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Woman Who Insulted Clinton Suddenly a Heroine of the Airwaves

August 19, 1996

CHICAGO (AP) _ It wasn’t the kind of remark President Clinton hears at state dinners and Rose Garden ceremonies.

``You suck _ and those boys died,″ Patricia Mendoza says she told the president when he tried to shake her hand July 2 at the Taste of Chicago food fair. Mrs. Mendoza pulled away and refused to shake hands.

Mrs. Mendoza, who says she was upset over the June 25 bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. servicemen, was arrested by police along with her husband, Glenn, for disorderly conduct. Their preliminary hearing, scheduled for Aug. 27 _ Day 2 of the Democratic National Convention _ may become an embarrassing sideshow for Clinton.

The Mendozas, who own a small electronics company, have become the darlings of talk radio. From Rush Limbaugh to Gordon Liddy, conservative hosts are calling them victims of an imperial president who can’t take an insult.

But Secret Service agents say they heard something different. Agents are now trying to determine if the 32-year-old Mrs. Mendoza threatened to kill the president _ a federal offense.

``There was a statement that was made by Mrs. Mendoza that, based on that statement alone, required the Secret Service to take investigative action,″ Secret Service spokesman Arnette Heintze said. He would not say what that statement was.

The disorderly conduct charges don’t stem directly from any threat to Clinton. When Secret Service agents tried to question Mrs. Mendoza, she and her husband caused a public commotion, police said.

They used expressions such as ``you suck and words that rhyme with suck,″ police spokesman Pat Camden said.

Liddy said the case shows Clinton’s ``appalling lack of respect for human rights and the rights of people to speak out in this country.″ The scant coverage of the case shows the news media don’t think much of ordinary people, Limbaugh said: ``They think they’re a bunch of boobs.″

The Mendozas’ hearing is to be held in a courtroom a little over a mile from the United Center, where Democrats will meet Aug. 26-29. Late-night talk show host Jay Marvin is urging listeners to drop by the court and sit in on the Aug. 27 festivities.

``Mr. Clinton is not God. He’s not the pope. He’s not divinely inspired. He’s a paid public servant,″ Marvin said.

Mrs. Mendoza’s lawyer is Edward R. Vrdolyak _ a former Chicago alderman who, coincidentally or not, is also a radio talk show host.

Mrs. Mendoza dismissed any notion that her comment was politically motivated.

``I’m apolitical,″ she said. ``I vote for the one I like best. I never ask, are they Republicans or are they Democrats?″

Although Mrs. Mendoza said she has enjoyed the support and attention she has received, the case weighs on her in some ways. ``I hope it does just go away,″ she said. ``People are driving by with binoculars to look at my house.″

All the same, they aren’t seeing much, she said: ``We’re very boring people.″

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