Absolutely. I’ve never had a minute’s hesitation about it, and the response has been great.

LEHRER: Flesh that out. In what way has it been great?

Sen. HART: Well, I think just through personal contact. We made a decision right away to go into the streets, not try to do the conventional campaigning in people’s houses and small groups, but go out to the people. This campaign is going directly to the people, as I explained yesterday, and people’s responses, I knew it would be, have been very warm and hospitable, very, very encouraging, both in New Hampshire and in Maine.

LEHRER: What did they say to you?

Sen. HART: Glad you’re back in the race, you did the right thing, we’re for you.

LEHRER: One of the first things you did today, you went to the high school there, in New Hampshire, and immediately, first out of the bat, you got questions about Donna Rice, about. . .

Sen. HART: That’s not true. I had a lot of questions on serious issues before that came up. I just wanted to make sure you understood that.

LEHRER: Okay. But at the high school in New Hampshire you were asked about these matters. Do you expect these kinds of questions to continue?

Sen. HART: Occasionally, but not very often. The pattern this fall was that the perhaps dozen and a half, perhaps two dozen speeches that I gave, that every other speech or so someone would ask a question about the events of last May, or the questions of privacy having to do with public officials, and I would answer them. I always found campuses or whatever to be strongly on my side, as they were at the high school today. Frankly, most of the questions having to do with my own personal life have been coming from the press and not from the public. But I want to stress that at the high school that question came very late and came from a young man who came up afterwards and said, ”I genuinely want to know what you have to say on the issue of privacy and I want to say that I’m on your side and I want to help you. ”

LEHRER: Why do you think there are still questions being asked about it?

Sen. HART: Maybe because that’s what gets reported.

LEHRER: What do you mean?

Sen. HART: Well, I mean I think the people in the country want to find out about issues like economic revitalization and opportunity for the future, reforming our military forces, developing a new foreign policy and that’s what I’m prepared to talk about. I think, as I said yesterday, that issues will continue to be raised by people for whatever reason about my personal life. I don’t intend to respond to those, as I said last September.

LEHRER: Why not? Why do you intend not to respond to them?

Sen. HART: Because they’re nobody’s business.

LEHRER: Do you think you have spoken to the issues that caused you to get out of the race in the first place?

Sen. HART: As much as I’m going to. I was on national television for an hour, I apologized, accounted for my behavior, said it was wrong, and apologized to those who were effected by it, including my family, and I don’t intend to talk about it any more.

LEHRER: Do you feel that you’ve spoken to the issue of judgment that was raised because of what happened?

Sen. HART: Yes, I do. I said I made a mistake and I said yesterday all I want is the votes of all the people in this country who themselves have made a mistake.

LEHRER: And you think that’s all that needs to be said about it?

Sen. HART: No. But that’s all I intend to say about it.

LEHRER: Let me read to you, for instance, what the Washington Post said in an editorial this morning, ”Gary Hart got back into the Democratic race on Tuesday, seeming neither to remember nor to be especially interested in the reasons that he had got out. We expect that if he can he still has to address directly and plausibly those questions having to do with his behavior and his candor with the public before he can hope to get anywhere. This, the newly reinstated candidate most emphatically did not do yesterday. ”

Sen. HART: Well, they’re entitled to their opinion. What I want to know is what the people of this country think.

LEHRER: Well, what — just for those who may have missed it, like the Washington Post and like the young man at the high school in New Hampshire — what is your response to your conduct involving women other than your wife that caused you to get out? What is your explanation?

Sen. HART: Just exactly what I said on Nightline in September, and I don’t intend to answer any more questions about it. It’s no one else’s business.

LEHRER: Why is it not anyone else’s business.

Sen. HART: Because it isn’t. It hasn’t been the business of the American public for 200 years, and it isn’t today.

LEHRER: You don’t think it speaks to the question of judgment as to what a person would do as a candidate for President of the United States?

Sen. HART: Well, Jim — I may call you Jim?

LEHRER: You may.

Sen. HART: Let’s reverse the logic. Alright? Does it suggest because Ronald Reagan used poor judgment on Irangate that therefore he’s unfaithful to his wife?

