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Democratic Congressman Jokes About Clinton Safety in Utah

October 23, 1996

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ A Democratic congressman joked on the radio that President Clinton would have been in danger if he had come to Utah to announce the creation of a new national monument.

``I don’t know that they had enough Secret Service agents to protect him if he came into Utah to make the designation,″ Rep. Bill Morton, locked in a tough race for re-election in a heavily Republican district, said with a chuckle Tuesday on KSL.

Clinton’s Utah campaign spokesman, Nelson Reyneri, said: ``I don’t appreciate remarks, even if they are in jest, that refer to the security of the president.″

Clinton’s setting aside of 1.7 million acres of southern Utah’s red rock desert as the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument has proved unpopular in this state, where 70 percent of the land is federally owned.

When Clinton called a news conference Sept. 18 to announce the monument, he held it in Arizona, on the rim of the Grand Canyon.

Orton, who was up as much as 7 to 10 points in polls over Republican Chris Cannon, has dropped to a dead heat since Clinton’s announcement.

``I was making a tongue-in-cheek comment about the way the people in Utah have taken the monument designation,″ Orton said after the radio appearance. ``It’s getting pretty sad when every word of every sentence is taken and dissected by someone.″

Mike Mower, Cannon’s campaign manager, said, ``It seems a bit of a tasteless joke, but Rep. Orton didn’t mean any harm by it.″

In 1994, Republican Sen. Jesse Helms said that Clinton ``better have a bodyguard″ to venture into North Carolina. The Secret Service investigated, then declared the matter closed.

Orton, a three-term congressman, has promoted himself as ``Utah’s maverick.″ He has voted with Clinton 64 percent of the time, putting him low on the list of the Democratic faithful.

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