WASHINGTON -- Fawn Hall, clearly unhappy with her emerging place in U.S. history, is just as clear about separating herself from another famous figure of scandal -- pointing out their secretarial differences in just three words:
'I can type.'
Hall, the former secretary to Lt. Col. Oliver North who has found herself the leading lady of the Iran-Contra controversy, offered her first public account on Capitol Hill Monday of her role in helping the ex-National Security Council aid destroy, alter and smuggle away potential evidence in the case.
Propelled to celebrity status partly because of her physical appearance, the 27-year-old part-time model found herself before the cameras as well as before Congress, and she promptly issued a statement to let the public know her work was that of a professional doing as she was directed.
'As a secretary, it was my job to facilitate the smooth operation of the office. I was a dedicated and loyal secretary and performed my duties in an exemplary manner,' she said, adding pointedly, 'I can type.'
The line was clearly a nod to one made famous during another scandal in the nation's capital. In May 1976, the public learned Rep. Wayne Hays, D-Ohio, had kept 33-year-old Elizabeth Ray on his payroll for two years as a secretary at $14,000 annually, basically to serve as his mistress.
'I can't type. I can't file. I can't even answer the phone,' Ray acknowledged in revealing the scandal before Hays resigned from Congress in September 1976.
Hall, now a Pentagon secretary, worked for four years as personal secretary to North, the ex-White House aide blamed as the chief operator in U.S. arms sales to Iran and the diversion of profits to the Nicaraguan Contra rebels.
Since the disclosure last winter that she shredded and altered documents with North, Hall, who lives with her parents in suburban Virginia, has been deluged with offers to model, to write articles and even to appear in some television series, business associates say.
She apparently has rejected all of those offers and the big money attached to them, accepting only the summons to testify to Congress under limited immunity from prosecution. She also has cooperated with the independent prosecutor in the case with similar legal protection.
Accompanied by her lawyer, Plato Cacheris, Hall was swarmed by more than two dozen photographers upon entering the packed hearing room at the Rayburn office building Monday. After being sworn to tell the truth, she offered an opening statement in which she did not try to hide her unhappiness.
'I would prefer to have remained a relatively obscure but responsible secretary at the National Security Council,' she said, 'doing, as a friend of mine paraphrased Franklin Roosevelt, 'the best I know how at the moment for what is right.' That option now having been foreclosed, I am prepared to answer your questions to the best of my ability.'