LEHRER: I don’t understand what you mean.

Sen. HART: Well, it’s exactly the reverse of that logic that you’re suggesting.

LEHRER: Yes, but President Reagan has spoken endlessly about the Iran contra affair —

Sen. HART: And I’ve spoken endlessly about my personal life, and I don’t expect to talk any more about it.

LEHRER: All right. One more quote from one more editorial. The Los Angeles times: ”In his announcement on Tuesday, Hart gave no sign that he yet understands his problem or that his announcement is an insult to the American political process. ”

Sen. HART: Let me ask you — I wonder why those editorial writers don’t want to let the people decide this issue. Why are they deciding it for the people? Let’s take this question to the American people and let them decide — that’s what I said yesterday. What is the harm in that? What would happen if the people don’t think this is as important as the people that write those editorials do? What would then happen?

LEHRER: But in response to those editorials, or to anyone else who may have raised this question either publicly or otherwise, you feel that you have put behind you and you have spoken and you plan to never address again the issue of your judgment and all of these other issues, personal conduct, etc. ?

Sen. HART: There’s only one issue, and the answer is yes. The reason that I got out of the race, Mr. Lehrer, as I said back in May, was to try to protect my family, and that didn’t work out very well, because very nasty and erroneous things were written after I got out of the race. But I wasn’t driven from the race. I chose not to continue.

LEHRER: All right. One more editorial.

Sen. HART: (laugh)

LEHRER: Well, these are all (unintelligible). Okay — well, these are the major newspapers of America — I’d say it’s 30 hours later, I asked you whether, you know, what the reaction’s been, etc. Newspaper editorials and major newspapers — you would not agree, would you not that that is an element of legitimate reaction?

Sen. HART: Sure. But so is the reaction of the people of New Hampshire and Maine.

LEHRER: Sure. I agree. And I asked you about that and you said it was encouraging and more. The New York Times says, ”What did people do yesterday when they heard that Gary Hart had reentered the Democratic presidential race? Again and again they laughed. Sometimes the laughter was nervous and credulous — or was it cynical? ‘He must be after federal matching funds to reduce his campaign debt. ‘ Or it was ribald, recalling the philandering that drove him out of the race last spring. Have you heard any laughter?

Sen. HART: No, I haven’t. Not at all. People out on the streets are very warm and very cordial to me and my wife and my son. They’ve been great, frankly. And we’re going to take this case to the American people and let them decide. I don’t think people in Washington or New York in the editorial workrooms should decide who runs for President. I think the American people should decide. I’m as qualified to govern this country as anybody, including in this race, or anybody who’s governed this country for the past 200 years. And I intend to continue to make that case, and we’re going to let the American people decide this.

LEHRER: You’ve been accused in the last 30 hours by — not editorials writers, but officials, or officeholders, etc. , in your own party as being selfish, of putting your own self interests above those of the Democratic Party. What’s your answer to that?

Sen. HART: What’s the logic behind their assertions? In what way am I hurting the party?

LEHRER: Well, what they said, as you probably know —

Sen. HART: I don’t know.

LEHRER: Well, what they said was that here there are six candidates in the race. But coming in, you’ve drawn the attention in a kind of very dramatic way and you’ve essentially told the American people and fellow Democrats that you do not believe these others six candidates are qualified.

Sen. HART: No. I’ve never said that, and I will not say that.

LEHRER: I’m telling you that’s what they said you said by your action.

Sen. HART: Well, no one is — anyone is free to interpret my actions any way they want to. The fact of the matter is I’ve been praising these candidates ever since last May, encouraging people to support them and encouraging them to adopt some of my issues. I said yesterday that none of them had, that I had a different outlook on the problems facing this country, and I felt as an American citizen I had as much right to seek office in this country as anyone else. And that’s all. I’m not disparaging those candidates. Look, I belong to the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is an open party. It has throughout its history, particularly at its best times in its history, encouraged debate. Now anybody in Washington, first of all the Democratic Party doesn’t live in Washington. It’s all across this country. And let the party out in the country decide whether I’m qualified to run for President or not. I don’t know why people are afraid of that notion. I’ve never hurt this party in 25 years. I’ve worked for 25 years for the Democratic Party. I’ve worked for candidates who beat candidates that I supported. I’ve worked for candidates who were killed in office. I am a regular Democrat. I’ve done as much for this party as anybody, and I am as entitled to run for office in the Democratic Party as anybody.

