CLINTON PRESS SECRETARY ANGERED BY ASNE QUESTIONS

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By: Joe Strupp

Editors’ Questions On Impeachment, Pardon Draw Fire


WASHINGTON – A war of words erupted yesterday between White House
officials and the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) after
ASNE members asked President Clinton if he would accept a pardon or
acknowledge his impeachment in a future presidential library. Clinton
said he would not seek a pardon, and that his library would address the
Lewinsky affair.



Within hours of the questions, which were lobbed following Clinton’s
luncheon speech before ASNE’s annual convention here, White House press
secretary Joe Lockhart slammed the editors. ‘These are purportedly
reasonably intelligent people, but I think it demonstrates just how
isolated some newspaper editors are from the rest of the country,’
Lockhart told The Associated Press. ‘They get a chance to ask the
president about anything, any challenges that face America … the best
they can come up with is two questions about impeachment. The country
has moved past this. Unfortunately, many major newspaper editors
haven’t. It may be some reason for declining circulation.’



Outgoing ASNE President N. Christian Anderson said he was surprised by
Lockhart’s comments and defended the editors’ right to ask the
president about anything. ‘It stunned me,’ he said of Lockhart’s
response. ‘I think it was disingenuous because they were the ones who
restricted the number of questions.’



Anderson pointed out that the questions were obviously relevant because
they prompted the president to state that he would not seek a pardon if
he faced a post-White House indictment, a response that made front-page
news in many papers today, including USA Today, The Wall Street
Journal, and The Washington Post. ‘That ought to tell Lockhart
something,’ Anderson said. ‘Talk about being out of touch. He is the
one who is out of touch.’



The questions were asked by ASNE members yesterday after a short
Clinton speech about the budget battle with Congress. The first
question, from Margaret Sullivan of The Buffalo News, followed a
comment Vice President Al Gore had made to ASNE editors a day earlier.
In response to a question, Gore had said that if he became president,
he would not issue a pardon for Clinton, and added that Clinton didn’t
want one.



Sullivan asked Clinton if that was true. ‘No, I don’t have any interest
in that,’ an obviously irritated Clinton responded. ‘I don’t want one
and I am prepared to stand before any bar of justice I have to stand
before.’



The second questioner, from Brian Stallcop of The Sun in Bremerton,
Wash., asked if the future Clinton presidential library would include
any reference to impeachment. Clinton, growing angrier, responded.
‘Yes, we’ll deal with it and I’ll deal with it,’ he said. ‘We’ll have
to deal with it. It’s an important part of it.’



Clinton went on to defend his behavior during the impeachment process
and attack those who sought his impeachment, while also accusing the
press of offering inaccurate coverage. ‘I have a slightly different
take on it than many of you do,’ Clinton said. ‘I’m not ashamed of the
fact that they impeached me. That was their decision, not mine. And it
was wrong.’



Clinton later praised the newspaper industry when another editor asked
him to critique the press. Instead of offering criticism, the president
told the editors he believed they had a difficult job, and predicted
that newspapers would become more relevant in the future because they
will be the best source for accuracy and analysis in the 24-hours news
cycle.



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Joe Strupp (jstrupp@editorandpublisher.com) is associate editor for
Editor & Publisher magazine.



CLINTON PREDICTS NEWSPAPER SURVIVAL (04/13/00)











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