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12/13/2013 10:13 pm ET | Updated Feb 12, 2014

Obama First to Name Area 51, but Clinton Talked About It Too (VIDEOS)

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A lot of buzz is going around this week about President Obama mentioning Area 51 by name at a reception celebrating the 2013 Kennedy Center Honorees on Sunday. However, Bill Clinton has also made reference to the secretive base in the Nevada desert, although he did not dare utter its name, which at the time was still classified.

One of the honorees at the Kennedy Center was Shirley McLaine. Not only is she known for her lifetime of groundbreaking work as a brilliant and memorable actress, but she has also been very public about her interest in the paranormal, including UFOs.

Obama saved presenting MacLaine until the end, and he began his introduction by joking, "Now, when you first become president, one of the questions that people ask you is, 'What's really going on in Area 51?' When I wanted to know, I called Shirley MacLaine." The crowd laughed, and after a long pause, the president continued, "I think I just became the first president to ever publicly mention Area 51. How's that, Shirley?"

You can watch the president make his Area 51 comments in this White House video. You will find the comments at the 9:40 mark:

Here is an appearance Shirley MacLaine made on the Today show promoting her book Sage-ing While Age-ing in 2007. In an interview with Matt Lauer, she talks about her fascination with the paranormal:

While Obama is the first president to mention Area 51 by name, he is not the first to reference the base. Clinton referenced the base in an interview in Hong Kong in 2005, and he also referenced the base in a Presidential Determination in 1995, which made the base exempt from environmental disclosure laws.

In 2005, Clinton took part in a Q-and-A session in Hong Kong for CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets, a large, independent equity broker and financial services group. The moderator asked Clinton if there was a list of secrets that was passed from president to president like, "Where is Jimmie Hoffa?" and, "What really happened at Roswell?" He added, "Is there something for us to look forward to that will be released that will make the National Inquirer required reading?"

Clinton chuckled, and although he wasn't asked about it, his answer mostly referenced Area 51:

Well, I don't know if you all remember this, but there was actually, when I was president in my second term, there was an anniversary observance of Roswell. You remember that? People came to Roswell, New Mexico, from all over the world. And there is also a site in Nevada where people were convinced that the government had buried a UFO and perhaps an alien deep underground, because we wouldn't allow anybody to go there. I can say now, because it has now been released into the public domain, I actually had so many people in my own administration convinced that Roswell was a fraud, but this place in Nevada was really serious, there was an alien artifact there. So I actually sent someone there to figure it out, and it was actually just a secret defense installation, alas, doing boring work that we just didn't want anybody else to see.

You can watch the exchange in this video:

This wasn't the first time Clinton referenced Area 51. He was forced to do so in 1995. Several civilian contractors at Area 51 got sick, and two of them died. The victims and their families believed this to be due to the illegal burning of hazardous waste. Five of these employees, who remained unnamed, and the families of two of the deceased sued the U.S. Air Force and the EPA in 1994. The Air Force had a difficult time denying the existence of the base while at the same time acknowledging the lawsuit.

Because of the secretive nature of the work done at Area 51, the Air Force said they could not reveal the chemicals that were being burnt at the base. President Clinton reinforced this decision with a Presidential Determination in 1995 which exempted "The Air Force's Operating Location Near Groom Lake, Nevada" from environmental disclosure laws. Thus, the victims' case was dismissed due to a lack of evidence.

This post first appeared on OpenMinds.tv.

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