LEHRER: What are the key issues that you believe —

Sen. HART: (chuckle)

LEHRER: No. That you — you said that these other six candidates are not saying what you want to say — want to be said about these issues. What are they?

Sen. HART: Yes, I can summarize my ideas or policies in three words. One is invest, the other is reform, and the third is engage. Invest means a strategy or blueprint to put this country’s economy back on its feet, retire its debts, make it productive and competitive by investing in the very foundation of this nation’s economy over the next 10 years so that we can compete. I spelled that out in much greater detail than anyone else. I have also been a leader in military reform that approaches the defense issue totally differently from our Party — what our party has done for 15 or 20 years — and no one else has championed that cause. And finally I’ve spelled out a foreign policy that involves engagement in the third world in very specific ways that no one else is talking about, at least to the degree of specificity that I have. And I think I’m entitled to take those issues which I and dozens of other people have worked on to the American people. And that’s what I intend to do.

If they don’t agree with me, or they don’t like me, then I won’t get the votes, and the issue will be resolved. But I think it’s just a simple question of democracy, frankly.

LEHRER: But you don’t challenge the point, do you, just the simple point that by reentering the race when you did, you have signalled to your fellow Democrats that you do not believe that these other six candidates are in fact as qualified and as capable as you are to govern this country?

Sen. HART: I’d put it the other way around — I think I am more capable and more qualified in a whole variety of ways, not the least of which is the size and scope and breadth of not only my understanding of issues, but my responses to them and proposals for them. Keep in mind, Mr. Lehrer, that I was an announced candidate in this race, a frontrunner in the race when other — some of these candidates — got in the race, and I didn’t resent it a bit. And I wouldn’t resent it now if others got in the race.

LEHRER: The writer Gail Sheehy was on the program last night, and she said you were a reckless man, and that’s why you had the women problem in the first place and caused you to go out of the race, and that’s why you have gotten back in. How do you respond to that?

Sen. HART: I don’t have to. It’s fiction.

LEHRER: You’re not a reckless man?

Sen. HART: I’m not. And people who’ve known me for a long period of time, including colleagues in the Senate and friends in Colorado and elsewhere, and supporters and friends around this country will testify to that. They know me a lot better than this person who — whatever her credentials are.

LEHRER: She suggested last night, and some of the editorials today — and other comments today — also suggested that there may have been a money motive going. The matching grants, she said, would give you a — you weren’t doing very well financially, this’d get you back, to get your lecturer rates back up, etc. How do you respond to that?

Sen. HART: Actually, I’ve probably made more money this year than I’ve made all my life. I’m doing quite well financially, and that’s none of her business either.

LEHRER: Do you think it’s the business of the American people, though, to know whether or not you were motivated by —

Sen. HART: Sure. And the fact is that I’m not.


Sen. HART: This is going to hurt me financially a great deal.

LEHRER: In what way?

Sen. HART: Well, I think it’s quite obvious I won’t be able to practice law, I won’t be able to give lectures. I won’t have any income, and I’m paying for this campaign out of my pocket. That should be pretty obvious, even to her.

LEHRER: You’re paying for this campaign out of your pocket?

Sen. HART: Yessir.

LEHRER: And how much do you anticipate is going to — how much money do you have, or how much do you think it’s going to cost?

Sen. HART: I don’t know. It’s an act of faith, and we’ll see what happens. Obviously we’ve got to raise some money. I think most of it will be in small contributions, and I hope people will send dollars, a few dollars, up to my house in Kittridge, Colorado, and that’s the way we’ll finance it. If the money doesn’t come in, we obviously can’t keep going.

LEHRER: Your former campaign manager, Bill Dixon, was also on this program last night, and he kept saying that what you did yesterday was an act of courage. Do you see what you have done as an act of courage?

