Louisiana sheriff chats online

(JEFFERSON PARISH, La.) -- Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee is the first to admit that he does not know how computers work.

But this week, Lee, 68, interfaced with the virtual world during an online chat with about a dozen people, who messaged him questions about everything from the war on drugs to his thoughts on the presidential election. NOLA.com, the World Wide Web site affiliated with The Times-Picayune, arranged the Wednesday night chat.

Before it began, Lee's spokesman, Col. John Fortunato, tried to explain to him that people in the Internet chat room would be able to hear everything he said in the online interview. That could have caused some problems for a politician known for off-the-cuff and, oftentimes, politically incorrect remarks.

"The people watching the screen can hear me talk?" Lee asked.

"Anything you say," Fortunato said, "they'll be able to hear you."

"Oh, Lord," Lee replied.

"That's exactly why I told you that."

In the end, the online audio failed, denying Lee's questioners the opportunity to hear his answers. Instead, a moderator typed in segments of Lee's answers, to be read to his questioners.

As usual, Lee gave direct answers.

When someone in the chat room asked how the pubic could show its support for him, Lee said, "Send money." When another person kept firing questions implying that his deputies do not support him, Lee said, "Tell that guy who keeps asking the questions to get with the program."

"I always speak from my heart," Lee said later, "but most people think I'm speaking from my ass."

Lee, who chatted for more than an hour, admitted that he is a technology dinosaur. But he said he would chat online every week if people wanted.

"There's so much knowledge in that little box," he said, referring to the computer on his desk. "I still don't understand where that information is stored."

(iSyndicate; The Times-Picayune; Nov. 11, 2000). Terms and Conditions: Copyright(c) 2000 LEXIS-NEXIS, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights Reserved.

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