Former Gov. Fife Symington’s newfound interest in being governor has begged a number of questions about how his pardon from Bill Clinton came about in January 2001. It had been three-and-a-half years earlier that Symington had been convicted by a jury of using false statements to obtain loans, prompting his resignation.
An appeals court overturned the conviction, sending the case back to federal district court for retrial. Before the pardon, prosecutors were still pursing the case against him. The surprise pardon was announced on Clinton’s last day in office. Symington told reporters, “I’m humbled and gratified. It’s just a good way to end a 10-year war. I’m just really happy it has happened.” But while many speculated that the pardon was related to Symington having rescued Clinton from a riptide, Symington said it was rooted in a shared belief against politically oriented legal prosecutions.
The two had, in fact, ended up on the same beach in Massachusetts in the late 60s. “All present weren’t totally sober,” Symington said in 2001. “Somehow, the president ended up out in a riptide when everybody was told to stay out of the water.” “Suddenly we saw his head bobbing offshore,” Symington said.
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