Fred Snodgrass, a 76-year-old Florida retiree, says he gets so upset
when he watches Rep. Henry Hyde on TV that "I nearly jump out of my chair."
Hyde, the Illinois Republican who heads the House Judiciary Committee, is
on television often these days. Hyde's committee will decide whether the
adulterous affair President Clinton carried on with a White House intern,
and his efforts to keep it hidden, should be referred to the House of
Representatives for impeachment proceedings. "I watched [Hyde] on TV the
other night," said Snodgrass. "These politicians were going on about how he
should have been on the Supreme Court, what a great man he is, how we're
lucky to have him in Congress in charge of the impeachment case. And all I
can think of is here is this man, this hypocrite who broke up my family."
Snodgrass says Hyde carried on a five-year sexual relationship with
his then-wife, Cherie, that shattered his family. Hyde admitted to Salon Wednesday that he had been involved with Cherie Snodgrass, and that the relationship ended after Hyde's wife found out about it. At the time of the affair,
which lasted from 1965 to 1969, Fred Snodgrass was a furniture salesman
in Chicago, and his wife was a beauty stylist. They had three small
children, two girls and a boy. Hyde, then 41 years old, was a lawyer and rising star in
Republican state politics. In 1966, he was elected for the first time to
the Illinois House. Hyde was married and the father of four sons. (His wife, Jeanne Hyde, died of breast cancer in 1992, after a 45-year marriage.)
"Cherie was young and naive at the time," said a Snodgrass family intimate.
"She was a glamour queen with three young kids, stuck at home. Then this
Prince Charming guy, Hyde, comes along. She was very impressed with him. He
was 12 years older, he was a hotshot, he knew everyone downtown. She had
nothing, and he comes along, shows her off, she was young and beautiful."
Alex Berke, a former jewelry businessman and 37-year member of the Chicago
Board of Trade who has been a friend of Fred Snodgrass for more than 50 years,
also confirmed the story of the family breakup. "I knew Fred and Cherie when
they first got married," he said. "They were an ideal couple. She was tall
and gorgeous and he was a handsome SOB. They made a hell of a couple. The
affair between Hyde and Cherie played a hell of a bad part in Fred's life.
It went on for several years. It changed his whole life. And it affected
the kids too. Being a nice guy, Fred took Cherie back, but it never worked
out after that. He told me all about it when it was happening. It beat the
hell out of him."
Snodgrass supplied Salon with two photographs of his ex-wife with Hyde
taken in the late 1960s, including one of her sitting in Hyde's lap at a
Chicago night spot. Another photograph is inscribed, "I love you
Cherie!!!!" and signed, "Hank, Dec. 30, 1966!"
Hyde released the following statement to Salon Wednesday: "The statute of limitations has long since passed on my youthful indiscretions. Suffice it to say Cherie Snodgrass and I were good friends a long, long time ago. After Mr. Snodgrass confronted my wife, the friendship ended and my marriage remained intact. The only purpose for this being dredged up now is an obvious attempt to intimidate me and it won't work. I intend to fulfill my constitutional duty and deal judiciously with the serious felony allegations presented to Congress in the Starr report."
According to Snodgrass, his marriage began to fall apart in 1965 when his wife,
then 29 years old, began staying out late and coming home intoxicated. He
moved out the following year, later hearing from a relative and
waiters at a favorite downtown Chicago restaurant that they had seen Cherie
socializing with Henry Hyde. The same year, Cherie began pleading with
Snodgrass to move back with her and their three small children and he
agreed. But soon afterwards, he said, she began going out late again. "I'd
be locking the door, and she'd finally come home and start banging on it,"
he recalled. "I'd let her in and we'd have these big fights -- it would
wake the kids up. She was seeing Hyde again. She said she was miserable
being married. So she moved out, said she was going to her mother's, and
she left me with the kids."
