BOSTON -- The two top lieutenants of Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis resigned Wednesday after admitting involvement in circulating a videotape damaging rival Joseph Biden's White House bid and lying about it.
Dukakis accepted the resignations of campaign manager John Sasso and political director Paul Tully hours after holding a news conference to disclose Sasso as the source of an 'attack video' that charged Biden, a Delaware senator, with plagiarizing British Labor Party chief Neil Kinnock.
'It was his decision to do it and I accepted it,' the three-term governor said, failing to explain what caused him to change his initial stance that Sasso need only be 'reprimanded' for his actions.
'My campaign manager did something that is totally at variance with what I believe in,' he said earlier.
'It was a serious lack of judgment on my part,' a visibly shaken Sasso told a reporters. 'I have apologized to the governor, I apologize to the public and apologize to Senator Biden, his family and supporters.'
Dukakis said he apologized personally to Biden, who issued a statement saying he wanted to put the incident that contributed to the demise of his campaign behind him.
'What's done is done,' Biden said in a statement. 'As I said last week, it's time for me to move on.' He said he would continue to concentrate his energies on chairing the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is considering the nomination of Judge Robert Bork to the Supreme Court.
Sasso said he did not tell Dukakis he made the tapes -- splicing a Biden speech with a remarkably similar campaign ad by Kinnock - 'because I knew it would hurt him.'
Sasso, 40, said when he saw reports of Dukakis' news conference Monday denying any knowledge of the tapes, 'I knew at that time I was going to have to tell him. In the end I couldn't lie to Mike Dukakis.'
But Sasso, who managed Geraldine Ferraro's 1984 Democratic vice presidential campaign and Dukakis' 1982 and 1986 gubernatorial victories, defended his action as a legitimate campaign effort.
'The bottom line is ... in terms of my own integrity, was it accurate and true information, and it was,' Sasso said. Not telling Dukakis, he said, 'was a serious lack of judgment on my part.'
Tully is a veteran of Robert Kennedy's 1968 campaign and Edward Kennedy's 1980 bid and was wooed from the collapsed campaign of former Colorado Sen. Gary Hart earlier this year.
He said he resigned because he had denied a Time Magazine story labeling the Dukakis camp as the source of the Biden tape. Dukakis repeated Tully's denial at a Monday news conference.
'I'm obviously troubled by it,' Dukakis said of that action.
Leslie Dach, Dukakis' national communications director, will assume temporary control of the campaign that announced this week that record-setting fund-raising efforts had garnered $8 million in six months.
'He is the person responsible for providing the tapes to the New York Times, the Des Moines Register and NBC,' Dukakis said of the incident that mirrored a 1982 gubernatorial campaign flap in which Sasso played for reporters an audio tape parody of a commercial done for longtime arch-rival Gov. Edward J. King.
The revelation that Sasso supplied the Biden-Kinnock tapes surprised other Democratic candidates.
'You just can't tolerate that kind of conduct,' said former Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt. 'You've got to send a message, no matter how painful it may be, to everyone else in the campaign, that there are rules, and if you break them, you ought to go.'
Sen. Paul Simon, D-Ill., agreed.
'I don't like to see that kind of thing. That is not my style,' he said.
The tape, which showed Biden during a candidates' debate in Iowa using portions of a Kinnock speech, was a major factor in the Biden's withdrawal last week from the White House race.
Time, quoting 'informed sources,' said in this week's issue someone connected with Dukakis supplied the tape splicing Biden's speech with Kinnock's. Stories about the speech appeared in The New York Times and Des Moines Register.
In a withdrawal statement following a subsequent stream of damaging reports concerning plagiarism of a law school paper and embellishment of his academic record, Biden implied political mischief played a role - naming no names.
The affair smacked of the 1982 'sex tape' incident in which a breathy parody of a radio commercial made by King's wife, Jody, was produced by a Dukakis campaign volunteer.
The Biden tape revelation was the latest in a series of controversies to dog the Dukakis campaign in recent weeks.
A Federal Elections Commission ethics statement disclosed that until August 1986 a Dukakisfamily trust held investments in firms doing business in South Africa, despite his personal anti-apartheid statements and a state law barring public agencies from such investments. The portfolio has since been divested.
The campaign was also forced to admit violation of FEC regulations requiring pre-payment for all charter airline trips. The flights have since been paid for with interest.