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President Vigorously Defends Loyalty of Two State Department Employees

Jan. 24, 1962 - President Kennedy vigorously defended two State Department employees today against a newspaper woman’s statement that they were security risks. He delivered an icy rebuke to the reporter, Mrs. Sarah McClendon (pictured right), when she made the accusation at his news conference. He vouched personally for the two men and said he hoped they could continue to serve “without detriment to their character by your question.” Mr. Kennedy had never been so quick and severe in reproving a reporter. Mr. McClendon began with this statement: “Sir, two well-known security risks have recently been put on a task force in the State Department to help reorganize the Office of Security.” Mr. Kennedy cut in coldly to ask, “Well, now, who?” The reporter gave the names of William Arthur Wieland and J. Clayton Miller. The State Department later said that both men held jobs connected with administrative management and had nothing to do with any aspect of security. The President cut in again: “The term you’ve used is a very strong term, which I would think that you should be prepared to substantiate.” The State Department’s legal adviser, Abram J. Chayes, was reported to have given the opinion that Mrs. McClendon’s charge was “defamatory on its face” and that she might be subject to a lawsuit by the two men.

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