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En route to help dedicate a screwworm eradication plant in Mexico, Earl Butz took a plane to California just after the Republican National Convention in Kansas City. He could have flown either Continental or TWA, but his aide, Roger Knapp, chose TWA. In the first-class compartment, the Agriculture Secretary spied Singers Pat Boone and Sonny Bono, and John Dean, the former White House counsel who had blown the whistle on Richard Nixon and had just worked the convention as a writer for Rolling Stone. A gregarious man who likes to flaunt his snappy country—and often barnyard—sense of humor, Butz, 67, wandered over to make idle conversation, after Knapp had warned him that Dean was now a reporter.

Butz started by telling a dirty joke involving intercourse between a dog and a skunk. When the conversation turned to politics, Boone, a right-wing Republican, asked Butz why the party of Lincoln was not able to attract more blacks. The Secretary responded with a line so obscene and insulting to blacks that it forced him out of the Cabinet last week and jolted the whole Ford campaign. Butz said that "the only thing the coloreds are looking for

in life are tight p— , loose shoes

and a warm place to s—."

After some indecision, Dean used the line in Rolling Stone, attributing it to an unnamed Cabinet officer. But New Times magazine enterprisingly sleuthed out Butz's identity by checking the itineraries of all Cabinet members. The publication informed the Secretary's office on Tuesday, Sept. 28, that it was planning to print his name. Butz mulled over the problem until Thursday, before tipping off the White House. On Friday morning he found himself on the carpet in front of an exasperated Gerald Ford.

The President did not fire Butz then and there in part because Butz claimed, incorrectly, that he had been quoted out of context and that he had actually said something like "Things have come a long way since the days when a ward politician could say ..." before delivering his bomb. Moreover, Ford hates to make decisions under pressure. More important, he is genuinely fond of the Secretary. ("We think alike," the President once said. "I love to work with him.") Not least of all, Ford was afraid that firing Butz would hurt his election chances in the key farm states.

Ford left it up to Butz whether or not to resign. Not only Jimmy Carter but a chorus of Republicans began calling for Butz's head. After praying "over what to do," Butz sat down on Sunday morning and wrote out his resignation.

While pickets carrying KICK

BUTZ signs marched outside the White House, the Secretary walked in on Monday to see the President alone. Though Ford had been offended by the non-joke, he still felt sympathy for Butz, whom he does not consider a bigot. Butz was close to breaking down. Said he later: "[The President] should have kicked me right in the pants. Instead, he put his arm around me."

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