McCurry: He Misled Me, Too

Former White House spokesman Mike McCurry was back on the podium Monday, drawing cheers and applause when he described President Clinton as a "richly qualified leader" who was "exasperatingly stupid" in his personal life.

Correspondent Bruce Pompeani of CBS station KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh reports that McCurry, in his first public lecture since leaving the White House on Oct. 1, spoke frankly about his three years as Mr. Clinton's spokesman before an audience of about 200 at the University of Pittsburgh.

Of his former boss, McCurry said, "He misled me like he misled his wife, family, and every other American. That's painful. Part of his remorse and regret now is in the fact that he misled so many people."

But when it came to the president's relationship with Monica Lewinsky, McCurry says, he didn't want to know the facts, fearing a subpoena not to mention the national press corps.

When one man asked how McCurry felt about leaving the White House after three years, McCurry jumped in the air, spread his arms wide and shouted "Free at last!"

McCurry had nothing but praise for Mr. Clinton's performance as president, citing his economic and peacemaking accomplishments.

"He is an enormously gifted and richly qualified leader for our nation but someone who is exasperatingly stupid in his personal life," McCurry said.

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In retrospect, McCurry said the president got bad advice when he addressed the nation after a grueling deposition and acknowledged his relationship with the former White House intern.

"He probably should have stepped back and reflected more on what he actually wanted to say and not, you know, deal with all of the many emotions that you can easily understand he was feeling at that moment."

The next day, McCurry accompanied the first family to Martha's Vineyard.

"I left with the president and his wife and daughter, and flew off in the helicopter," he said, adding, "There wasn't a lot to talk about on that helicopter flight - it was clearly a family going through a very painful experience."

History will never forget the Monica Lewinsky scandal, he said.

"I think there will be an asterisk next to his name in the record books," he said. Mr. Clinton's presidency "will always be marred, stained, by the episode with Monica Lewinsky."

McCurry expressed sympathy for Lewinsky: "At that level of public embarrassment, that kind of inquisition of your private life, and to just go through the experience of sitting there and testifying that many times in front of a grand jury, i's awful."

He spared no criticism for the White House press corps, saying he was "literally stunned" in many press briefings during the Lewinsky scandal when reporters failed to ask a single question about other issues.

But McCurry admitted he was duped by Mr. Clinton's initial public claim that he didn't have an affair with Lewinsky.

"I was aware of the potential for deception, but I just didn't want to believe he had the capacity to deceive," McCurry said.