LOS ANGELES — Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon expressed his “sincere regret” on Thursday over his now-disproven allegation that Democratic incumbent Gray Davis illegally accepted a campaign check in the state Capitol.
But Simon did not apologize to Davis and did not directly accept responsibility for making the false claim.
“I find it necessary to express to everyone my sincere regret for the way this matter was handled,” Simon said in a noon speech at Town Hall Los Angeles. “You may have seen my last commercial where I say I am not perfect, and that’s indeed true. And now we know of course my campaign is not perfect.”
Simon continued to defend himself for making the allegation after a debate with Davis on Monday. The claim was based on photographs released by California Organization of Police and Sheriffs.
The photos showed Davis, then lieutenant governor, taking a campaign contribution. COPS and Simon contended the transfer took place in Davis’ Capitol office in Sacramento. It is illegal to give or receive a campaign contribution in a state building.
It became clear almost immediately, however, that the pictures were not taken in the Capitol.
COPS later retracted its allegation as Simon sought to contain political fallout from having turned the claim into a campaign issue.
“It now appears that our original belief was erroneous,” COPS said in a statement issued late Wednesday.
Davis had called on Simon to drop out of the race after his opponent accused him of illegally accepting the campaign check during his first run for governor in 1998. Simon’s aides said he’ll remain in the race.
The Davis camp disclosed Wednesday that the photos were taken at a fund-raising breakfast in the Santa Monica home of Davis backer Bruce Karatz, chairman and CEO of KB Home. Karatz no longer owns the house but a spokesman for KB Home confirmed it was the setting of the photo.
Al Angele, the former executive director of COPS who was shown giving Davis a check in the photograph, held a press conference Thursday at the exact spot where the photos were taken — just inside the front entrance of Karatz’s former home.