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Yesterday in La Crosse

The word on the beach was “impeach,” 22 years ago

Brad Williams

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On January 28th in 1998, the message “impeach” was stamped in the snow in large letters on Pettibone Beach.  The message was prepared to coincide with President Bill Clinton’s visit to La Crosse, for an outdoor speech on 2nd Street.  The presidential visit came just two days after Clinton publicly denied having sexual relations with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.  One theory floated in the area argued that Clinton’s visit to La Crosse was hastily arranged to distract the media from the scandal.  But in fact, the Lewinsky story broke nationwide on January 21st, and the Clinton stop in La Crosse already had been announced on January 16th.  

Clinton and Vice President Al Gore spoke to a crowd of 25,000 at the entrance to the La Crosse Center, facing the Holiday Inn Express which was still under construction.  Presidential candidate Barack Obama would speak at roughly the same spot 10 years later.  The national media, including ABC’s Sam Donaldson and a crew from “Nightline,” followed Clinton to La Crosse for the speech. To our knowledge, no one has ever fessed up to leaving the “impeach” message at Pettibone.   

The Clinton speech could have been a distraction for Packers fans, to help them forget Green Bay’s only Super Bowl loss the previous Sunday to the Denver Broncos, 31 to 24.  It happened in January, 1998, yesterday in La Crosse.