A recently published ABC news report said University President Lawrence H. Summers assisted Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) in the first major speech of his fledgling presidential campaign.
But representatives from Harvard and from Kerry’s campaign flatly denied yesterday the report’s claims—although the two camps disagreed on the extent of Summers’ advisory role in Kerry’s presidential bid.
Kerry’s representatives said Summers has played the role of a trusted advisor to the Kerry campaign, while a Harvard representative denied that Summers has given advice to Kerry on his presidential campaign.
The political newsletter “The Note,” published on the ABC website, reported last Tuesday that “Kerry consulted with the likes of Massachusetts resident Larry Summers in drafting the remarks” on a speech he gave the same day in Cleveland, Ohio.
In the speech, Kerry blasted President Bush’s economic policies and reflected fondly on the economy of the late ’90s—when Summers was Secretary of the Treasury.
“We created an economic climate that brought our country the greatest growth ever,” Kerry said. “We balanced the budget, created a surplus and started paying down the debt. We had what some called a ‘virtuous cycle.’”
One of Summers’ top advisors, a former dweller in D.C. political circles himself, denied yesterday that Summers has advised Kerry on either the speech or his presidential campaign in general.
“The last time I recall them speaking is when Kerry got re-elected as senator,” said Alan J. Stone, vice president for government, community and public affairs. “They talk frequently, as [Summers] does with other national and state leaders. But he didn’t help with the speech.”
He added that Summers is not getting politically involved with Kerry’s campaign for president.
“I don’t think it’s true he’s helping any particular candidate,” Stone said.
Kerry representatives also denied that President Summers collaborated on the speech, but said Summers has provided advice on economic and other issues to Kerry’s presidential campaign.
“Senator Kerry frequently consults with [Summers] on economic issues and a whole host of policy issues,” said Kelly Benander, Kerry’s press secretary. “While they did not consult for the speech at Cleveland, Summers is someone the senator has often spoken to over the years on economic and political issues.”
“They are old friends who frequently counsel one another,” she added. “Senator Kerry values what Summers has to say.”
Kerry appeared as a guest of honor at Summers’ installation as president of Harvard last October.
Elizabeth E. Wilner, the deputy political director of ABC News, said The Note received the tip that Kerry frequently consults with Summers from an “excellent Kerry source.”
She added that they would consider running a correction, pending a talk with the source, if it is denied that Summers consulted with Kerry on the ideas outlined in his speech.“We ourselves have not heard from Kerry’s office that the line was incorrect,” she wrote in an e-mail.