Sen. HART: Not particularly. It’s an act of conviction. Conviction not necessarily just about myself, but about this country. I believe the American people are fair. I think they’re a lot fairer than a lot of politicians and commentators and observers, and I’m willing to let them be my judge, and not the pundits and experts.

LEHRER: How long are you willing to let them be your judge? Bruce Babbitt, for instance, said yesterday on hearing the news of your reentry, that you only have a few days, you’re either going to be the frontrunner again, or you were going to be the Ghost of Christmas Past. Do you feel like it’s a matter of a few days?

Sen. HART: No, not at all. Jim, I have been in public life, I guess about 15 years. I ran a presidential campaign for a candidate in 1972 who had no chance at all, and helped him get the nomination. Uphill all the way. No money, no financial support, no political support. I ran for the Senate in 1974 without ever having held public office, uphill fight against all the odds, and managed to win. I was lucky enough to win. I beat the odds in 1980, uphill odds against a Reagan landslide, managed to survive. Ran for President in 1984, one or two percent in the polls, no money, and managed to win 26 or 27 primaries and caucuses. So I’m not unaccustomed to this role.

LEHRER: And how do you see your role? I mean, what — how do you see yourself sitting there in New Hampshire tonight? As a man who is being a victim of an awful press or people like me asking you questions you don’t want to answer?

Sen. HART: Not at all.

LEHRER: Who are you tonight?

Sen. HART: I’m a concerned American citizen who cares about his country and has some ideas as to where we ought to be going. I simply want to present them to the people, that’s all. Nothing more complicated than that. And I’ll answer questions as long as people want to ask them.

LEHRER: But you’re not doing this for Gary Hart?

Sen. HART: No.

LEHRER: You’re doing it solely for the country?

Sen. HART: I’m doing it primarily for the country, because I believe in myself.

LEHRER: And you believe in yourself — finish the sentence — believe in yourself to do what?

Sen. HART: That finishes the sentence. I believe in myself as to be able to lead this country, particularly relative to the other candidates, and we’ll let the people of this country decide whether that’s the case or not.

LEHRER: And do you believe in your ability to be able to put the Donna Rice and the personal issues behind you in such a way that people will listen to you?

Sen. HART: Yes.

LEHRER: Why are you so confident?

Sen. HART: Because I don’t think the people care. I think the people care a lot more about the concerns of their lives, whether they have shelter, whether they have nutrition, whether their children can go to school, whether they’re going to be blown up by nuclear weapons or poisoned by toxic waste dumps or dirty air, whether we’re going to be able to meet the Gorbachev challenge, whether this country can defend itself in a time of reduced budgets, whether we can solve the trade deficit, whether we can make this economy work again, whether we can build the best educational system in the world. That is what people care about.

LEHRER: Senator Hart, thank you very much.

Sen. HART: It’s my pleasure.

Transcript of Interview with Ted Koppel on Nightline

Ted Koppel: And rather than beat around the bush with you, Senator, I know there is something, although I don’t know what precisely it is that you want to say, so go ahead and say it.

Gary Hart: Well, I appreciate it Mr. Koppel. As you indicated in this program, I’ve not had a chance to make some comments and observations since I withdrew from the race and I just wanted to take a moment with your indulgence, and say to the tens of thousands of people who supported me with their time and their effort, how deeply grateful I and my family are for every thing that you have done for us, and for letting me take leadership in a cause and a movement that we all believe so strongly in; change in this country. I will never forget what you’ve done for me, and I will always be grateful for it. I want also to say that I am even more deeply sorry for causing the events and the mistakes that led to my withdrawal from that race. I will always bear a burden of- of um, responsibility and I assume total responsibility for those actions and for what transpired that led to the end of that campaign. I do not blame anyone else and I have never tried to shift blame away from myself. I am uh- totally and fully responsible for my own actions and I want to say to all of you how sorry I am and apologize to you for those actions. Now, finally let me say I want to make it crystal clear I do not blame the press in this country. I feel strongly that some issues of personal privacy of public officials have been raised and ought to be debated, but I’ve not consciously tried to shift blame to the press and I never will. I would only urge all of you to keep trying. I’d cite the conclusion of a great biography of the Scottish patriot Montrose by John Buckett, where he said, “Great causes are never ever totally won or totally lost, we must keep trying,” because the issues and the principles involved are so important, and I hope all of you will.

