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In Hollywood, He's Still Their Bill

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Steven Spielberg and his wife are both contributors to the president's legal defense fund. (file photo)

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List of $10,000 Donors to Clinton Defense Fund

By Sharon Waxman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 25, 1998; Page C01

LOS ANGELES—Say what you will about President Clinton's uncertain support in Congress, in the White House, among former advisers and lefty commentators. In Hollywood, some of his biggest boosters are furious.

At independent counsel Kenneth Starr.

"I think that Ken Starr should be tried for treason," said a livid Haim Saban, who heads the Fox Kids Network and created the programming behemoth Saban Entertainment. "We have embassies blowing up around the world . . . and we're sitting in a position to be dealing with dresses? It's a scandal."

Saban, along with many other Hollywood power brokers, is among Clinton's most stalwart supporters, having donated $10,000 to the president's legal defense fund. Others from the same category who were contacted -- those who were not on their yachts on the Aegean, whitewater rafting in Montana or in their Hamptons digs -- gave no sign that their views had been changed by the knowledge the president had been lying for seven months.

A spokesman for DreamWorks SKG founders and Clinton friends Jeffrey Katzenberg, David Geffen and Steven Spielberg said none of them bear the president any ill will after last week's on-air mea culpa.

"All three guys continue to support the president. They feel the investigation has taken too long, gone too far afield and it's time to move on," said Andy Spahn, who heads corporate affairs at the studio. Each studio chief donated $10,000, the maximum allowed by law, to the president's legal defense fund.

Many of Clinton's Hollywood supporters seemed to have taken for granted that the president had an affair with former intern Monica Lewinsky, that he lied about it and that it was of no import. Clinton met with his biggest West Coast backers Aug. 11 at the Katzenberg home to raise money for California gubernatorial candidate Gray Davis, and chatted with his host late into the night. The studio executive learned that the White House team did not know the results of DNA tests on Lewinsky's blue cocktail dress -- a tacit acknowledgment that a match with the president was possible, according to someone who spoke to Katzenberg shortly after the fund-raiser.

But in Hollywood, committing adultery with an impressionable young woman hardly qualifies as shocking behavior. In contrast to the garment-rending wails of other Democrats after Clinton's admission last week of an "inappropriate relationship," the attitude here seems to be: He cheated? He lied? He admitted it? Who cares?

As one insider put it: "Clinton chose his supporters well. To pick a Hollywood constituency is a kind of genius; no behavior is shocking out here. Bad judgment here is forgiven if you do your job well."

In general, supporters repeatedly indicated their frustration with Starr's investigation. "I think it's time for those of us who are mainstream liberals to stand up and say, 'Who cares?' on this point," said Edward Tabash, a Beverly Hills attorney who contributed $10,000 to Clinton's defense. "To me it is highly believable and even likely that a president would lie about something which should be nobody's business and yet be eminently trustworthy in matters that pertain to state and his official function. To me, that dichotomy is eminently understandable."

Tabash said that Clinton's achievements -- in balancing the budget, in starting Mideast peace talks, in promoting education -- far outweigh the issues involved in the Lewinsky affair. "I would think that our country will have lost its mind if we permit anyone to push him out of office over this."

At least one contributor said he was hurt by Clinton's admission, but planned to continue to give to the legal fund out of a conviction that he was the most capable president the country has had in decades.

"He's tied his his own hands, and by doing so he's tied the country's hands," said Stanley Scheinbaum, a Los Angeles economist who has contributed $10,000 to the fund and is about to make another contribution in his wife's name. "I want to do everything to untie his hands."

Scheinbaum added that when he watched Clinton's admission last week he felt "anger. No surprise. I had half assumed it was true. But I was angry at him for jeopardizing himself and us in the bargain. He's weakened us at a terrible time."

But far more common was a passionately sympathetic response to the president's predicament. "There is nothing he could have said that would have satisfied the Clinton-haters and the pompous commentators in Washington," said Steven Rivers, a publicist and well-connected Hollywood Democrat who also contributed to Clinton's legal defense.

"I am so angry. I am so disappointed in the media. We're talking about the destruction of the president here," he added. "The disconnect between how people in Washington and in the rest of country think has never been as wide as it is right now."

Said Saban: "This whole witch hunt is hurting the country. I am outraged as an American, not as a supporter of the president. And there's nothing I can do about it but talk to you -- and my wife."

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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