U.S. Ambassador Pamela Harriman Hospitalized With Stroke – PARIS (AP) — Pamela Harriman,

the U.S. ambassador to France and the grande dame of the Democratic Party, was hospitalized in serious condition today after suffering an apparent stroke.
The 76-year-old ambassador had a seizure Monday evening at the Ritz Hotel, where she had gone for her usual swim, U.S. Embassy spokesman Chris Snow said.

Harriman was undergoing tests today at the American Hospital in Neuilly, a western Paris suburb. “The initial diagnosis is that the ambassador suffered a cerebral hemorrhage,” Snow said at the hospital. “Her condition is serious.”

A U.S. source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Harriman was in intensive care.

“Members of her family are here now,” Snow said, but declined to elaborate. U.S. sources said among those present was Harriman’s son, Winston Churchill, a British member of Parliament and the grandson of the late prime minister.

Harriman, who has not had a history of health problems, has been ambassador since spring 1993. She was preparing to leave her post by midyear.

President Clinton was told of Harriman’s ailment by National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, a friend of Harriman’s.

“The president and first lady were very concerned to hear about it,” press secretary Mike McCurry told reporters today. “She is in their thoughts and prayers.”

President Jacques Chirac “gave instructions that everything be done to put the best specialists at the disposal of the embassy,” his spokeswoman said.

A confidante of Clinton’s, Harriman won respect as someone with the high-level contacts to short-circuit Washington red tape in a crisis. She has mediated disputes over trade, Bosnia, NATO, the Middle East, Africa and CIA spying.

Her fluent French also won praise from her French hosts.

Foreign Minister Herve de Charette “had excellent personal relations with Mrs. Harriman,” spokesman Yves Doutriaux said today. “He passed on all his sympathy and his wishes for a quick recovery.”

There were some catty remarks when Clinton named Harriman ambassador, a position some derided as payback for her fund-raising.

Before she became ambassador, Harriman had been a longtime fundraiser for the Democratic Party. Her “Democrats for the ’80s” political action committee raised about $12 million during the Reagan and Bush administrations and up until Clinton was elected in 1992.

But there was no disputing that the French-speaking daughter of an English baron succeeded with the Paris political “court” of today. French officials were fully aware she had Clinton’s ear.

Harriman spent a lifetime as a socialite who developed political savvy. She was married to Winston Churchill’s son Randolph, “Sound of Music” producer Leland Hayward, and finally to New York governor and ex-ambassador Averell Harriman.

As Harriman’s wife and later his widow, she threw soirees in Washington and Paris that became legendary — focal points for politicians, the literati and the glitterati.

“I am a political animal. I do love politics. I’m interested in my country’s politics and other countries’ politics,” she said in an interview with The Associated Press in November.

Over the years Harriman has been the subject of unauthorized biographies that portray her as a social climber who married her way to the top. She has refused to comment on these books: “It’s a waste of their time and mine,” she said.

She also has been ensnared in a legal battle with Harriman’s children, who accused her of squandering the family fortune after he died in 1986. In 1995, she put up for auction millions of dollars in paintings by Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci, Renoir, Matisse and others.

Exit mobile version