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ELDERS STANDS BY REMARKS DESPITE FIRING

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Dr. Joycelyn Elders said Monday she was surprised at her firing, but she did not back down from statements that cost her the post of surgeon general.

"I really felt that all of the comments I made were true. I don't feel that I should start second-guessing myself today," Elders said on NBC's "Today" show.President Clinton demanded Elders' resignation Friday after learning that she had told reporters at an AIDS conference Dec. 1 that masturbation should be discussed in schools as part of human sexuality.

"I really think I was talking about teaching children about, you know, that nothing terrible will happen to them if they play with themselves," Elders said. "I was talking about information."

She said she was surprised that Clinton fired her but was not angry.

Clinton supported Elders when her previous comments on drugs, abortion and Medicaid drew criticism from conservatives. At a news conference Sunday at the Summit of the Americas in Miami, Clinton said Elders' firing had nothing to do with politics.

"There have been a number of things where we just have different positions," Clinton said, adding that a president is entitled to have people in top positions who agree with him.

Elders said in her taped remarks she remains friends with Clinton.

"I feel the president did what he felt he needed to do at this time," Elders said. "I'm very pleased that the president gave me the honor of being the surgeon general."