Clinton reappoints Holocaust museum chairman

WASHINGTON — President Clinton has moved to avoid another flare-up at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum by reappointing Miles Lerman early this month as the head of its governing body.

Lerman, whose five-year term as chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council was set to expire in May, embroiled the museum in controversy earlier this year when he flip-flopped on extending an invitation to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat to visit the museum.

Lerman absorbed a second round of criticism last month after the museum council forced Walter Reich, the museum's director, to resign in the wake of the incident.

In several highly visible op-ed pieces, supporters of Reich, including Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel and Marvin Kalb, director of the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University, accused the museum council of scapegoating him.

Lerman blamed the Arafat episode on "bad advice" from Reich, who opposed the visit. Lerman later acknowledged that he had erred by failing to consult with the council's executive committee about the invitation.

Some Reich supporters publicly called on Clinton to replace Lerman, contributing to an atmosphere that museum officials worried would damage the institution.

For that reason, observers said, the Clinton administration decided to act quickly on Lerman's reappointment.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League and a member of the museum council, called Lerman's reappointment "good news for all those concerned with the memory of the Holocaust."

Lerman "has proven himself to be an effective, dynamic leader," he added.