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On British TV, Lewinsky Stresses Politics


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  • Lewinsky's Scorn Has Many Targets (Washington Post, March 4)

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  • By T.R. Reid
    Washington Post Foreign Service
    Friday, March 5, 1999; Page C4

    LONDON, March 4—Monica Lewinsky told a British TV audience tonight that there is a "right-wing conspiracy" in America working to drive Bill Clinton from the White House, and that she has "definitely been used as a pawn" by anti-Clinton forces.

    In a paid interview with the British commercial network Channel 4 -- a one-hour program that has been sold for rebroadcast in 30 other countries -- the 25-year-old woman at the heart of a year-long impeachment melodrama said she remains terrified that independent counsel Kenneth Starr might get angry at her for something and send her to jail.

    "I think my biggest fear today is, is losing my immunity and being prosecuted, or having my family prosecuted for something, to get to me," she said, repeating a comment she made Wednesday night in her first televised interview, with ABC's Barbara Walters.

    In a smooth presentation that included other echoes of Walters's interview, Lewinsky was also critical of Clinton, but said if she were to meet the president again, she "would want to apologize for having been indiscreet about the relationship."

    The interviewer for this British hour of Monica was Jon Snow, Channel 4's chief "presenter," or anchor. A respected former foreign correspondent, Snow focused on the subtext that has colored much European coverage of the Lewinsky case: that the White House sex scandal reveals deep pathologies in America's political and legal systems.

    In his own preview of the interview, Snow described her as "a young woman who was raped by the U.S. Constitution," and about half of tonight's interview dealt with Lewinsky's treatment, or mistreatment, at the hands of the independent counsel and the media.

    Pressed by Snow to describe the scene when she was confronted by nine of Starr's interrogators in a hotel room on Jan. 16, 1998, Lewinsky said she was afraid to talk about it. "Answering that question concerns me. I don't even feel comfortable doing that," she said, because Starr's office had told her not to "discuss the details of January 16 in this interview."

    Snow bored in harder: "It beggars belief that at this stage anybody would feel they could get away with jailing you." Lewinsky briefly dropped her steady grin at that point. "When you're the person who would be put in jail, that fear is not far from your thoughts, ever," she replied.

    Snow next moved on to Starr's subpoena of Lewinsky's mother, Marcia Lewis, and on this he did get an answer -- an answer electrically charged with anger. "I think one of the biggest tragedies," Lewinsky fumed, "is the realization for a lot of people that in this country, in America, that a parent can be forced to testify against a child. It's not right."

    Snow then asked whether Hillary Rodham Clinton was right in suggesting that a "vast right-wing conspiracy" is arrayed against the president, and used the Lewinsky case to try to drive him from office. "I think so, in both regards," she answered calmly. "Yes, I do think there's a right-wing conspiracy, and I think I've definitely been used as a pawn."

    Lewinsky did not accept money for her interview with ABC Wednesday, but she will profit from tonight's appearance here. She was paid an initial $650,000 for doing the interview, Channel 4 says, and gets a share of the sale of foreign rights. Media estimates here say her net so far is around $1.5 million and could pass $2 million as the program is dubbed into various languages and sold to nations that have passed on the English-language version.

    Channel 4, too, will finish well in the black. Among other things, it was able to double its normal advertising rates for the Lewinsky special. Advertisers paid about $35,000 for a 30-second spot. Perhaps coincidentally, Lewinsky's discussion of the notorious semen-stained blue dress was followed immediately by ads for an appliance chain's sale on washing machines and for a detergent called Vanish, described as a "powerful stain remover."

    For the interview, filmed at the New York apartment of her mother and stepfather, Lewinsky wore an austere black pantsuit and had her hair swept back as it was on the Walters interview. She was peppy and smiling for most of the hour, even when talking about Linda Tripp ("She, she knifed me") and about the dark days when she realized that Clinton was not going to give her the White House job she longed for.

    The only painful moments came when she discussed her past and continuing fear of Starr, and her treatment by the world's media.

    "People didn't realize that behind the name Monica Lewinsky there was a person," she said. "And behind the person there was a family."

    Asked what she had learned from the experience, Lewinsky said she had come to understand the value of having a family -- and hoped that she, too, might some day marry and have children.

    But as for her next boyfriend, she was definitive: "Married men -- definite no-nos," she said, flashing that fixed smile again. "Never again."

    As she had with Walters, Lewinsky described her initial feelings on meeting the president: "He has a very magnetic sense about him and he's very sensual." When Snow asked if she felt love for Clinton at the first meeting, Lewinsky replied, matter-of-factly, "No, no -- lust."


    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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