JEFFERSON CITY - Gov. Mel Carnahan, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate and a Baptist deacon, said Monday that he has read Playboy "very little," but declined to say if he also looked at the pictures.
The comment, in a light-hearted response to a reporter's question, comes about two weeks after Carnahan's foe, Sen. John Ashcroft, attacked the governor for accepting campaign donations from Playboy top-executive Christie Hefner, and about two weeks before Carnahan plans to attend a Hefner co-sponsored fundraiser.
When a reporter asked the governor if he read Playboy, Carnahan said, "very little."
The reporter then asked if he read it for the articles.
"I'm not going to go forth with that," Carnahan replied. Laughter tinted the exchange on both sides.
Much has been made of Hefner's donations, which total $2000, but little about why she gave Carnahan the money.
Hefner's "among a group of strongly pro-choice women in Chicago and those are the circumstances in which I met her," Carnahan said. Donors to his campaign "support my agenda. I don't support every agenda of everyone who supports me."
Carnahan supports abortion-rights, while Ashcroft is staunchly anti-abortion.
Carnahan defended the Sept. 13 fundraiser, saying it is co-sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Solomon Smith Barney executive Lou Susman.
Ashcroft's attacks were part of a larger assault on Carnahan's connection to the entertainment industry. Other Carnahan donors include Barbara Streisand and Steven Spielberg.
Carnahan's camp retalliated saying Ashcroft received donations from a major pornographer and from the Motion Picture Association of America.
Playboy has played an unusually important role in this election season, rearing its head on the national scene as well.
The Democrats removed U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., from their speaker list at the Democratic National Convention after she refused to relocate a fundraiser she had organized. The event was scheduled to be held in the Playboy mansion, known for its host of scantilly-clad women.
Party leaders were afraid the setting would undermine presidential nominee Al Gore's attempt to appear pro-family and would give the Republicans an easy target in the campaign.
Sanchez later was allowed to speak after she agreed to relocate the event, a fundraiser for a hispanic group.