WASHINGTON - Vice President Al Gore's presidential campaign has been scrambling to apologize to a disabled reporter denied access to a Gore campaign stop in Michigan over the weekend.
''Something like this has never happened before,'' Chad Swiatecki, 22, told The State News of East Lansing, Mich., Wednesday in a telephone interview. ''I'm usually armed with enough notice to work out any potential problems beforehand. People are generally willing to do what they can to accommodate me.''
The General Motors plant Gore visited Sunday night and the buses transporting media members to the site were inaccessible by wheelchair. While Swiatecki was able to cover a stop made by Gore earlier that night, arrangements had to be made by The Flint Journal to send another reporter to the second stop.
''I didn't figure that I would be sent to cover a story like this just four months out of college and only two months working at the paper,'' said Swiatecki, a former State News employee who graduated from Michigan State University in May before going to work for the Journal.
''I got angry when the state campaign director tried to smooth things over,'' said, Swiatecki, who has been confined to a wheelchair since childhood. ''But he really wasn't sympathetic or apologetic about what happened. The only response I got was, 'We've never run into this before.'''
Swiatecki said he did receive a call Tuesday night from Kim Ruby, a spokeswoman for Gore's campaign, who apologized to him for the mishap.
''The situation was not handled correctly and our campaign officials are very displeased,'' Ruby told the State News. ''Measures have been taken to make sure that this doesn't happen in the future. But it should not have happened in the first place.''
Meanwhile, The Washington Times reported in Thursday's editions that Gore himself telephoned Swiatecki at home Wednesday evening to apologize for the incident. It gave no details of the call.