Issue of July 6, 1998
Monica Lewinsky had a secret to tell. It was Memorial Day weekend, 1996, and the former White House intern was hiking along a trail at a spa in upstate New York. Her companion was Dale Young, a Scarsdale, N.Y., businesswoman who had become a friend of both Monica and her mother, Marcia Lewis. "I can't stand it," Lewinsky burst out, according to Young. "I've got to talk to you. I've got to tell you what's going on, but please, don't tell anyone." Young agreed. It was then, says Young, that Lewinsky told her she was "involved with the president" and proceeded to describe how.
Last week, Young, subpoenaed by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, was compelled to testify before a federal grand jury about her talks with Lewinsky, and she told the same story to Newsweek. Young, 47, is the first witness to go on the record recounting conversations with Monica Lewinsky about her alleged sexual relationship with President Clinton. (Though prosecutors cannot discuss grand jury testimony, witnesses are free to.) Young is a friend of Monica's family; in March 1996, with her husband, James, a house builder, Young threw a party at her Scarsdale home to celebrate the publication of Marcia Lewis's book, "The Private Lives of the Three Tenors." Young's story generally supports accounts of taped conversations between Lewinsky and Linda Tripp, who is scheduled to testify before the grand jury this week. Young's version offers new details about Lewinsky's alleged relationship with the president, and one important twist: Young's story suggests that Monica claimed the president, at least in the beginning, sought to put limits on his sexual involvement with Lewinsky because he was afraid that he might one day be questioned about it.
Young's conversations with Lewinsky may bear on whether Lewinsky or Clinton perjured themselves by denying a sexual relationship, but the story she told Newsweek does nothing to resolve the question of whether anyone tried to obstruct justice. Starr would not comment on Young's testimony. "We're not going to dignify this story with a comment," said White House spokesman Jim Kennedy. "Monica Lewinsky continues to have no comment on these public allegations," said Judy Smith, her spokesperson. Newsweek reporters were not able to turn up any serious doubts about Young's credibility. To be sure, she is described by her friends and neighbors as chatty, hot-tempered and bawdy. A member of the town Republican committee in the late '80s, she disapproves of Clinton. She likes to challenge authority her business is to contest tax assessments for homeowners. But even business competitors interviewed last week by Newsweek described her as honest. She told Newsweek that she was stepping forward now because she had been required to testify and she believes her account will ultimately help Lewinsky, whom she says she praised to the grand jury as "a wonderful, effusive, beautiful, bubbly young lady" who "has suffered enough."
During their seven-and-a-half-mile hike around the Catskills spa that weekend in 1996, Young says, Lewinsky claimed to be having a physical relationship with Clinton. There was, by Young's account, intimate touching in a small hideaway study off the Oval Office and sexually charged phone calls late at night. According to Young, Lewinsky described how she would contrive situations to see Clinton and how she anxiously awaited his calls. She told the older woman how she had bought gifts for the president, including a tie and a historical book from an antique store. But, Lewinsky told Young, Clinton had established certain sexual ground rules at the outset. "Nothing was ever taken to completion," said Young. Young concluded that the physical intimacy between the president and the intern was "basically like foreplay." According to Young, Lewinsky told her that Clinton had an elaborate explanation for setting boundaries. The president, says Young, told Lewinsky that "he didn't trust anybody ... that people have come forward, people who he's been involved with have gone to the media, they have gone to their lawyers. He felt it really wasn't oral sex if it wasn't completed."
How does this account compare with Linda Tripp's? According to sources familiar with the 20 hours of Tripp's secretly taped phone conversations with Lewinsky, the precise physical relationship between Lewinsky and Clinton is never spelled out. Nor is there anything explicit on the 90-minute tape heard by Newsweek last January. (Lewinsky began talking to Tripp about her involvement with Clinton in late 1996, months after Young says Monica first confided in Young.) On the Tripp tapes, the two women talk as though a relationship exists, but Lewinsky never goes into exact detail. Tripp has told the FBI that Lewinsky told her of having "oral sex" with the president. According to sources who have heard a tape of a conversation from last October, Lewinsky tells Tripp her sexual relationship with Clinton never involved "penetration."
