ST. LOUIS -- Former President Gerald Ford said Wednesday former President Richard Nixon's participation in the Republican presidential campaign could prove damaging to Ronald Reagan.
'I think it would have been much more helpful if Mr. Nixon had stayed in the background during this campaign,' said Ford. 'It would have been much more beneficial to Ronald Reagan.'
Ford had been asked at a news conference about reports that Nixon had been acting as an adviser to the Reagan campaign. 'For him to interject himself at this point in unfortunate,' Ford said.
Ford said he had no knowledge about a report that Nixon would be offered a post as a counselor in Reagan's administration if the former California governor is elected.
'I've never heard Governor Reagan tell me that he would like Mr. Nixon for that role,' Ford said.
Ford, who appeared later at a fund-raising dinner for St. Louis County Executive Gene McNary, the Republican challenger to Sen. Thomas F. Eagleton, D-Mo., also again blasted President Carter for releasing 'phony' economic figures indicating an improvement in the economy.
'They were Jimmied,' Ford said, picking up Reagan's language to attack the administration for changing the way it computes the Producer Price Index. Administration officials have denied that charge.
'It's a fraud and a phony by the Department of Labor under Jimmy Carter,' said Ford. 'And if we don't watch that bunch of characters down there, they'll do the same thing with the Consumer Price Index which comes out later this month.'
Ford also strongly criticized the president for blaming high interest rates on policies adopted by the Federal Reserve Board.
'Jimmy Carter appointed a majority of the members of the Federal Reserve Board _ it's his board,' said Ford. 'Jimmy Carter, whether he likes it or not, is responsible for the high interest rates.
'When the going gets tough, Jimmy Carter would attack anybody to save his own skin. It's an act of political cowardice.'