Lewinsky's Scorn Has Many Targets
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, March 4, 1999; Page A1
Monica S. Lewinsky yesterday stepped into the limelight that has mostly swirled around her for the last year with the airing of a long-awaited television interview and the publication of a bitter biography that lashes out at independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, FBI agents, her own lawyer and even the president she loved.
Her much-anticipated book, which is likely to be a No. 1 bestseller, portrays Lewinsky as a victim of political enemies and faithless allies who trammeled her privacy and emotional well-being to promote their own agendas. "Monica's Story" depicts the former White House intern as a bright, competent young woman who became so shattered by the White House scandal she helped to sow that she relied on two kinds of antidepressants and repeatedly contemplated suicide.
The account is the first time Lewinsky has voiced her rage at Starr. She decries the prosecutor's "squeeze tactics," accusing him of violating her constitutional rights through his aggressive investigation and saying that his team's interrogation of her before a grand jury left her feeling "emotionally raped."
She also delivers scalding broadsides against several important figures in her life, including her friend-turned-betrayer Linda R. Tripp, her former attorney William H. Ginsburg, a high school teacher who became her first lover, and ultimately, President Clinton. "The people who had betrayed Monica . . . were people she knew, trusted and loved," writes Andrew Morton, whom Lewinsky selected to tell her story because of his sympathetic biography of Diana, the Princess of Wales.
For a nation already super-saturated with details of the 18-month presidential affair, the prosecutor's investigation, and the impeachment and trial in Congress, the book nevertheless offers the perspective of Lewinsky herself and several fresh facts. It reveals that, during the day in January 1998 that FBI agents and Starr's deputies nabbed Lewinsky in a sting at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel at Pentagon City, she was so eager to protect Clinton and avoid the potential that she might be sent to prison that she considered killing herself by jumping out of a sliding window of a 10th-floor hotel room. The book also says that Lewinsky attempted that day to warn the president of the looming investigation by slipping away to a pay phone and trying, unsuccessfully, to reach his secretary, Betty Currie.
For the most part, however, the biography recounts events that are by now well-known but filters them through the considerable emotion and resentment of Lewinsky, her parents and several friends.
Yet remarkably, the book, together with last night's interview on ABC with Barbara Walters, marks the first time Lewinsky has voluntarily framed the episodes of the last year in her own terms. Even though she had been a central figure in the drama that led Clinton nearly to lose his job, even though her image has become an icon around the globe, Lewinsky herself has been largely silent, save for the transcripts of her grand jury testimony last summer, her taped interviews played during the impeachment trial and several conversations that Tripp, unbeknownst to Lewinsky, had taped.
Yesterday amounted to opening day of a choreographed Monica blitz, in which the 25-year-old woman, who has been unemployed for more than a year, is beginning to remold her image and be paid at least $3 million and possibly much more through various media outlets.
Copies of the 288-page book, written by Morton but laced with numerous direct quotes from Lewinsky and her family, began arriving at the offices of selected news organizations just before it was scheduled to officially go on sale today.
In addition to last night's ABC appearance, she has granted an interview to Time magazine, which is slated for next week's issue. She reportedly will receive $500,000 for photo spreads in three European magazines, $660,000 from an interview airing today on Channel 4 in Britain, and payments expected to reach seven figures as that interview is dispersed to dozens of countries around the globe. Publication, excerpt and interview rights in Germany alone will reportedly bring the young woman $200,000.
Lewinsky's representatives found only tepid responses when they first began to test interest in a book deal last fall, but it has generated intense enthusiasm, ranking No. 1 in online orders taken by the Internet bookseller Amazon.com. The book was printed last week under rare secrecy, with its U.S. publisher, St. Martin's Press, refusing to tell distributors which shipping company would deliver their copies. "It was like they were afraid someone was going to pull over the trucks on the highway," said one bookseller. A spokesman for St. Martin's, which printed 450,000 copies, yesterday predicted a second printing "in a matter of days."
Of the many forums in which Lewinsky is now spreading her point of view, "Monica's Story" is the most unfettered account. Unlike her interviews with television and print journalists, the book is not controlled by her immunity agreement with Starr, which gives the prosecutor substantial control over whom she may speak publicly to and what she may discuss.
In the two-hour episode of ABC's "20/20" last night, Lewinsky said that, while she still has warm feelings for Clinton, "sometimes I hate his guts. And, um, he makes me sick." She said she is on medication now and has "a lot of healing to do."
