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Man's anti-Bush bumper stickers prompt visit by Secret Service

By The Associated Press

09.01.01

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Jesse Ethredge poses outside his home near Milledgeville, Ga., on Aug. 24, with his truck featuring anti-Bush stickers.

EATONTON, Ga. — The Secret Service has questioned a middle Georgia man whose bumper stickers say "hell with Bush" and call the president a "two-faced murderer."

And it's not the first time 58-year-old Jesse Ethredge's opinion of the commander in chief has landed him in trouble with authorities.

Ethredge's truck features a cartoon child urinating on the word "Republicans." The bumper stickers read: "Don't U blame me," "Thief, Liar, Two Faced Murderer Geo W. Bush" and "Hell with Bush and all damn Republicans."

The Secret Service paid him a visit last week, asking what the stickers meant.

"They asked me a bunch of questions, like if he was to come into my driveway, what would I tell him," Ethredge said. "I said I'd tell him to get out as fast as he come in it. They wanted to see if I was a danger to him."

Putnam County Sheriff Detective Lee Wilson said Ethredge cooperated during the Secret Service interview.

"Although he didn't have a lot of use for Bush, he didn't have any intentions of causing him physical harm," Wilson said. "As far as the sheriff's office is concerned, it's a closed matter."

Ethredge, who will retire next week after 34 years as a civilian employee at Robins Air Force Base, says he was just expressing his feelings.

He said the same thing more than a decade ago, when a similar slogan on the same camper shell took aim at Bush's father, who was president at the time. The sign then said, "Read my lips hell with Geo. Bush."

He drove the sign onto the base April 5, 1990, and was charged with "provoking speech on a truck." The ticket was dismissed.

Base officials had first complained about Ethredge's stickers in 1984 when former President Reagan visited Macon. The sticker said, "To Hell With Reagan."

In October 1991, Ethredge received a letter from Col. Robert Hail, who was deputy base commander at Robins, instructing him not to come onto the base with "bumper stickers or other similar paraphernalia which would embarrass or disparage the Commander in Chief."

Ethredge took the case to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where he lost his appeal. The lawsuit ended there, said Gerry Weber, the American Civil Liberties Union attorney handling the case.

"Just within the context of a military base, people's free-speech rights are as restricted or potentially more restricted than inmates in a jail," Weber said.

And as for his opinion of the second President Bush, Ethredge says the bumper sticker stays.

"This has been going on for about 10 years," Ethredge said. "I handled it all the way to the 11th (Circuit). They aren't going to dictate what I put on my truck. I imagine you'll see 'em on there until he's out of office."

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