M-Day At The Courthouse
Hundreds of people turn out for a glimpse of Monica
By Craig Staats/AllPolitics
WASHINGTON (Aug. 6) -- Sometimes watching the news media work and the First Amendment in action gives you a warm fuzzy feeling. Sometimes it doesn't.
"You a------," a photographer yelled at a man with a "Good Luck Monica" sign. "You wave that sign again and I'll kill you."
The E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse
The object of the photographer's wrath? A college student from Bowling Green, Ky., who managed to hoist his sign at precisely the wrong instant and block the photographer's shot as Monica Lewinsky arrived Thursday morning to tell what happened between her and the president.
Lewinsky, 25, showed up at about 8:25 a.m. and was out of the sport utility vehicle and gone in a flash, through a side door into the E. Barrett Prettyman Court House. She wore a dark blue suit and white shoes.
For the media throng, which had swelled overnight to include 23 TV trucks and dozens of reporters, producers, photographers, on-air talent and sound technicians, her arrival represented a minute of work -- and for some, a blown opportunity.
Once Lewinsky was safely inside, some of the photographers turned their wrath on George Hancock, 32, the hapless man with "Good luck Monica" sign. But it never went beyond angry words, though police kept a wary eye on the situation.
The media waits for Monica
Afterward, Hancock told reporters he wasn't trying to pick a fight, only show his support for Lewinsky. "She needs someone to stand up and defend her," Hancock said.
Why did he block the photographer's shot? "I didn't mean to," Hancock said. "I guess I thought Monica was coming."
As he slipped back into the crowd, Hancock told her mother, Phyllis. "These people are animals."
"They could have arrested you, George," she chided.
Compared to the dog days of Linda Tripp's endless testimony, the media presence was considerably larger for Lewinsky's first day before the federal grand jury. CNN even hired a 45-foot hydraulic crane to lift one of its cameramen high above the crowds.
Along with the press stalwarts who have been on duty outside the squat, tan courthouse at 3rd Street and Constitution Avenue for months, media reinforcements showed up to report on the reporters.
There also were more tourists, who posed for pictures with the courthouse and the TV talent in the background.
Jim and Christa Sykora, who live outside Cleveland, stopped by the courthouse with friends visiting from Germany. Christa translated for one of their German friends: "He said he wants to see the girl who has no shame."
Christa admitted to some excitement, too. "We've never been to anything like this before," she said.
A family from Rep. Dan Burton's Indiana congressional district took in the scene on their way to the Capitol.
David Proctor of Indianapolis said he heard about Lewinsky's appearance on the radio and figured out where the courthouse was. He said he doesn't believe Clinton's denials.
"He probably has done all the thing he said he hasn't done," said Proctor, director of operations for an employee benefits company.
What does he think will happen to Clinton? "Hillary'll probably kill him," Proctor said.
The courthouse drew protesters, too. Lillie Smith, who lives in suburban Manassas, Va., brought a sign castigating Clinton and the news media.
Lillie Smith criticizes the Clinton White House
On one side, Smith's sign said, "No matter what Clinton says or does, no matter who supports him, there is a vile stain on the White House -- spreading."
Smith said she showed up to let reporters know she thinks they are suppressing the truth. Nevertheless, she thinks the public is on to Clinton and he won't escape.
"They know he's a sleight-of-hand man," Smith said. "He has no more places to run."
One man carried a poster with a simple two-word message: "Who Cares?"
An activist group promoting corporate responsibility did a rough count and came up with 233 journalists, who the activists said should be working on stories about Clinton's "love affair with corporate America," not an alleged love affair with Lewinsky.
By 4:30 p.m., the crowd of onlookers had grown considerably, two and three deep behind the news media, with everyone trying to keep cool in the hot afternoon sun.
When the Lewinsky party emerged from the courthouse, there was a strange quiet -- no yells, no calls of "Monica." When her sport utility vehicle zipped away, people compared notes on camera angles and views.
"I saw her, I saw her," one woman said.
A British journalist surveyed the scene and intoned into the camera, "Journalism at its worst."