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Governor, Speaker comment on Clinton allegations

January 26, 1998
By: Joe Stange
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri's top Democrats avoided a defense of President Bill Clinton Monday, urging the public to wait until all the facts are in.

"I would not rush to judgment and I would take some significance on the fact the president has very directly denied the charges, and we ought to get an investigation together as fast as we can," Gov. Mel Carnahan said in a Capitol hallway interview Monday.

While most state politicians have stayed quiet regarding the allegations that Clinton had sexual relations with an intern, both Carnahan and House Speaker Steve Gaw talked about the issue but reserved judgment until more facts are known.

Monday, Clinton denied accusations continuing to follow him, which include having oral sex with Monica Lewinsky, a former intern, and asking her to lie about it in court.

While not directly defending the president, Carnahan did express concern about how the news media was handling the story and the ultimate effects on the country.

"It's an important issue in our families and our personal lives, but I think the glare and publicity on this has been overblown," he said. "I don't think we're able to make a judgment on this based on what we have."

Gaw, D-Moberly, also recommended caution, saying it was too early to rush to any conclusions.

House Republican Leader Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City, said he does not think the media have gone too far in their coverage of the allegations against the president.

"He's walked the line and pushed the limit so much that the media is now suspect," he said. "If these allegations are true, then a certain line was crossed and that's not acceptable."

Scott said public officials have to see themselves as role models, and it's part of the media's job to keep an eye on them.

"We do live by a higher standard, and the media I think are doing their job because of the seriousness of it," he said.

Gaw said over time the media has been allowed to look more closely at public officials' private lives, and should whenever the issue affects the politician's job performance.

"That's a question that doesn't have a clear line sometimes," he said. "There's no question that the line has moved over the years."

Sen. Betty Sims, R-St. Louis County, said even if the genders were switched and a female politician had gotten involved with a male intern, it would still be unacceptable.

"I don't think the sex of the person is what is in question here," she said. "It's the question of what is proper behavior in a public place. I think if they find the man guilty, then yes, we have to do something about it. It's a very sad day for our country."