The precise details may have legal significance. In her own Jan. 7 affidavit, Lewinsky swore that she didn't have a "sexual relationship" with President Clinton. She was not required to define what she meant by that. Clinton, however, is in a trickier bind. At his deposition last Jan. 17 by lawyers representing Paula Jones, the president was shown a definition of "sexual relations" that included "contact with genitalia" and other body parts "with an intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person." Clinton testified, "I have never had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky," a denial he later publicly repeated.
Over that 1996 Memorial Day weekend, Young says she warned Lewinsky to stay away from Clinton. Young continued to exchange phone calls with Lewinsky and her mother, Marcia. Between November 1995 and February 1998, Young's phone records turned over to the FBI show 101 phone calls to the Watergate apartment that Lewinsky and her mother shared. (Most of the calls went to Marcia.) Young says Lewinsky's next real confession to her about the president did not occur until Labor Day weekend, 1997. According to Young, Lewinsky told her that Clinton had just broken off the relationship. The president, Young said, offered Lewinsky a tearful explanation: "He wanted Chelsea to be proud of him and he wanted to be a good husband and he didn't want to do anything like this anymore."
A few days later, Young got a note from Monica, which Young later showed to Newsweek. It reads in part: "I think the end of this whole trauma is over. I just wish my heart didn't have to be broken in all of this. Well, I hope you and your family are well. Again, Dale, thanks for being such a good friend. xxxooo, love, Monica." At about the same time, Young says she got a frantic call from Marcia Lewis. According to Young, Marcia said she had just learned that Monica had confided in Young about her relationship with Clinton; tearful, distraught about her daughter's predicament, Marcia asked for advice. Young says she told Marcia to call Betty Currie, the president's personal secretary. Monica had told Young that Currie was a "conduit" between her and the president. Young told Marcia that she should threaten to expose Currie's role in order to "make damn sure" that Monica never got in to see the president again. According to Young, Marcia called back a few days later and said that Currie had refused to discuss the matter. (Through her lawyer, Currie had no comment; Lewis's lawyer, Billy Martin, said that any suggestion his client called Currie is "outrageously false.")
After the scandal broke in January, Young called Marcia offering to help, but Monica's mother was despondent. "This is ugly business," said Marcia. On Feb. 28, Young says, she spoke to Lewinsky for almost an hour. Young expressed some irritation about a remark by Lewinsky's lawyer at the time, William Ginsburg, that Monica would not hurt Clinton in the investigation because the president had been a friend of Israel's. Lewinsky replied, "Everything [Ginsburg] says is true. I don't want to see Clinton hurt. I am a friend of Israel." Young advised Monica, "Don't go to jail for that guy," says Young. According to Young, Lewinsky replied: "I won't do that, I'm going to tell the truth." In a possible reference to Starr's interest in bringing obstruction- of-justice charges, Young says that Lewinsky added, "I don't know anything that they're interested in finding out about." The conversation, said Young, had a sad tone. "I asked her what I can do for her and she said, 'There's nothing anybody can do for me.' "
Because Young is the first confidante of Lewinsky's to speak publicly, her comments are likely to stir controversy, and her story raises numerous questions. Isn't Young's account nothing more than hearsay? Isn't her assertion that "nothing ever came to completion" hard to reconcile with Tripp's later and still-unconfirmed account of being shown a "semen-stained dress" by Lewinsky? But Young's story is now sworn testimony. The most important corroboration or refutation will have to come from Lewinsky. And that depends on negotiations still underway between her lawyers and the independent counsel.
With Daniel Klaidman and Mark Hosenball
© Copyright 1998 Newsweek