LITTLE ROCK, ARK.—With his party now holding all of the levers of power in Arkansas politics, a Republican state lawmaker is pushing to remove the names of the state’s most famous Democrats — Bill and Hillary Clinton — from Little Rock’s airport.
Sen. Jason Rapert says pilots have complained to him about flying into Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport and that Arkansas shouldn’t honour a former president who was impeached over his affair with a White House intern.
“The bill is to prevent any further embarrassment by the airport’s name,” Rapert said Friday. Other women have accused the ex-president and ex-governor of sexual harassment, and they shouldn’t have to be reminded when they travel through Arkansas’ busiest hub, he said.
“How would you feel if you had to walk through that airport?” Rapert asked.
Bill Clinton has been dogged by rumours about his relationships with women for much of his political career. He has acknowledged sexual encounters during that time, but has denied accusations of mistreatment.
The sprawling airport complex east of downtown Little Rock had been called Adams Field, picking up the moniker to honour Arkansas National Guard Capt. George Geyer Adams in 1942. Adams was a longtime Little Rock councilman killed in the line of duty in 1937 and the actual air field is still named for him.
“Political friends of the Clintons decided to strip his honour,” Rapert said.
Bill Clinton, who was acquitted in his 1999 impeachment trial, served as Arkansas governor nearly 12 years and president for eight. Hillary Clinton was a U.S. senator from New York and a U.S. Secretary of State before running as the Democratic presidential nominee last year.
While Bill Clinton was president, he signed the bill naming Washington National Airport after former president Ronald Reagan, a Republican.
Rapert’s bill says Arkansas should not name any publicly funded airport after anyone who received a salary for holding a federal, state, county or municipal office. A state wildlife centre in Pine Bluff is named after former Gov. Mike Huckabee, but Rapert said the former Republican presidential candidate should still be honoured.
He did not explain the difference.
Little Rock’s Airport Commission voted to rename the complex in 2012. At a hearing, members of the public acknowledged the Clintons weren’t perfect but said the couple had accomplishments that no other Arkansans had.
“We recognize that the 42nd president of the United States is a singular honour for the city and the state,” Mayor Mark Stodola, a Democrat, said Friday.
“I’m disappointed that the legislation was filed,” he said, adding that it was “a slap against Little Rock” and that its airport commissioners were best equipped to choose whom to honour.
When the airport was renamed five years ago, Democrats controlled the Legislature and held the governor’s office. Republicans completed a takeover of Arkansas state government in 2014.
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