Jennifer D. Wade Journal

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Where's Bill?

All this talk of Hillary coming to town - sooner or later - has me thinking of a story from my relatively early days in news.  And, if you read the story, there's a special treat at the end!

So.  Picture it.  The year is 1992.  By the time September rolled around, the Pittsburgh Penguins were preparing to defend their Stanley Cup title, Jay Leno had taken over the Tonight Show from Johnny Carson, Sharon Stone had showed everyone what she had to offer in "Basic Instinct,"  and we all knew the words (and the accompanying line dance) to "Achy Breaky Heart."

Oh yeah, there was also a presidential campaign going on.  George Bush was running for a second term.  His opponent (for purposes of this story, we'll ignore Ross Perot)?  Bill Clinton.  Who was married to Hillary Clinton.  Who had ties to Scranton.  Which is where Bill Clinton promised to visit as he campaigned around the country.

What's so special about September, the month mentioned above?  Well, that's when he made the promise to campaign in NEPA.  I did some checking and found that on September 1, 1992, a news anchor at WNEP (where I worked, and where I work now) interviewed candidate Clinton via satellite.  During that interview, they chatted about Hillary's ties to Scranton and the surrounding area and about Bill's plans to campaign here.  Clinton said, "I'll be there a lot."

Fast forward to October 27, 1992.  It's one week before the election and Bill Clinton has still not set foot in NEPA to campaign (at least not since the primary).  But, on this night, Hillary was to speak at the Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre.  A co-worker (who shall remain nameless) said, "Hey.  Remember the interview we did with Bill Clinton?  Didn't he say HE would be here?"  So, we checked the file tape and, sure enough, there was Bill saying, "I'll be there a lot."

On the 11PM news that night, this is how we framed the story:  "Hillary's here.  Where's Bill?"  If I recall correctly, those words were the very first thing the anchor said as video of Hillary rolled following the news open.  I'm also pretty sure that we had a "banner" over that video with the words "Where's Bill?"

I did some checking and found the reporter's script from that night.  It included the pertinent clip from Bill's September 1 interview, a bite from Hillary, sound from supporters saying they understand how busy Bill is, and a statement from the campaign saying that a stop in NEPA for Bill just didn't fit into their schedule.

Well, a couple of days later (two, maybe three, I don't remember), guess who calls the newsroom?  Someone from the Clinton campaign.  Just calling to say that Bill Clinton would, in fact, be making a stop in NEPA.  I'm almost positive that I am the one who answered that call, and, let me tell you, the campaign staffer on the other end of the phone did not sound happy.  I recall his tone being something along the lines of, "We're really pissed about that story you did, but see how nice we are?  Bill will be there."

It turned out that where Bill would be was a rally at the airport on Sunday, November 1, just two days before the election.  His campaign plane flew in, he got out, waved, maybe said a few words, and took off again.  A promise kept, even if it wasn't particularly by choice.

Thanks for reading.  Now, as promised, here's a special treat from 1992 (Oh, you love it.  You know you do!):

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