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Hammering Women?

Conservative commentator Armstrong Williams has landed an exclusive television interview with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and his wife, Christine, that’s generating a bit of controversy before it’s even aired.

The couple opened up their Sugar Land, Texas, home for the first time to

television cameras and were mostly greeted with softballs by Williams, whose interview was focused on the couple’s crusade to help foster children.

But the Majority Leader got tripped up — and was even admonished a bit by his wife — when he answered a question about the plague of absentee fatherhood.

“I have seen these liberal psychologists and sociologists talk about there is no need for the man in the family. The woman can take care of it,” DeLay said.

“A woman can take care of the family. It takes a man to provide structure. To provide stability. Not that a woman can’t provide stability, I am not saying that,” DeLay added.

Christine DeLay quickly realized that her hubby was treading on dangerous territory. “Let’s edit this out,” she said. “This is not a good thing for you to be saying. And you don’t mean it anyway.”

“It does take a father, though,” said the Congressman, according to a transcript provided to HOH by Williams.

“Not to supply structure,” interjected his wife. “I mean I had the structure there when you weren’t there. But I think, absolutely, [a] two-parent family is the best.”

Kori Bernards, spokeswoman at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, quickly lashed out at DeLay’s views.

“I guess this is a new part of the ‘Tom DeLay Nice Guy Makeover,’” said Bernards. “Invite right-wing columnist to my house and insult single mothers.”

DeLay spokesman Jonathan Grella shot back: “The DeLays, as foster parents themselves, know all too well the lonely journey of abused children. It is fact, and not opinion, that all children, but especially foster children, thrive in families with both a mother and a father.”

And DeLay did add later in the TV interview that “some” single parents manage to “do a great job” despite all of the stress.

The show will feature a lighter side of DeLay. The leader discusses the fact that he always makes coffee for his wife and notes that he had vacuumed the house just before Williams arrived.

DeLay also jokes about his wife’s good influence on him: “I would probably be in prison today, if it weren’t for her.”

Williams, whose program is distributed by Sinclair Broadcasting, said the interview will air this week on stations across the country. He stressed that Christine DeLay’s admonishment was said in jest. “She was laughing,” he said. “We were having fun.”

In an awkward bit of timing, Williams’ interview about foster children will air just as the conservative commentator has forged a friendship with entertainer Michael Jackson, who is facing child molestation charges.

Williams, who has been a frequent Jackson critic, told HOH that he got a call from the pop star over the weekend. “He called me out of the blue,” said Williams. “He’s going to call me and tell what he thinks” when stories on the case break, so that Williams can appear on television and tell Jackson’s side of the story.

Grella didn’t want to go near the Jackson connection. “I never thought we’d have to answer so many questions about the Jackson family inside a week,” he joked, adding of his boss’s housecleaning: “If DeLay says he was vacuuming they’d call him the Dirt Devil and criticize him for not using a Swiffer.”

Jackson vs. Sharpton vs. Jackson. The office of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) invoked the Janet Jackson controversy last week to take a poke at the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Using his House e-mail account, Jackson spokesman Frank Watkins circulated a short release making light of a Village Voice investigation that revealed Sharpton’s secretive ties to GOP strategist Roger Stone.

“If Janet Jackson showed her breast, what is Al Sharpton showing?” Watkins asked in the e-mail, which provided a link to the Village Voice story.

It’s worth noting that Watkins took a leave from the Congressman’s office last year to serve as spokesman for Sharpton’s presidential campaign. His e-mail shot undoubtedly did little to quell the long-running feud between Sharpton and the Congressman’s father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Watkins declined Monday to answer his own question about what part of Sharpton’s anatomy might be “showing” these days. The staffer did tell HOH that he typically circulates “articles that may be of interest … to make people aware of pertinent information that comes along.”

When pressed on why a Democratic Hill aide would use an official account to beat up on a presidential candidate, Watkins said, “We send news releases out that have to do with a variety of things. We try to keep people current with cutting edge information.”

Some more “cutting” than others.

98 Percent of Those Polled Didn’t Get the Joke. Note to “Note” readers: Try to have a sense of humor when reading the ABC News political unit’s daily tipsheet on the hot stories in the land.

Keying off of President Bush’s widely panned performance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” this weekend, The Note on Monday opened with the results of a new “poll” on the interview.

The fake survey showed that only 4 percent of those polled agreed with Bush’s claim that tax cuts have helped the economy; only 3 percent agreed with the contention that the conflict in Iraq was a “war of necessity”; and only 5 percent wanted to see Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) lose his lead to Bush in a generic matchup.

Since this is a 50-50 nation and its hard to get 96 percent of the public to agree on the weather, seasoned political pros probably should have been tipped off to the fact this was a fake poll. And then there was the disclaimer mentioning that the “poll” was based on a random sample of Washington insiders.

But some folks apparently still thought this was the real McCoy. So ABC e-mailed around a clarification stressing that “an early version of today’s Note included what was intended as a satirical report of an ABC News/Washington Post poll. No such poll was conducted.”

ABC spokeswoman Emily Lenzner added to HOH: “I think that what so many people love about The Note is that it’s serious political journalism often mixed with fun and satire.”

Get it?

Rummy’s Road Trip. Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) normally joins Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in leading a Congressional delegation to the annual NATO security conference.

But with Lieberman still getting back into the swing of things in the wake of his failed presidential bid, fellow centrist Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) stepped up to his fill his role on this weekend’s trip to Munich.

Tauscher told HOH on Friday that she would use the opportunity for face time with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to try and get him on board with her plan to expand the military.

While Rumsfeld has said he will invoke his emergency powers to temporarily expand the Army, Tauscher wants the upgrade to be permanent and is looking for the Pentagon to pay for it in its regular annual budget.

“They’re going to be using supplementals to fund this,” she griped.

The Better Half. Jill Holtzman Vogel has been named the new counsel at the Republican National Committee.

Besides her sharp legal mind, she’s known as the better half to Alex Vogel, chief counsel for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).

Stan the Man. Congressional budget expert Stan Collender has left public relations giant Fleishman-Hillard to open the new D.C. office of Financial Dynamics, where he will serve as managing director.

“Establishing a presence in Washington and adding public affairs to our existing services puts FD in a unique position to help companies successfully navigate an increasingly complex business and regulatory environment,” said Declan Kelly, president and CEO of Financial Dynamics-US, a global business communications firm that now has 11 offices worldwide.

Collender advises a range of clients, including Ernst & Young and Sallie Mae. He has already brought two members of his old team, Simon Keymer and Beverly Campbell, over to the new firm.

Meanwhile, the United Negro College Fund announced Monday that Dr. Michael Lomax will replace ex-Rep. Bill Gray (D-Pa.) as president & CEO. Lomax has been serving as president of Dillard University in New Orleans.

And BAE Systems North America has named Candace Vessella as its vice president of government affairs. She has been in various senior defense posts around town, ranging from a senior official at Lockheed Martin Corp. to the senior Senate liaison for the Defense Intelligence Agency.

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