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Residents react to Clinton testimony

September 22, 1998

Clinton TestimonyBy BRENDAN KIRBY / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




Some Washington County residents who on Monday watched the televised tape of President Clinton testifying about his relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky expressed sympathy for the president and disgust with his critics.

Some area residents directed their ire at Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr for probing in such lurid detail into the president's sex life. Others expressed frustration at the seemingly endless process.

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Nearly everyone interviewed said they thought that the incident has dragged on too long.

"I'm fed up with it. I haven't watched it," said Hagerstown resident Frances Showe, who was eating lunch at the Broad Axe on Franklin Street as three television screens in the background showed the president testifying.

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Showe said she is troubled by Clinton's apparent lies, but she said she is not sure what should be done about it. She also criticized Starr for pressing the matter.

"I don't see the need for all this extra stuff," she said. "I'd love to investigate Mr. Starr."

Some people said they paid little attention to the four hours of Clinton's taped testimony, even though it was difficult for anyone with a television to avoid.

"I think it's absolutely ridiculous to take up air time to put it on there," said Jean Sword, who was behind the bar at the Corner Pub on Mulberry Street just before the lunch crowd arrived.

Even though the Clinton testimony was playing on a television overhead, Sword said she had little interest in the details.

"It's been on, just background noise," she said. "There's nothing else on, and the weather channel is the same old thing."

Sword said she believed the independent prosecutors were more interested in trapping Clinton than in getting to the truth.

"The questions that they asked him are of no legal bearing. They're just trying to get him to perjure himself," she said.

"I think it funny we've got all this censorship on TV, and how many kids are sitting watching this at school?"

Co-worker Joan Kline said she watched a bit of the testimony before going to work. "I think it's totally ridiculous," she said. "It's just an invasion of privacy."

Kline said the part she watched involved questions to Clinton about gifts he exchanged with Lewinsky - and whether he arranged to have them returned.

"Which I thought to myself, 'So what?' " she said.

The taped testimony was preceded by several days of partisan wrangling over whether the tape should be made public.

Republicans in Congress said the American people should have the opportunity to witness the historic grand jury testimony, which was taped on Aug. 17.

Many of Clinton's supporters feared the sight of an angry president would turn public opinion against him.

But Kline said she would not be surprised if the questions angered Clinton.

"Why would it shock me? He has every right to get upset," she said.

Upstairs in the establishment, Les Seville was wiping down tables and was nowhere near a television.

"If I had a chance, I wouldn't watch it anyway. I think it's a big invasion of privacy," he said. "I'm glad I have something else to do

"It's been proven what he's done. I say get on with the country and quit wasting people's time," he said.

Hagerstown resident Helen Willis said she watched some of the testimony at home because she was curious. But she said she turned off her television set when the questions became more explicit.

"It's like being a voyeur," she said. "Frankly, I just wish the whole thing would be over with I wish they'd concentrate on more important things."

Hagerstown resident Cathi Young said she watched quite a bit of the televised testimony.

"The more I watched, the more angry I got," she said. "He was answering more questions than he should have."

Young said she believes Clinton's attackers are more motivated by politics than they are in justice.

"They shouldn't bring that on national television My heart goes out to Hillary and him and the daughter," she said. "They have made him look like a worse criminal that someone who's in jail."

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