Asked by Barbara Walters how she felt after the president's Aug. 17 apology to the nation, which did not mention her, Lewinsky said: "I felt like a piece of trash. I felt dirty and I felt used and I was disappointed."
As for the president, she said, "When I think of the person that I thought was Bill Clinton, I think he had genuine remorse. When I think of the person that I now see is 100 percent politician, I think he's sorry he got caught."
Lewinsky maintained in the TV interview, as she has before, that she does not believe that Vernon E. Jordan Jr., the president's friend, knew they were having an affair when he helped her find a job in New York. "But maybe you'll have an affair with him when he's out of office," she quoted Jordan as saying.
The book contains invective against the independent counsel and his staff that is absent from the Walters interview. It brands one of Starr's top deputies as "a pit-bull terrier" who was "more used to tough mobsters than to a sobbing young woman."
Criticizing "Starr's strong arm tactics," the book raises questions about whether Starr had improper contacts with attorneys working on Paula Jones's sexual harassment lawsuit against Clinton, one of the central issues that the Justice Department is now scrutinizing. However, the most serious allegations involve an episode that Starr has already addressed under questioning by Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee. Lewinsky says it became apparent to her during the Pentagon City episode that Starr's investigators had obtained a copy of her affidavit in the Jones lawsuit in which she denied a sexual relationship with Clinton, even though the document had not yet been filed in court. The book concludes that "meant that in all probability it had come from Paula Jones's lawyers." Starr advised the committee last December that he had received a copy of the affidavit from Tripp's initial lawyer, James A. Moody.
Yesterday, Elizabeth Ray, a spokeswoman for Starr, said the independent counsel's office had no comment on Lewinsky's allegations, noting that they have been addressed before. The question of whether Starr's team treated Lewinsky improperly at Pentagon City was considered and in large measure dismissed in a ruling last year by Chief U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson that has been upheld on appeal.
In other passages of the book, Lewinsky says that she felt hurt and betrayed by Clinton, particularly last January when he stood before a thicket of television cameras, wagged a finger and vowed that he never "had sex with that woman."
At the White House yesterday, Clinton spokesman Barry Toiv said that Clinton did not plan to watch last night's interview and that he was unsure whether the president knew that the book had been published. Toiv dismissed as "nonsense" a suggestion in the book that the president feared a foreign agent had tapped his telephones.
The book also paints a damning portrait of Ginsburg, the old friend of Lewinsky's father who was her main lawyer for several months last year. Calling him "an enemy within," it says that the attorney's "inappropriate and often sexual comments added to her private pain and public humiliation." It also contends that he was more concerned with making media appearances than with advocating for his client.
Reached yesterday in Los Angeles, Ginsburg said: "Monica seems to need to blame someone for the activities of the last several years. She cannot blame her parents, because they're part of her support system. She can't blame herself, because that's not human. So I guess I'm one of the people she would like to blame, and I guess I have big enough shoulders to carry that blame."
Running through the account is repeated derision of Tripp. The book's opening pages said Tripp, whom Lewinsky befriended while both worked at the Pentagon, had a "nasal New Jersey drawl" and "lumpy figure."
While portraying herself as unwitting victim, Lewinsky also is deeply self-critical and, at times, rips away whatever shards of privacy she has left. Although it has been known previously that she had dated an older Pentagon colleague, she discloses that she learned she was pregnant and had an abortion after the end of the three-month relationship. The book provides smaller details as well. Explaining why she had not discarded the infamous blue dress, which Starr used to confirm Clinton's physical relationship with her, the book says that, until a laboratory confirmed the presence of the president's body fluids, Lewinsky believed it could have been stained with guacamole, which she had for dinner that night.
The book paints an image of the affectionate yet adolescent nature of her affair with the president. She says that Clinton called her "Kiddo" when she passed him on occasion in the corridors of the White House, and that she reciprocated, addressing him as "President Kiddo."
And it paints a family in pain. The raven-haired Lewinsky felt safe leaving home at times only when disguised in a blond wig. And to keep potential evidence out of investigators' hands, her father, Bernard Lewinsky, "took White House tea towels, aprons and other gifts Monica had brought [from] Washington and burned them" on the barbecue at his Los Angeles home.
Staff writers Howard Kurtz and Roberto Suro contributed to this report.
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company