PM refuses to accept resignation over 'moron' remark

Chrtien tries to douse controversy, rejects resignation of aide who reportedly said of U.S. president 'what a moron'.

Prime Minister Jean Chrtien has refused to accept the resignation of his communications director, who reportedly called U.S. President George W. Bush "a moron."

Chrtien told reporters on Friday that Franoise Ducros had offered to resign, but that he had rejected the offer.

In a statement, Ducros didn't admit to making the specific remark, but said she regrets that a private conversation became a media controversy.

"The comments attributed to me in no way reflect my personal view of the President of the United States," she said. "I have never, in any of the many briefings I have given reporters as the prime minister's chief spokesperson, ever expressed, on the record or off the record, any negative opinion concerning President George Bush."

At least two reporters said they overheard Ducros on Wednesday call Bush "a moron" for using the NATO summit in Prague to drum up support for a war in Iraq.

Chrtien, who says he has an "extremely good" personal relationship with the U.S. president, told reporters on Friday Ducros had apologized for the furore that erupted.

The prime minister said Ducros, 40, couldn't remember making the reported remarks, but that "moron" is a word she commonly uses.

"She may have used that word against me a few times and I am sure she used it against you many times," Chrtien told reporters.

Opposition politicians have angrily criticized not only the remarks themselves, but Chrtien's handling of the incident.

Tory Leader Joe Clark says the prime minister should have accepted the resignation and put Ducros on a plane back to Canada.

Canadian Alliance MP Jason Kenney said Ducros' words are only a symptom of a larger problem.

"The problem is a string of anti-Americanism coming from people in senior positions with the Liberal government," Kenney told CBC Newsworld on Friday. "These sort of comments just further impair a relation we need to build."

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, who was accompanying Bush in Prague, dismissed the comment as coming from "somebody who obviously doesn't speak for the Canadian government."

Chrtien told reporters U.S. officials hadn't complained about the story and that there had been no damage to relations between the countries.