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Just An Affectionate Guy

By Richard Lacayo/TIME

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Part of the job of being Democratic party chairman is sticking up for the boss. And in the matter of Monica Lewinsky, Colorado Governor Roy Romer, who also heads the Democratic National Committee, has protested that it was wrong to judge the President before the evidence was in. But with Washington fascinated by sex and lies, everybody had better be braced for videotape. Last week Romer, 69, learned that a story scheduled for the current issue of Insight, a conservative weekly, would report that he had been caught on camera three years ago in some more than cordial embraces with a longtime aide.

On Friday, Romer acknowledged a "very affectionate relationship" with Betty Jane ("B.J.") Thornberry, 51, once his deputy chief of staff in Denver and now at the D.N.C. Beside him as he confessed was his wife of 45 years. Beatrice Romer insisted that Roy had told her about Thornberry "from the beginning" and that "it has not affected our marriage or our family." Several of their seven grown children later spoke up to agree.

Insight's editors claim they have obtained "confidential records," along with photographs and videotapes. Though the magazine doesn't identify its sources, R.W. Peterson, a Denver private detective, took credit for the video. According to the magazine, a scene taped on July 22, 1995, shows Romer greeting Thornberry, a divorce, at a Washington-area airport: they kiss and embrace in his car. On another occasion the camera catches them kissing in the woods outside a Virginia restaurant. The magazine says they later went to a house in Washington and were not seen leaving until the next morning.

Romer strongly denied the first rumors of the affair in 1990. Last week his language was more Clintonesque. "There are problems of relationship that arise in most American families," he said. "[The connection to Thornberry] is not a sexual relationship, as people know it, but it is a very affectionate relationship. Affair is a word you have to interpret."

Democrats speculate that the surveillance may have been financed at the time by political enemies trying to scare Romer off from a Senate run. For now, even if Romer wanted to resign as D.N.C. chairman, it would be tricky politically. People might ask, If Romer had to quit because of a sex scandal, why shouldn't Clinton?

--By Richard Lacayo. Reported by John F. Dickerson/Washington and Richard Woodbury/Denver
In TIME This Week

Cover Date: February 16, 1998

The Press And The Dress
Drip Drip Drip
Behind The Scenes With Monica
Just An Affectionate Guy
Ain't We Got Fun
Time To Off Saddam?
With A Little Help From His Friends
Eyes On The Oval
The Art of the Leak
Inside the Magic Bubble
Give Me a Break!

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