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Clinton, Lewinsky, Forrer/AP Forrer, right, on that fateful Hug Day in November 1996. (CNN via AP)
From Outlook
I Stood Between Monica and Bill

By Graydon John Forrer
Sunday, March 8, 1998; Page C02

Kenneth Starr's office called the other day. An FBI agent working for the independent counsel wanted to explore my unique knowledge of the president's alleged relationship with Monica Lewinsky. It was no surprise. I had been expecting the call for weeks. Millions of people worldwide had seen my face in newspapers and magazines and on television. I knew it was just a matter of time before that face and my name would be connected, and then someone – perhaps even a friend – would snitch.

My link to the Lewinsky imbroglio can be traced to a glorious November day 16 months ago, now so familiar from that ubiquitous videotape of the president hugging the girl in the black beret.

Fate brought us together on the South Lawn of the White House. After a stint as a volunteer in the president's campaign in Ohio, I came to a "welcome home" party for the Democratic ticket. As the Marine Corps band played its customary blend of marches and popular tunes, the Clintons and the Gores worked the rope line, dispensing hugs, kisses and handshakes. For some unfathomable reason, all of us wore identical white T-shirts, which a Washington Post columnist aptly described as "goofy."

Mine was but one face in a crowd of hundreds of political appointees. As the president neared my spot on the rope line, I felt a sharp jab of an elbow in my side. The elbow belonged to the young woman in the now famous black beret. We wore white, she wore black, and come hell or my ribs, she was going to get to the front.

In the ensuing 15 months, I did not give the event another thought. Then a friend called to tell me that I was on the evening news. I flipped on CNN, and Holy Lewinsky! There we were: the president's mighty back . . . Monica's rakish beret . . . and my bearded face. I had entered the Zelig zone.

The next morning, the same image appeared on the front page of nearly every newspaper in the nation. Within days it had appeared in Newsweek, Time, the National Enquirer, the Star and the Globe. Friends reported sightings on "Late Night With David Letterman," "Hard Copy" and Australian TV. My phone rang off the hook. People I couldn't remember were offering me drinks. A friend from Hong Kong e-mailed a request for details. When I went to visit my parents in Arizona, they said they were concerned about my future. My brother, a conservative Republican, was not worried. With pride and locker-room asides, he paraded me around his country club.

My family and friends were unwilling to settle for less than a steamy scene fit for a Jackie Collins novel, which might go something like this: "She looked lustily into the president's big blue eyes. She threw her arms around his neck. 'Oh, Bill,' she purred. 'I want you to balance the budget, save education, find a new funding stream for cancer research, and don't forget peace in the Middle East, Bill. . . . Will you remember?' 'Yes, Monica, yes,' Bill pledged, as Monica melted into his arms."

The truth was that I had no details to offer. Monica Lewinsky was just one of dozens of women, men and children the president hugged that day. A lot of flesh was pressed. Did all that physical contact indicate an explosion of improper relationships in the Clinton administration?

I soon learned the dark side of celebrityhood. A friend ratted me out to Al Kamen, who made the face-name connection in his "In the Loop" column in this newspaper. The FBI agent's call came not long after.

For half an hour, an agent questioned me about the Alleged Relationship. He wanted to know about the White House event, the goofy T-shirts, the sharp elbow, the infamous hug. "Did you hear what the president said to her and what she said to him?" he asked.

Of course, I told him that I had seen and heard nothing that was inappropriate or out of the ordinary. And that, my photograph in the National Enquirer notwithstanding, is the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Graydon John Forrer is a consultant who lives in Alexandria.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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