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Carlson: Lewinsky's Quiet Helper

Lewinsky Monica S. Lewinsky (Reuters)

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  • Lewinsky Gets Book Deal (Washington Post, Nov. 17)

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  • By Howard Kurtz
    Washington Post Staff Write
    Friday, February 12, 1999; Page C1

    Monica Lewinsky is pocketing $3 million in advance payments for her book and television projects and previously undisclosed magazine deals, according to sources familiar with the negotiations. And one of the people who secretly helped secure those deals, it turns out, is a former official in the Reagan and Bush administrations.

    Richard Carlson confirmed yesterday that he provided media advice to Lewinsky while she was negotiating to sell her story. Carlson is a business consultant whose resume includes stints as director of the U.S. Information Agency, president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and U.S. ambassador to the Seychelles.

    "I kept it quiet, just because I didn't want to be distracted by it," Carlson said. "I told practically no one." Carlson's role was first reported by George magazine in the issue due out next week.

    Carlson said he was struck by the fact that "Monica is really not interested in being a celebrity and not interested in capitalizing per se and becoming a wealthy young woman. There's the total absence of any greed factor. It's taken a lot of convincing to convince her to worry about her future and her legal bills. It's very difficult for her to get a job, and living in a regular way is awkward."

    According to the sources, Lewinsky is receiving the lion's share of the $1.5 million advance for her book, "Monica's Story," courtesy of her co-author, the Princess Diana biographer Andrew Morton. The figure is higher than in many previous news accounts because it involves two deals, with St. Martin's Press handling the American publication and Michael O'Mara Publishing in Britain distributing the book overseas, the sources explained. The upfront money is important to Lewinsky because royalties on sales generally aren't paid until six months after publication.

    Lewinsky has also struck lucrative deals with two European magazines for what will largely be photo spreads, the sources said.

    The rest of the cash comes from her $660,000 interview deal with Britain's Channel 4, which has already "pre-sold" the interview in Germany, Italy and Scandinavia for more than $1 million, the sources say. Lewinsky is to receive 75 percent of the proceeds from these and other foreign sales. No money is involved in her interview agreement with ABC's Barbara Walters, but ABC will not market the program beyond North America, leaving the field clear for Lewinsky.

    Lewinsky especially liked the fact that Walters never leaked word of their discussions, the sources said. The deal was struck in November after negotiations with Oprah Winfrey collapsed.

    None of the TV interviews can go forward without the approval of independent counsel Kenneth Starr, but it is not clear whether the book will be held up as well.

    Richard Hofstetter, Lewinsky's attorney, would not confirm that Fox had offered the former White House intern $5.5 million, as George reported, but said that "there were astronomical numbers involved." They went with Walters, he said, because "we felt that would be the most credible interview she could do at this time."

    According to the magazine, the Fox offer involved a Sunday night sitdown with Walter Cronkite or Phil Donahue -- although there was also talk of approaching NBC's Katie Couric and Matt Lauer about doing the interview in exchange for exclusive clips for the "Today" show. Also dangled before Lewinsky was her own daytime gabfest, "The Monica Lewinsky Show," a made-for-TV movie that Lewinsky would introduce, and a starring role in a hair product commercial.

    Some of these pitches were "elements proposed by middlemen," Hofstetter said. "There was an offer from Fox and offers from other people saying they could go to Fox with these things."

    A source at Rupert Murdoch's Fox network expressed skepticism about the movie, commercial and Monica talk show. The crux of the deal, this source said, was the prime-time interview, international print rights for such outlets as Murdoch's London Sun, and a book written for Murdoch's HarperCollins.

    Carlson says he got involved in helping Lewinsky because he is an acquaintance of Lewinsky's mother and aunt, as well as of Peter Straus, who is married to Marcia Lewis, Lewinsky's mom. "There was nothing political in it whatsoever," he said. Carlson says he hesitated even to tell his son, Tucker Carlson, a writer for the Weekly Standard, and never gave him any details.

    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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