Democratic presidential nominee Bill Clinton on Tuesday heatedly denied organizing demonstrations against the Vietnam War and called rumors that he considered renouncing his citizenship to avoid the draft "ridiculous."
Rumors about Clinton's behavior during the war exploded into print a few days ago and he came under tough questioning about them during an hourlong interview on the TV talk show Donahue.
"That's ridiculous," said Clinton, who has been dogged by questions about Vietnam-era draft record throughout the campaign, when interviewer Phil Donahue asked him if he had toyed with renouncing his citizenship to keep out of the military.
The Arkansas governor, leading President Bush by a wide margin just one month before the Nov. 3 election, said he was proud of his opposition to the war and had attended a couple of protests in London while a student at Oxford.
But he insisted he did not organize anti-war activities and declared that a 1969 visit to Moscow that has taken on sinister overtones in some published reports was strictly a sight-seeing visit.
When Donahue suggested that Clinton was not telling the full truth about his feelings about the Vietnam War to avoid alienating voters, the candidate bristled with anger.
"You are wrong to ignore my entire public life, which you and a lot of other people have done, and make up your own characterization of this so that you can once again divert people from a discussion of things that will affect their lives," Clinton said.
". . . You drew a conclusion that I had somehow tried to have it both ways on the Vietnam War. That's a lot of bull. I was opposed to it. I was on record opposed to it early on. I never denied it. I said I was not a great organizer of anti-
war activities. These things are true," he added.
Later in the program a woman caller accused his family of getting him out of the draft, and Clinton answered, "My family didn't get me out of anything. I enrolled in an ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps) program that they wanted me in and I decided I shouldn't have the deferment and I gave it up. The (draft) lottery came in and I wasn't called. If you don't want to vote for me because of that, that's fine with me, but it won't have anything to do with the way you are going to live the day after the election."
Clinton and his vice presidential running mate Al Gore appeared on the program after winding up a bus tour of Florida.
Clinton's enthusiastic reception in Florida showed the strength of the Democratic ticket in a conservative state that Bush won handily four years ago and which is crucial to his re-election hopes.