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Wife labels Enron chief ‘honest man’

SHARE Wife labels Enron chief ‘honest man’

WASHINGTON — The wife of former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay defended her husband Monday, saying he was an "honest, decent, moral" man who did nothing wrong in the devastating collapse of the energy trading giant.

In an interview with NBC's "Today" show, Linda Lay said her husband, who quit as chairman and chief executive officer of Enron Corp. last week, had been grossly misunderstood and was victim of "mass hysteria" surrounding the biggest bankruptcy case in U.S. history.

"Nobody even knows what the truth is yet. The only thing I know, 100 percent for sure, is that my husband is an honest, decent, moral human being who would do absolutely nothing wrong. That I know 100 percent," she said.

Linda Lay, whose five children also defended their father, said she could understand the anger and loss felt by Enron employees when they recalled her husband's publicly upbeat attitude toward the company before it dived.

Much of the criticism of Lay has centered on mounting evidence he knew of the energy company's debt-ridden position even as he was advising his staff to buy Enron stock, which is now worthless.

"If I were back there listening to all the things that were being said I would absolutely have to say, 'What is wrong here? How can all of this be happening without someone doing something terribly wrong?' " Linda Lay said.

But she said there were many things her husband had not been told that would come out in the many investigations now under way.

"Those things will all come to light and that's what we're all praying for."

Congressional hearings began in Washington last week into Enron's fall and the role of its auditor, Big Five accounting firm Andersen. Legislators are very interested in the destruction of thousands of documents related to Enron audits.

Vice President Dick Cheney says the Bush administration's refusal to identify business executives who met with him and his aides concerning energy policy probably will end up in court.

Cheney on Sunday television interview shows defended President Bush's right to withhold the information, prompting accusations by some Democrats of White House stonewalling.

The head of the General Accounting Office, Congress' investigative arm, said he will decide this week whether to sue to force the White House to turn over documents on the meetings last year.

Contributing: Associated Press