White House Complains About Imus Jokes
HARRY F. ROSENTHAL
Mar. 22, 1996
WASHINGTON (AP) _ White House aides objected to off-color jokes about the president and his wife, delivered in their presence, by radio shock-jock Don Imus. So much so that a call went out to C-Span on Friday asking that the program not be shown again.
``I personally believe a large part of that entertainment, if that's what we call it, offered last night was fairly tasteless,'' said press secretary Mike McCurry.
He called C-Span to ask that the Imus performance Thursday night at the Radio and Television Correspondents Association's 52nd annual dinner not be replayed.
``This was a public event with 3,000 journalists in the room as well as many public figures,'' C-Span officials said in a statement. ``The remarks made by Mr. Imus were the kind of commentary he regularly makes on his radio program.''
With the President Clinton and the first lady sitting only a few feet away, Imus joked about Clinton's alleged extramarital affairs, the first lady's alleged financial peccadillos and the homosexuality of House Speaker Newt Gingrich's half-sister.
The president was photographed grimacing at one of the lines.
Terry Murphy, chairman of the association, said its board of directors was drafting a letter of regret.
Richard Fahle, press manager for C-Span, said calls of complaint from the public were outnumbered by inquiries from journalists. C-Span repeated the program Friday morning and plans to rerun it as scheduled Saturday evening ``so the public can see for themselves what all this fuss was about,'' he said.
The C-Span statement said McCurry's comments ``virtually guarantee the content of the dinner'' will be discussed further.
``I just flagged the issue for them,'' McCurry said, adding he had neither the ability nor the intent of censoring the show ``but I think it's appropriate for me to raise the issue of whether or not they, themselves, consider that appropriate programming.''
He said ``there was 99.9 percent agreement of most of those (staff) in attendance that it wasn't a compelling event that reflected well on any of the participants.''
McCurry said he could not characterize Clinton's reaction, but that after the performance the president went home and watched a basketball game, ``and I think he was probably a lot happier doing that than he was sitting there.''
The press secretary, sitting at a table with reporters, said he was preparing to send a note down his table saying ``Let's go,'' when ``mercifully it came to an end.''