Several months later, Snodgrass found out his wife was actually living in
her own well-furnished apartment. One day, when he came by to try to talk
with his wife, he found the door blocked by a man inside her apartment.
"I'm trying to get in the door, I can see her buttoning up her blouse,"
said Snodgrass. "And some guy is holding the door, pushing back. It was
Hyde. And he's a big guy, I couldn't get in. My wife said she used to tell
him, 'What are you doing, trying to hit 300?'
"I yelled to Cherie, 'Get him out of the house so I can talk to you.' So
I'm waiting outside, sitting in my car, and here comes Henry Hyde. I didn't
confront him, I didn't say anything, I got no guts.
"She stayed in that apartment for a couple years. Every time I went back I'd
see new clothes, new furniture -- he was keeping her."
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Snodgrass and his wife divorced in 1967, with Cherie taking custody of the
children. "But we continued to see each other after that, because of the
kids," he said.
Throughout this period, as Hyde launched his political career in the
Illinois Legislature, he continued his secret affair with Cherie,
according to Snodgrass. Finally, in 1969, Snodgrass decided to confront the man he blamed for destroying his family. Finding out where Hyde lived, not
far from his own Chicago home, Snodgrass rang his doorbell. Hyde was not home, but
his wife invited Snodgrass in, and he told her he believed her husband was
staying with Cherie in Springfield, the state capital. "She's with your
husband now," he told her. "He gives her a lot of jewelry and clothes. She
said, 'Well, he gives gifts to me too. My husband is a brilliant man. Your
wife must be a tramp.' I felt like a heel for telling her. I said,
'Would you like to take a ride to Springfield and look them up?' At that time I had a new Cadillac; it was sitting outside. She started crying and
said, 'I can't, I have a baby to watch.'"
The next morning, Cherie called Snodgrass in tears, saying her affair with
Hyde was over. A few months later, they remarried, but the new marriage
lasted only a year. "I couldn't handle it," said Snodgrass. "I didn't care
for her anymore."
Snodgrass' ex-wife, who is now remarried and living in Texas, declined to
speak to Salon. But through one of her grown daughters, she confirmed that
she had engaged in a long-term affair with Hyde.
"My mother originally didn't want me to say anything to the press," said
her daughter. "But she's just so fed up with [Hyde], with how two-faced he
is. She knows she wasn't his first [mistress] and she wasn't his last. She
hates his anti-abortion stuff, and all the family values stuff. She thinks
he's bad for the country, he's too powerful and he's hypocritical."
As for the children of Fred and Cherie Snodgrass' broken marriage, said a
family intimate, "They didn't have a good life, that's for sure." Hyde
should not be entirely blamed for the family's destruction, added the
source: "The family was screwed up anyway. But the affair sure put the
final kibosh on it."
Sitting at home, in his one-bedroom, $325-a-month, government-subsidized
apartment, Fred Snodgrass fought to hold back his tears as he talked about
his children. The apartment, which is in suburban Weston, Fla., across
the highway from the Everglades, is decorated with Picasso reproductions
that Snodgrass has painted, signing each one "Freddy." Photographs of his
children when they were young, including one with him in a Santa Claus
outfit, sit on a side table and fill a box of mementos. Snodgrass said it was difficult to stay close
to them after his divorce, particularly when his ex-wife moved them to
California. "I went to court and said, 'I'd like to see more of my kids.'
The judge said, 'You can take a plane.'" He moved to Florida in 1973 with
his elderly mother, and the kids rarely visited. "So the whole family just
faded away, just fell apart."
"I never got married again, never wanted any more of that," he added. "I'm
an old man now, so that's that."
Why did Snodgrass decide to talk publicly about his wife's affair with Hyde
three decades later? "I hate the man. He destroyed my kids, me," he said,
starting to cry. "I'm not a vengeful person. And I don't have anything
against Cherie anymore. Of course, it takes two to tango and maybe I wasn't
the best of husbands. But he got away with it. He doesn't deserve all this
ovation, this respect."