TK: Now, Senator Hart, let me pick up on a couple of things you said here, just in the first couple of minutes. You said you’re not now blaming anyone else, but there was a time when you did. You said you’re not now blaming the press, but you did, members of your staff did. What’s caused you to change your mind?

GH: Well, I can’t account for members of my staff Mr. Koppel, I’ll only say this, I was um, I was an angry man in the-in the spring. I was angry at myself. I was angry at the circumstances that I’d gotten myself into. I suppose I was also speaking the heat of the moment’ of a man who had seen his house and his household and his family under siege, with helicopters over our roofs and reporters um, or photographers literally looking in our bedroom and um, Cameramen shoving their lenses into my wife’s face, and I think that’s kind of a normal human reaction, if I may say so. I-I probably shouldn’t have spoken in the heat of the moment. But I must also say that a serious question is raised here, and one of the reasons I want to come back and begin to speak again is- is to try to help stimulate a constructive debate- not a-not a bitter debate- but a constructive about where today in the 1980’s and 90’s the limits of privacy of public officials ought to be drawn in the interests of the leadership of the country, and the quality of that leadership.

TK: Well, why don’t we pick up on that scene, where we can begin, although it wont be a suspected debate between you and me, and it shouldn’t be, but let me at least see if I can ask some pertinent questions. Um, If the question is whether it is legitimate for reporters to ask of any presidential candidate, “Do you drugs, are you a homosexual, you ever cheat on your wife, have you ever stolen anything, did you ever hold out on the IRS? I guess I would have to agree with what is implicit in what you’ve said, and that is, it probably is not. But if by his actions or her actions, a candidate raises something to an issue where it is clearly news, as your conduct did raise the issue. And you know, long before the name Donna Rice was known in this country, the issue of womanizing was raised against you. It had been raised in 1984. It was something that I am told, members of your staff had raised with you and said, you gotta reassure us that that’s not going to happen again in 1988. Does that not make it a legitimate issue, did it not make it a legitimate issue as far as you’re concerned?

GH: Mr. Koppel, you’ve asked a series of questions and I’ll try to answer all of them, both in the abstract and in terms of my own specific situation. I don’t know of very many public officials, certainly none who run for national office, about whom some rumors don’t circulate. It’s certainly been true almost throughout my public life, and certainly after I began to run for president in 1982 and ’83.

Let me point out some pertinent facts here. It’s not as if my family and I were not subjected to intense scrutiny when I sought the presidency before. Particularly after an upset victory in New Hampshire.

My wife reminded me the other day that among other things, there were reporters around our house interviewing our neighbors, asking why we had put up a fence up in our yard? Who paid for the fence? How many parties we had? Who came to our parties? Uh, you cannot believe the questions that were asked about us of our friends and acquaintances and neighbors, and of us directly.

It is no secret Mr. Koppel, in the 29-year history of our marriage , almost three decades, that we had two public separations. We had been open and honest about our relationship, or tried to be. And I think perhaps more than almost any public figures in our society have had to answer, and have answered. Embarrassing questions about our relationship with each other and the nature of our marriage.

Um, Certainly there have been rumors. It is not unique to me, rumors of public officials and presidents have gone back to the beginning of the republic, certainly starting with Jefferson, maybe even Washington.  Certainly, some of the best presidents of the 20th century have had rumors circulating about them. I think what was different in my case was that rumors became news last spring. That is to say, the fact that there were rumors, was printed as news, and one or two news organizations, based upon tips or information that they got, decided to set up surveillance and, I think, come very near, if not invade my own personal privacy, to prove those rumors were true.


Bai, M. (2017, September 18). How Gary Hart’s downfall forever changed American politics. New York Times. Retrieved from:

Sheehy, G. (1987, September). The destruction of politician Gary Hart. Vanity Fair. Retrieved from:

Thompson, A. (2016, December 6). “Barbara Walters presents”: Gary Hart and Donna Rice. Crime Feed: Investigation Discovery. Retrieved from: