Barr Inspires Loyalty, Loathing in Home District
J. R. Moehringer
Los Angeles Times, Tuesday, January 19, 1999
© Copyright 1999 Los Angeles Times
Ga. -- Let liberals cringe every time his scowling face appears
on TV. Let civil libertarians deplore his involvement with racist
groups. Let pornographers allege adultery from his past.
in the home district of Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) stand by their man.
is, some of them do.
one of the most visible prosecutors in President Clinton's Senate
trial, Barr found himself at the center of a media trial last
week, accused by Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt of adultery.
Barr refused to address the accusation directly--and the controversy
seemed to change few minds in his backyard, where people remained
divided as ever over their man in Washington.
just think Bob Barr can do no wrong," said David Williams,
a real estate investor from Paulding County, about 20 miles west
of Atlanta. "He's the greatest thing since sliced bread."
is like Clinton, always trying to cover up secrets," said
Earl Baker. "You almost have to be a good liar to be president
or in Congress."
Daily Tribune News, one of the largest newspapers in Georgia's
7th District, calls last week from readers ran 6 to 1 against
the congressman, according to managing editor Jay Honeycutt.
Barr," one reader said, "since Larry Flynt has revealed
your adulterous affair, I expect we'll be receiving your resignation
real soon, OK?"
Flynt is a pornographer," said another, "but he doesn't
lie or sneak around to do it. Bob Barr is a sneak and a liar.
Another thing, I don't pay Larry Flynt's salary."
just up the road, in the little town of Hiram, opinion ran equally
strong in the opposite direction.
"He's about the only one standing up for the process,"
said Robbie Hendricks, a Barr die-hard.
taking office in 1994, the 50-year-old Barr has espoused the conservative
ideas and "family values" of many in this northwestern
corner of Georgia. He's voted to repeal the ban on sales of semiautomatic
assault weapons. He's supported a declaration making English the
official language of the U.S. He's authored the Defense of Marriage
Act, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriages,
saying, "America will not be the first country in the world
that throws the concept of marriage out the window."
circles, he's seen as something of an old-fashioned Southerner,
a man who will publicly praise Robert E. Lee. And his feud with
Clinton--whom Barr refers to only by his full name, William Jefferson
Clinton, like a parent scolding a child--has sometimes been framed
as a clash between the Old South and the New.
Barr was born in Iowa and grew up in places like Iran and Panama.
In fact, he attended USC, then Georgetown law school. He didn't
move to the South until he was 30.
after law school, while working as a CIA analyst, that Barr divorced
his first wife, whom he'd met in college, and married his second.
Ten years later, in 1986, he divorced his second wife, who last
week received an undisclosed sum of money from Flynt for making
seven pages of sordid allegations against her ex-husband.
other things, Gail Barr swore that Barr began seeing the woman
who would become his third wife, Jeri, before his second marriage
is evident to me that Bob was having an affair with Jeri before
Bob and I were divorced," Gail Barr contended. "In September
of 1985, I was helping out as secretary in Bob's law office. He
had me call to make luncheon arrangements with [Jeri]. Obviously,
at the time, I did not realize Bob was having a romantic relationship
with this woman. Friends would tell me that they saw Bob and Jeri
holding hands at the mall or in restaurants."
their divorce proceedings, according to Gail Barr, Barr was deposed
and declined to answer questions about whether he had committed
the largest city in Barr's district, Gail Barr's accusations dominated
last Wednesday's Marietta Daily Journal, which supported the congressman
on its editorial pages, saying he was the victim of a "sexual
bounty hunt." A front-page story quoted Barr's current wife,
Jeri--who thanked people for their support but added that she'd
been too busy to read or listen to media reports.
wasn't too busy. He quickly took the offensive, blasting Flynt
and the White House for conspiring against him. Still, he wouldn't
deny the charge of adultery, saying merely that his refusal to
answer questions under oath was not the same as perjury, the crime
of which Clinton stands accused.
that's good enough for hard-core Barr supporters, who either dispute
the relevance of last week's allegations or doubt the source.
By the same token, they seem untroubled that Barr was the keynote
speaker last year at a meeting of the Council of Conservative
Citizens--a group that contends interracial marriage amounts to
white genocide and that Abraham Lincoln was elected by communists.
enough into anyone's past and you'll find dirt," said Barry
Geesey, a Barr constituent from Noonan.
figured they were going to dig up dirt on everybody who's against
the president," Hendricks said. "Nothing surprises you
Rose, a saleswoman from Cedartown, just shook her head. The real
issues, she and others insisted, have nothing to do with how Barr
spends his free time. "I think [Barr's] done a good job for
this district," she said.
proudly voted for Barr in 1998--when he carried just 55% of the
vote, despite spending $1.5 million to his opponent's $11,000--because
she liked his slant on big government, taxes and family values.
Nothing she heard last week made her revise her opinion.
Rose and others weren't exactly glued to their TV sets Friday
when Barr strode to the podium in the well of the Senate to take
a major speaking part in the greatest political drama of the last
25 years. "We have to work for a living," she said.
a block from Barr's Marietta campaign office, in fact, the trial
felt as if it was millions of miles away. At a bar called Hemingway's,
businessman Gene Hanratty played pinball, absorbed in his quest
for a free game. The TV above his head was indeed tuned to name-calling
and allegations of sexual misconduct, but it was "The Jerry
though he wasn't watching the Senate trial, Hanratty called himself
a stalwart Barr supporter.
"I believe he's sincere in what he feels," he said.
"I've gone to some of his town meetings, and it's really
the rule of law he's concerned with. Does he like Bill Clinton?
No. But it's the rule of law he wants to see upheld."
Hanratty care one way or the other if Barr committed adultery?
he said, shrugging. "I have."
researcher Edith Stanley contributed to this story.)