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Oliver North Gets Mixed Reviews With PM-US-Iran-Contra Rdp

July 8, 1987

Undated (AP) _ Oliver North’s testimony on the Iran-Contra affair triggered a jump in stock prices, complaints from hundreds of soap opera fans and disagreement on whether the Marine lieutenant colonel is a hero, liar or scapegoat.

The major broadcast and cable networks carried North’s first day of testimony Tuesday before congressional investigative panels, and thousands of Americans tuned in to watch the fired National Security Council aide. The hearings were to continue today.

In the New York City suburb of Mineola, N.Y., nearly 100 potential jurors in the Nassau County Courthouse watched in silence on one large TV set and many county workers listened to radios at their desks.

In the electronics department of Dayton Hudson’s downtown Minneapolis department store, North’s face appeared simultaneously on 60 television sets but only one TV and a portable radio were sold. ″Everyone else just dropped by to see Ollie,″ said salesman Don Muske.

At JJ’s Pub & Grub in the Detroit suburb of Garden City, Mich., three TVs usually show sports programs but co-owner James Mayfield had the hearings on.

″I doubt we’ll change the channel, because a lot of people are interested in finding out if the president was involved,″ Mayfield said.

North said he never discussed the issue of diverting funds from sales of arms to Iran to the Nicaraguan Contra rebels with President Reagan, but had his superiors’ approval and assumed that Reagan had also approved.

Financial markets responded with an upward surge. On the New York Stock Exchange, the Dow Jones average of 30 industrials rose 20.25 points to close at 2,449.78 as advancing issues outnumbered declines by a margin of about 2- to-1.

In other markets, the dollar climbed above the psychologically important level of 150 Japanese yen for the first time in three months, bond prices strengthened and precious metals futures prices fell.

Traders had feared that any evidence that Reagan was involved in illegal activities would have hurt his effectiveness and robbed the economy of leadership during his final 1 1/2 years in office.

″He (North) didn’t embarrass the administration,″ said James Vick, senior currency trader for Manufacturers Hanover Trust Co.

North’s appearance irked soap opera fans, who found their favorite daytime dramas pre-empted by a real-life Marine colonel, members of Congress and lawyers.

ABC said it had received 378 complaints by 5 p.m. Tuesday. CBS said about 350 people griped and NBC less than 100.

However, NBC said it also received about 20 calls praising the network’s airing of the hearings, and all three networks said they received fewer calls than when the hearings first began in May. The calls were only those made to network headquarters in New York, not to local affiliates.

Other Americans gave North mixed reviews.

″Ollie North is an honest man ... a hero for this country,″ said Jake Isaac, who works at Julie’s Pawn Shop in Flint, Mich., and watched North on a hocked TV. ″Whatever he did, he did for his country. ... Some things you have to do in secret.″

″I’ve just watched bits and pieces of North’s testimony, but it seems to me that everyone is corrupt. (North) is just one more,″ said waitress Laurie Benda, who watched in the downtown Minneapolis bar and restaurant where she works. ″But he does have that baby face. And he’s cute.″

″I believe they’re using him for a scapegoat,″ said Alonzo Bonds, 61, of Little Rock, Ark.

At San Francisco State University, sophomore Bella Aguilar, 21, said North ″doesn’t seem to be telling everything he knows, that’s obvious. He can’t seem to recall anything. To have someone in his position be so wishy-washy, that’s scary.″

North got sympathy from all but four of more than 270 Oklahomans who called members of their congressional delegation.

″One woman wanted to know how she could put together a parade in downtown Oklahoma City in support of Oliver North,″ said a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Don Nickles, D-Okla.

At the Marine Corps recruiting station in downtown San Francisco, the radio was tuned to North’s testimony, but the Marines were reluctant to say anything. ″It’s over my head for me to have an opinion,″ said Staff Sgt. Llewellyn Hartzog.

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