By Lorraine Adams
In a telephone interview from Dallas, Flowers said Clinton's use of a close political operative to help her find a job and his request that she cover up their affair reminds her of the Lewinsky case. Investigators are trying to determine whether the president instructed confidant Vernon E. Jordan Jr. to assist Lewinsky in her job search or urged her to lie about their relationship.
The president this week denied having a sexual relationship with Lewinsky or urging "anyone to say anything that was untrue." But while giving a deposition Saturday in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case, Clinton acknowledged under oath that he had had an affair with Flowers, a former Arkansas state employee and cabaret singer, according to sources familiar with his testimony. During the 1992 presidential campaign, Clinton specifically denied such a liaison while admitting having "caused pain" in his marriage.
Flowers yesterday said Clinton had asked her "to engage in a conspiracy of coverup to protect him, to lie to anyone if necessary to protect him. I've always believed everything was about protecting the Clinton power structure and anyone would be sacrificed who got in the way of that."
Clinton's efforts to contain the political damage from revelations about their affair showed how he was inclined to handle allegations of sexual indiscretion, Flowers added.
The Flowers story surfaced in 1990 when Larry Nichols, a former Arkansas state employee, filed a wrongful dismissal lawsuit against Clinton that included allegations that the governor had had affairs with several women, one of whom was Flowers. It drew little public attention, in part because Clinton had not yet announced his presidential bid and was still an obscure regional politician.
Flowers said her affair with Clinton had been over for at least a year but that about the time of the Nichols suit, she was looking for a job and turned to the governor. Clinton agreed to help find her a position at an Arkansas state agency, Flowers said, and enlisted a political appointee named Don Barnes. Efforts to contact Barnes last night were unsuccessful.
"I don't know Vernon Jordan, and I don't know whether he is or is not telling the truth," Flowers said. "But it reminds me of , in regard to a position that Vernon Jordan supposedly arranged for Monica Lewinsky."
Flowers was hired by the Arkansas Appeal Tribunal, a state agency, after an interview Barnes arranged and sat in on, according to Flowers's 1995 written account of her relationship with Clinton. Jordan, a close friend of Clinton, acknowledged helping Lewinsky get several job interviews in New York.
From 1990 through 1991, Clinton called Flowers to discuss what she would say about their relationship, according to Flowers, and urged her to deny the affair. Flowers secretly tape-recorded some of their conversations and messages he left on her answering machine.
On one tape, which Flowers played at a January 1992 press conference, a voice similar to Clinton's, said, "If [reporters] ever hit you with it, just say `no' and go on." The voice also said,: "They can't run a story like this unless somebody said, `Yeah, I did it with him.'"
At one point, Clinton asked Flowers to sign an affidavit that described how an Arkansas Republican Party operative had tried to get her to disclose their affair, Flowers said. The operative had spoken to her but, Flowers said, Clinton wanted her to change some details of the conversation. "He really wanted me to say what he wanted me to say about it, regardless of what happened," Flowers said, adding that she had refused his request.
The story of the Flowers affair caught fire during the 1992 campaign when it resurfaced in a tabloid newspaper. The Clinton campaign noted that Flowers had been paid for the story.
Hillary and Bill Clinton appeared on "60 Minutes" in the wake of the allegations. When asked to describe his relationship with Flowers, the candidate replied, "Very limited, but until this, you know, friendly, but limited." When asked if he categorically denied having had an affair with Flowers, he replied, "I've said that before and so has she."
After that interview, Flowers said Clinton was "absolutely lying" about a romance she says lasted 12 years. He, in turn, told reporters, "She didn't tell the truth."
James Carville, who was then Clinton's campaign manager, led the offensive against Flowers. "He called me names. He called me a liar, a vindictive bimbo," Flowers said. Carville, who could not be reached for comment, this week repeated his earlier assertion that Flowers's tapes had been doctored.
Flowers said that the Clinton campaign, in its bid to discredit her, also hired Jack Palladino, a San Francisco private investigator, to "go around the country talking to people who knew me. I had calls from people, girl friends, guy friends, people I had known. If there had been anything they could have dug up on me that was horrible, they would have. They turned over every rock they could."
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