WASHINGTON -- Presidential aide Edwin Meese has denied helping Rita Lavelle get the Environmental Protection Agency job from which she was fired Feb. 7, or having a close relationship with her, The New York Times said Thursday.
In an interview with the Times, the White House counselor challenged some statements made by Miss Lavelle under oath at congressional hearings.
Miss Lavelle was in charge of toxic waste cleanups at the Environmental Protection Agency before her dismissal after she refused to resign.
Meese denied that he had done anything to help her get her job as the head of the $1.6 billion Superfund.
Meese held the Bible for Miss Lavelle when she was sworn in at the White House in 1972, a chore traditionally performed by a family membr or close friend.
But he told the Times the gesture was made out of a sense of 'camaraderie' because they had both worked for Ronald Reagan in California, and he complained of 'misleading stories in the papers' suggesting he had had a close working relationship.
Questioned about Miss Lavelle's testimony that he or someone acting on his behalf had asked her for status reports on one or more toxic waste dump sites, Meese said, 'I have never talked with her or anyone at EPA about any site at any time.'
He said he had only attended two meetings involving EPA, and he did not know of any occasion on which he had spoken to Miss Lavelle on the telephone except on Feb. 5, the day after her resignation was requested.