AUTHOR: MINOR

Bill Minor, Thursday, June 17, 1999

JACKSON - An old Chinese proverb says: "Fool me once, shame on you; Fool me twice, shame on me."

I could only think about that last week as the "Fordice Follies" unfolded in living color on TV. Once again, the people of Mississippi have been made fools of, this time by an incredibly arrogant bully named Kirk Fordice.

Think back for a moment to the 1995 gubernatorial campaign when Dick Molpus only peripherally mentioned Fordice's 1993 admission of "irreconcilable

differences" with his wife of 40 years, Pat. The 1993 admission came at a time we now know soon after Fordice had first rekindled a romance with his Memphis school days girlfriend Ann G. Creson.

Molpus got slammed for even faintly hinting at the Fordices' shaky marriage in the 1995 debate, and being the gentleman he is, Molpus said he wouldn't bring it up again in the campaign. And he lost.

How touching it was at the scene of that debate on the Mississippi College campus when, after the two gubernatorial candidates came off the stage, Fordice made a big gesture to give Pat a smooch on the cheek.

As long suspected, the Memphis "mystery woman" who had lunch with Fordice in Memphis on November 5, 1996, only several hours before the car he was driving by himself plummeted off I-55 near Grenada, turned out to be Creson. He had been seen in a suburban restaurant with a woman having lunch, sipping wine, and holding hands.

Two months later, after he made a rather remarkable recovery from nearly fatal injuries, Fordice appeared in a press conference and declared he couldn't remember where he had been earlier on that day of his wreck. To questions regarding his private life, he angrily retorted it was "nobody's business."

The state's press and apparently most Mississippians let him get away with it scot-free. Until now.

What was laughingly billed by his staff as an industry-hunting trip to Europe was proven to be a cozy little rendezvous abroad with his Memphis girlfriend, caught by camera as they happily stepped from the plane last Sunday in Memphis. Thanks to Jackson's WLBT-TV the whole Fordice comedy (or tragedy) was neatly packaged in the finest tradition of investigative news reporting, despite Fordice threatening bodily harm to reporter Bert Case.

This columnist, I want to point out, was the only reporter who had found out, and put into print, Creson's name back during Fordice's 1993 "irreconcilable differences" marital episode. I had written that she, at the time married to Memphis businessman Roy Creson, was Fordice's old high school sweetheart with whom he had renewed relations at a recent school reunion.

I had spoken with her husband, a substantial business owner, on two occasions and it was apparent he knew what was going on between his wife and Fordice, because he had drawn up divorce papers. Several weeks later, he said they had patched things up. Roy Creson died last November of cancer.

Fordice, we remember, was the guy who, in October 1992, the day Bill Clinton spoke to a crowd in front of the Old State Capitol, called Clinton a "philanderer" and a few other choice things. And last year, after the Lewinsky affair broke, Fordice said Clinton should resign.

Too bad that Dan Quayle had picked Fordice to head his presidential bid in Mississippi on a "family values" platform. You can just see the headline: "Quayle Dumps Turkey."

rubin(at)phillynews.com

Bill Minor is a syndicated columnist who has covered Mississippi politics since 1947. His address is Box 1243, Jackson, MS 39215.

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