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White House Complains About Imus Jokes

March 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.

C-Span declined.

``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.″

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