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Press Secretary McCurry Accuses Reporters of Bias Against Clinton

By Jack Nelson
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON

Mike McCurry, President Clinton's beleaguered press secretary, on Monday accused journalists of bias in their coverage of Clinton administration scandals and said the American people are more fair-minded and "more likely to believe in the presumption of innocence."

McCurry, who has undergone what he termed four months of uninterrupted negative press coverage since controversy erupted over the president's dealings with former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky, said Americans appreciate the work Clinton has done on issues important to them and would just as soon have journalists stop writing about scandals.

Appearing weary at times during a spirited breakfast session with reporters and editors at the Los Angeles Times bureau in Washington, McCurry conceded that the administration has refused to answer many questions about alleged Democratic fund-raising improprieties and other investigations. But he said legal considerations restrict the flow of information.

The White House, which once provided information on Democratic fund raising, has adopted "a different posture" and no longer provides its spokesmen with information to reply to reporters' questions, McCurry said.

Expressing his own frustration with the policy, he said, "If you're not going to get the information that you can use to answer questions there's not much you can do to affect those circumstances. You basically have to tough it out."

McCurry suggested that the Washington press corps doesn't believe Clinton's denial of a sexual relationship with Lewinsky. Looking around the room at 30 Times journalists, he said, "Everybody here - be honest about it - there is not a person in this room who still has any presumption of innocence with respect to the president. I think it affects the way you cover the story."

Clinton and Lewinsky both have denied having a sexual relationship, but Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr has been investigating the matter since January, when Linda R. Tripp, then a friend of Lewinsky, provided him with tapes of secretly recorded phone conversations in which Lewinsky indicated she had an affair with the president.