By Jeff Leen
Linda R. Tripp's attorneys and the ghostwriter for her 1996 book proposal about life in the Clinton White House are locked in a dispute over why Tripp decided to drop the book project.
The attorneys faxed a statement to news organizations Wednesday saying that Tripp decided not to go forward with the book after the ghostwriter, nationally syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher, engaged in "obvious sensationalism" that "substantially conflicted with Linda's intention to present a factual account."
The ghostwriter shot back yesterday with a fax saying that she had accurately reflected the story as Linda told it to her.
"The accusation that I in any way urged Linda Tripp to distort, exaggerate, sensationalize or in any way tell anything but the truth about her own experiences in order to increase sales or for any other reason is false," Gallagher said in her fax.
The idea for the book was first proposed in the summer of 1996 as an insider's look at a scandal-plagued White House by a woman who had worked there for more than four years, first for George Bush and then President Clinton. But the exact contents of the proposal have yet to surface publicly.
Anthony Zaccagnini, Tripp's Baltimore-based attorney, softened his comments about Gallagher yesterday.
"There was certainly no intent to intimate that [Gallagher] had urged Linda to give an untruthful account," Zaccagnini said. "What Maggie says was true; there was no intent or urging or anything like that to have Linda provide a sensationalized account. It appears that there was a stylistic concern."
Zaccagnini said that Tripp became concerned after she saw the proposal that Gallagher wrote, which Gallagher said was based on 20 hours of interviews with Tripp. The proposal outlined 12 chapters and ran 48 pages, double-spaced, with the working title, "Behind Closed Doors: What I Saw at the Clinton White House." According to Zaccagnini, when Tripp read the proposal Tripp realized just "how sensational" the material that she had given Gallagher was and balked.
"She thought, 'Hey, I might lose my job,' and that's why she withdrew from the project," Zaccagnini said.
But Gallagher, 37, the author of two books and a columnist whose work appears in 86 newspapers including the Washington Times, said that while Tripp did express a fear of losing her job, she never voiced any concerns about sensationalism.
"She had two kids," Gallagher said. "She felt very vulnerable and she felt she could not take the risk for her family. She's a risk-averse person, a very careful person."
Gallagher said she worked on the proposal without pay at the behest of New York literary agent Lucianne Goldberg, who sent Tripp to Gallagher after Goldberg and Tripp had discussions with Regnery Publishing Inc.
Gallagher refused to discuss the book's content in detail, saying she was still bound by a confidentiality agreement with Tripp. Gallagher said Tripp's main motivation for writing the book in the first place was disgust at "lying" by White House officials.
"Every time she opened up a newspaper she felt like she saw another person who she worked for in the White House saying something that wasn't true," Gallagher said. "She felt really, really bothered by that."
The book proposal did not include any references to Monica S. Lewinsky, the former White House intern who Tripp secretly taped talking about an alleged affair with Clinton. Independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr is investigating allegations that Clinton told Lewinsky to lie about the affair to lawyers seeking her testimony in the Paula Jones sexual harassment suit.
Gallagher said the book proposal ends when Tripp leaves the White House in 1994.
"Everything we discussed concerned her years at the Bush-Clinton White House," Gallagher said. "This is her narrative of what she saw at the Bush-Clinton White House."
Tripp's lead attorney, Washington lawyer James Moody, said the original fax concerning Gallagher had been sent after a Newsweek story appeared over the weekend mentioning the book proposal.
That story says the book proposal described a scene involving a woman who had an encounter with Clinton that appears similar to an account given in a sworn deposition by Kathleen Willey, a Clinton supporter and White House volunteer who has alleged to Jones's attorneys that Clinton groped her.
The scene was contained in a chapter of the book titled, "The President's Women." Gallagher said Tripp was concerned about "not appearing tawdry" but never asked for rewrites or raised objections to the wording in the proposal.
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